Obesity Undermines Military … ?

Obesity Undermines Military … ?

Jun 08

MyPlate, the USDA food iconA recent USDA e-mail update I received described a press conference concerning MyPlate (the new national food icon, replacing the pyramid) and the high costs of obesity. One of the high costs, said one retired Air Force Lieutenant General, is the undermining of our military.

It’s a small thing, an opinion by one man, but the Secretary of Agriculture chose him to speak at this press conference, and I find it absolutely preposterous. It’s outlandish on a number of levels and for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that personal health should be, first and foremost, a personal goal. Selfishness — as Ayn Rand has articulated much more eloquently than I — can be a virtue, in the sense that we can’t truly care for anyone unless we care for ourselves.

Although it’s true that I abhor violence, I realize that people will always fight, over food, water, human rights, power, or any number of petty issues. I’m not suggesting that defense of family and country should never be a motivation, but we should not encourage our youth to eat better so they can enlist in the armed forces. The very suggestion that this is the case fosters an environment of fear: What threat jeopardizes our country that calls for our overweight youth to defend it? Is the military shrinking too much? Are we vulnerable? Is there some ominous attack on the horizon that we don’t know about?

Photo of a MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)This suggestion that we should get our youth off their fat backsides to join up is a small sign to me that the government is grasping at straws. Although official efforts to change the national diet have seemed half-hearted and ineffectual to many of us, I do believe they have tried. They’ve given us horrifying health statistics, they’ve shown us that health care costs are rising as a result of diet-related illness, they’ve demonstrated the ways personal relationships and job performance suffer as a result of poor diet, and still, America keeps eating.

I see our society rapidly approaching critical mass, the point at which more people want change than not, and some drastic measures will have to be taken. No, we won’t change overnight. No, the government won’t respond quickly. But I think that very soon we will see a lot happen in a short amount of time. The fact is, our diet is largely a product of our corporate-based lives, and since those same corporations that are feeding us increasingly more calories are also lining the pockets of our (OUR) representatives, a lot of us have to speak out and start changing for anyone to really notice.

As with all things that need changing — from desegregation to women’s suffrage to our independence as a country — our food culture will eventually evolve “on its own” to become more sustainable. But every movement has catalysts, individuals and groups who decide that now is the time for evolution to begin. I am so excited to have my ear to the ground of this sustainable food movement that is just taking the spotlight, to be an agent of change, even if just in my own social circle. I only hope that those who hear me and see me will feel the same.

You could opt to be one of the many swept along by the eventual evolution, aware of its motion only in your peripheral vision, or you can be a Rosa Parks, a Susan B. Anthony, or a George Washington. The choice is entirely yours.

Want to take action?

  • Start with something small: Buy from real farmers.
  • Also, be aware of the many food recalls in this country.
  • Check out TakePart.com to find small ways to become active about food.
  • Sign this petition to stop New York and Iowa from making it illegal to take photos of farms.
  • Politely ask your grocery store produce manager to bring in some more local fruits and vegetables, or request a brand of humanely raised meat.
  • Plant some vegetables in your own backyard, with the informational help of the Orange County Extension Center.
  • Talk to the food director of your kids’ schools and find out what they’re really serving in the cafeteria; tell them about the great Farm to School Program they can join.
  • Need more? Stay tuned, because we’ll keep finding ways to make a difference.

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