As I passed the five decades marker, I decided to step up my fairly decent health and fitness regime. I upped the ante on healthy choices, making diet and fitness a priority in my life. (Scroll down, to read about my personal path.
Fortunately, as I stepped up my commitment to good health, I saw parallels in the city of San Antonio.
When I moved here in 1998, we were not a healthy city.
Today, in part, thanks to The Mayor’s Fitness Council, we can brag about many awards for our initiatives.
Free or low-cost fitness activities are everywhere, as are farmers’ markets. San Antonio now offers bike paths and low-cost bike rentals. The parks have miles and miles of beautiful paths for skateboarding, biking, jogging, or just hiking. There are even fitness centers in some of the parks. People are embracing healthy lifestyles and healthy choices.
I’m no longer the oddball health food nut. People get it. They may not adopt the same healthy choices that I do, but there’s an understanding, respect, and more and more, a desire to improve one’s health, and that of the community.
But, there’s still a long road ahead to erase past ingrained patterns of consuming junk food and television watching.
Healthy choices, especially eating habits, develop over time, so changing them also requires time.
It’s Time Texas, for a decade, has advocated for a community-based holistic approach to well-being, and a “culture of health.” The non-profit interviewed community stakeholders recently and concluded that the current culture in Texas is “toxic” to health. Much of the blame has to go to the mass marketing and product placement of non-healthy items in grocery stores.
U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy stated that health has a branding problem. How can natural, nutritious foods go to bat against the billions of dollars spent by the fast food, beer, soda, and processed food makers?
Poor health behaviors proliferate across all segments of the population, according to It’s Time Texas. Healthy behaviors can be complex, and motivations vary.
Former prosecutor, Susan Combs, sits on the board of It’s Time Texas. She says it’s not always easy for people to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. “We are bombarded with options that can derail good intentions. All too often, making a healthy choice means going against the grain.”
Combs, and a host of others at a recent summit in San Antonio, said it’s time for Texas to change. That’s why It’s Time Texas is focused on encouraging people to embrace better eating habits and active lifestyles. The impact of a healthy community touches many areas, including our economy.
Also at the summit was Dr. David Lakey, responsible for Population Health at UT Systems. Taking about the chronic illnesses facing our community, he said, “This is a huge problem. One-third of the population is obese, and one-third is overweight. We are spending over $9 billion a year.”
These levels are staggering, causing a health crisis in our state. Since 1980, obesity has doubled among adults in Texas and tripled among children. As obesity contributes to many chronic diseases, these are also on the rise in the state where everything’s bigger.
Combs says the cost to those with lifestyle-related chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, is enormous. Patterns must shift, but there also needs to be access to affordable nutritious foods and fitness options. Choosing to be healthy requires an investment of time and money.
“Every single one of us has to care,” (about the wellbeing of our community).
Visiting a school a number of years ago, the alarm rang in Comb’s head. She watched an obese fourth-grader insert his money in a vending machine. Right there, in the middle of the school day, on campus, he was feeding his unhealthy habits, and the school was silently endorsing this. It dawned on her that the schools were profiting from children making poor choices. Multinationals found loopholes to sell sugary non-nutritious food and drinks in the hallways. Schools even had agreed to exclusive beverage contracts with soda companies.
“We were essentially treating the kids like ATM machines,” she said. “There’s an insidious failure to feed correctly. I never believed, then, that children could get type 2 diabetes. It was happening on our watch. Candy was sold in trolley cars to our kids.”
The vast majority of obese children will remain obese for the rest of their lives. What’s more, they will have a shorter lifespan than their parents. On the academic scale, research has proven that nutritious food and ample physical activity, leads to better test scores.
Wise choices always make a difference. Pastor Carlos Ming, of Breath of Life Ministries, at the summit, acknowledged what yogis and researchers know. “People who practice (healthy/moral) life laws live longer…10-15 years longer.”
As a kid, my mom baked sugar-free, bran-loaded homemade “cookies.” She joked that they were more like hockey pucks. I don’t think any kid I knew would have gone beyond one bite of those “treats,” which I gobbled up appreciatively. Our dinners began with salad every night, and the only peanut butter in the house was freshly ground at the local health food store.
I went meat-free before I had heard the word vegetarian. From the time I was 16, I went on what my mother called a meatless “phase.” That folly has progressed for 42 years. Now, I am vegan, sugar-free, peanut-free, corn-free, and gluten-free.
Nearly three decades ago, I perplexed family members in South America by refusing to give my child candy or soda.
In 1998, when I relocated to San Antonio, I wanted to be surrounded by Mexican food. Although I ate nutritious Mexican food most of my life, Tejano style was not on my radar. I ended up passing up pretty much anything in Mexican-style businesses except guacamole (no chips).
Back in the day, I stood out like a spotted zebra beyond my food choices.
Nearly 30 years ago, I made my home a smoke-free zone. Sounds normal. Except that I was living in South America, where cigarettes, at the time, were passed around like candy or water at business meetings.
Throughout my marketing communications career, I found it challenging to balance the love of my work with the knowledge that I was representing unhealthy products. In 2011, I finally said basta ya, when I chose to open The Write Counsel, dedicated to positive transformations in our community. Now, my conscious is clean, as I work considerably within the health/fitness/nutrition arena. I feel a sense of fulfillment when I support initiatives like the Mayor’s Fitness Council, San Antonio’s push for tobacco-free public areas, and It’s Time Texas. We can change ourselves, and our community. Take the first step to healthy choices by starting with yourself.