Grocery

I recently received a Wellness Coach certification that was eye-opening. The statistics about what is going on in our country are truly alarming.

While for many years I have been a student of good health, exercise and nutrition, and have immersed myself in learning as much as I can on the subject, I am far from a perfect follower.

After a recent trip to Walmart, I realize that most people are not perfect followers of what they know is best. It is appalling to look in people’s grocery carts and see that every item in there is unhealthy, then look at them and see they are already obese, then wonder why as Americans we do not get the correlation?

We are a disease-ridden country. It is unreal and hard to fathom. But that seems to be the norm, and people just take more and more drugs to try to undo what they have done to themselves willingly. This should be a major wake-up call, but for many it is what they see all around them, so it must be OK.

According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks fairly high in numbers of overweight and obese citizens. European countries rank way better than us. But why?

If you have been to countries such as France, Scotland and Switzerland, you can see for yourself that people there are way more active than most Americans. They rely on bikes or plain ol’ walking to get around. Many do not even own cars. There are way fewer fast food establishments, and many more ways to be active.

Many small cities in the U.S. are not walking- or biking-friendly. Our little town is a perfect example. There are just not many neighborhoods that have sidewalks on which to walk or run, or even walk to the store.

Our obsession with technology has also made us a fatter country. Our kids are paying the price. Our phones and video games and the like keep us from being active.

The fast food industries are more focused on their profits than on the health of their customers. This type of food is becoming the decline of our kids. So many kids are now getting grown-up diseases.

What do we expect when much of our diet consists of disease-promoting food?

Let’s face it: Our health care system leaves a lot to be desired and is mostly controlled by people making money, like the powerful pharmaceutical industries. Why don’t our health care professionals tell us to change our diets first before they hand over that prescription?

Many diseases can be treated by simply eating fresh whole foods, and eliminating fatty foods, oils, sugar and dairy. Of course, there are many diseases that must be treated with drugs, but there are also many that could be wiped away with a diet change. I am not sure about you, but my goal is to take no pills. So far, so good.

I recommend a book called “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” by Dan Buettner. There are several areas of the world where people live long lives that are disease-free. Most of them eat plant-based diets full of nuts and legumes, with very little animal meat.

These centenarians have other things in common, such as a tight-knit family and social circle, and doing hard physical work their whole lives.

These zones include Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and … drumroll please … Loma Linda, Calif. — home to lots of Seventh-day Adventists who don’t smoke or drink, don’t have TVs and eat natural foods like fruits and nuts.

The process of weeding out disease-causing foods from our grocery carts takes lots of time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a lifestyle change. And it takes time.

All you meat eaters, remember there is no nutrient in meat that cannot be better gotten from plants — even protein. All whole-based plant foods contain protein. You will NOT be protein-deficient unless you drastically cut your calories.

Nuts, legumes, greens and seeds contain plenty of protein. How do you think a cow or a gorilla gets their protein? From plants!

Go out and change your grocery cart from sick to healthy with gradual changes and substitutions that will make you less disease prone.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and  manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.

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