This is an editorial written by a friend, Stephanie, who is a teacher in Mississippi. It’s an inviting writing style that gives you a lot to think about…
The number one health problem in Mississippi is…. Cancer? No. Drug or Alcohol Addiction? No. Teen Pregnancy? No. The number one health problem in Mississippi? Obesity. Our state is still ranked number one in the nation for the “fattest state in the U.S.” And this isn’t our first time with this most unwelcome ranking. No, this is our seventh straight year. We are not alone in our obesity, however. In the past sixteen years, our nation has gone from all states listing obesity rates below 20% to now having forty-nine states with obesity rates above that 20% goal.
Why the increase? Think about your last quick dinner. Did you prepare vegetables and baked chicken, or did you run through a drive-thru window? If you chose the drive-thru, you’re not alone. It’s quicker, easier and less expensive. On the health-side, these speedier, effortless, cheap foods are higher in calories, fat, and added sugars and substantially lower in vitamins and minerals.
Excuses are easy to make to keep from eating healthily. It takes more time to eat healthy – time to plan, purchase, and prepare. It’s easier – we’re too tired from working all day, or we’re too hungry to wait.
Then, there’s the fact that it’s cheaper. We all know that economically, it costs more to eat healthily.
So what do we do? Well, why not start with growing more of our own fruits and vegetables? “Only one percent of our incredibly rich farm land in Mississippi is being devoted to fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Rick deShazo. Why not begin making healthy foods just as accessible as the fast foods we eat? Sure, fast food chains are attempting to adapt by making some things leaner, but where are the fresh fruits and vegetables? Where are the baked options? What about convenience stores where we can run in and grab a bag of chips, candy bar, and soda? Shouldn’t they have healthy alternatives available? Shouldn’t the healthier foods be priced lower?
Of course, all of this depends on us. We must make those healthy choices. I’m not discounting that fact at all. It will take discipline on our part to choose oatmeal over a buttered biscuit, lean turkey sandwich from home over a double cheeseburger, and baked salmon with steamed veggies over four slices of pizza.
So as to not appear to be simply picking on our food, what about having more sidewalks and parks for Mississippians to use for exercise? A long walk or a good game of volleyball, basketball, or even frisbee will get us moving. Moving equals caloric burn. Caloric burn equals a beginning to lowering the obesity rate in Mississippi. And a lowering obesity rate in Mississippi equals saving our state millions in healthcare costs.
Stephanie R. Crawford works as a teacher in Jackson, Mississippi and is a graduate of both Pensacola Christian College and Middle Tennessee State University.