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Gary Horton: The shelves are stacked against us

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: September 1, 2009 4:18 p.m.
Updated: September 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
What a politicized mess of health care we've made. With Big Pharm and Big Med dollars pulling who knows what levers, America can't get traction on a functional debate about what may be the most important issue facing us for decades.

How are we ever going to get a handle on our bloated health care costs before the medical insurance monster con
sumes our bank accounts, our companies and eventually our federal budget?

The health care debacle is getting bigger and closer to exploding every day - like massive Killer Tomatoes, but without the beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Everyone wants complete coverage, but we don't want to personally pay for it all. And while we boisterously chant "America's Med is no.-1," our citizens have more illness and die younger than the rest of the developed world. It seems at even double or triple the cost, our advanced American medical apparatus isn't saving us.

In the end, it can't save us and won't bring us "health" if we don't choose to save ourselves. Good health "ensurance" starts with our own prudent choices in daily living. We decide what goes into our bellies. We choose or choose not to exercise. We decide whether to smoke or to drink. And in most all cases, we, individually. determine our body mass and likely health profile.

Most "health care" and "health insurance," it turns out, happens in our personal lifestyles, long before we ever end up in the doctor's office, the emergency room or the morgue, with little ID tags tied to our toes.

But recognize the odds are stacked against us as we battle to be healthy. We understand we have choices, but never underestimate the overwhelming effectiveness of marketing. McDonald's and Budweiser and all the other belly-bloaters wouldn't blow marketing billions if it didn't impact our eating behavior. We're bombarded with psycho marketing urging us to fill up with ever bigger, ever juicier, ever fatter and sweeter this or that. A Big Mac wasn't big enough. Now there's the Big Carl - twice as much fat and fun in a bun.

The supermarket shelves, too, are stacked against us. We're plied with carbs, fat and sodium. The supermarket sells obesity and high blood pressure more than wholesome foodstuffs. But we're in the food store - so we think we're buying real food.

A quick study of our beautiful local market illustrates the enormity of our challenge to get healthy. It's pretty, but it's really fat city.

We start out great with a fine selection of fruits and veggies. But across the aisle head displays we get into trouble fast. Luring displays on every end: Pepsi, Cheez-its, sweetened tea, chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, Tostitos, ice cream, frozen pizza, frozen waffles, vodka, Jose Cuervo, Sun Chips, bakery sugar cookies, Coco Puffs, Gatorade, Sprite, Coke, Cap'n Crunch, brownies, flavored popcorn ... followed by frosted cakes.

Not enough salty, sugary goo singing siren songs to you? There are three aisles full of beer, wine and booze. Three aisles of soda pop and sweetened drinks. Another just for cookies and yet another for chips alone.

We're done and dead if we don't shop for healthful food like detectives hot on a tough case. Turn every can and read every label if you want the real story. We face a food foe far stronger than our puny wills as corn-sweetened everything seduces our salivating senses.

All that sweet and savory we can hardly resist. And the proof is in our pudding: America is the fattest nation on earth, with more than half our citizens overweight or obese. If we're not eating ourselves to death, we're certainly eating our way to disease and future medical bills we can never pay.

Experts are terrified of the diabetes and heart-disease tsunami we face. Yet it's as simple as our personal eating choices driving the catastrophe. We have become the gastronomical architects of our nation's demise, and that big ol' problem remains largely unspoken in the health care debate.

Rightists might again cry "socialism," but what's needed as much as insurance reform is a massive national intervention campaign promoting healthy eating and exercise. Because, as it lethargically sits now, health insurance will bankrupt us tomorrow if we don't start shedding our nation's pounds today.

Citizens: the shelves may be stacked high against us, but with strident effort, our personal choices can assure, if not insure, our own, and our nation's future health.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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