We don’t need the KGB, ISIS terrorists or Chinese hackers to threaten our lives. No way. We Americans are doing a pretty good job of killing ourselves. According to a 30-year study published in The Lancet in 2017, we are eating and drinking ourselves to death at a disturbing rate. As time goes by, people are getting fatter and sicker, and they are helping their children become diabetics and cardiac patients.
We Americans talk about fitness, we download dieting apps, join gyms and spend millions on low-fat foods. Yet our nation boasts some seriously shocking statistics:
We have the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in the world. That includes some two-thirds of adults and one-third of children. Let that sink in. By gender, nearly 75 percent of men and 60 percent of women are overweight or obese. There are more obese people living in America today — 78 million — than any other country in the world.
How did that happen?
Food has morphed from a staple of life, from eating to live to a form of entertainment. People happily identify as foodies, and many Americans spend a good part of their day eating. We have moved from three meals a day to full-time grazing, and some people pretty much eat all day.
The most recent absurdity in the world of food and entertainment is the advent of the dine-in movie theater. I went to my first upscale movie house recently. My observation? You take an increasingly obese population and you offer us yet another opportunity to eat, while sitting and watching a movie for a couple of hours. We can order whole meals, from drinks and appetizers to filet mignon. Worse, we can gorge on food while reclining in super-comfortable lounge chairs.
All I could think about was the insects that might be crawling around the darkened movie theater, sucking up the crumbs and food debris. The smells of other people’s food were sickening. Yet people seem to love the concept, and are flocking to the movies to kick back, relax, watch a flick and eat for two hours. The theater I went to also had a full bar. This translates to a movie night that costs upward of $40 a person rather than $8 to $10.
The real cost? Rates of diabetes, cardiac disease and arthritis are soaring. Health care costs are out of control, and the ability of obese people to negotiate ordinary stairs, sit in regulation airplane seats and live healthy lives is diminished.
My suggestion is to put treadmills in movie theaters.
I’m not suggesting that we jog or run full speed; we could walk and watch a movie at the same time. Water would be available. No food. Well, maybe carrot and celery sticks, but no hot dogs, grilled cheese or ice cream. Is this really such a crazy idea? Perhaps it’s less crazy and more promising than serving high-fat meals to overweight people who can consume 2,000 calories while lying on their backs with their feet up.
Obesity is trending upward, and its increases are greatest in the world’s richest countries, like the U.S. and Australia. We are, in fact, poisoning our children by feeding them high-fat foods, and at the same time feeding them hours and hours of sedentary screen time.
America has a lot on its plate at the moment, so to speak, from political misery to environmental crises to bona fide threats to our democracy. We don’t need fries with that. We do need strength and endurance. We need to monitor what the schools are feeding our children. We need to take the empty calories off our plates, limit sugar intake, eat more vegetables and get up and out of the house.
When we do go out, we can walk or ride a bike or visit the gym. But until they install treadmills in multiplexes, I’d avoid the movies.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.