Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Up to Us to Create Change

Recently I was invited to become part of a business group on Long Island that had created a committee dedicated to wellness issues in schools and businesses. Sounded like a great fit so I volunteered to become part of the discussions. In a short time I received an email telling of the next meeting and the topics that would be discussed, namely, developing wellness programs in schools, educating business owners about employee health issues, speaking with hospitals and doctors about how we can cut insurance costs. The email ended with a last note: “bagels will be served.”

If it were any kind of traditional business function, the idea of serving bagels would cause a slight reaction in me, but this was a meeting about wellness. As far as I was concerned, serving bagels at a wellness breakfast was no different than serving beer at an AA meeting. After all, if we are going to educate people, especially children, shouldn’t we be practicing what we preach?

I quickly sent back an rsvp that I would attend, but politely suggested that we might consider serving fruit instead of bagels since it is a discussion about health. The director, a young woman in her twenties, responded with, “Donna, Everything in moderation!” I think it was the smiley face she stuck on the end of the sentence that did it for me. I wrote back a bunch of reasons why the words bagel and moderation would never fit in the same sentence for most people, including those with gluten intolerance, diabetes and stomach issues like IBS, Chron’s and Ulcerative Colitis. I then added, “If this group really believes in creating change, shouldn’t we start with the very meetings that we are using to create that change?”

After a couple more paragraphs I concluded with, “We have to walk, talk and act as if we are the very people we are trying to help and empower. I’m sorry, but if we are in crisis, moderation just won’t cut it. Please email if you would like some healthy options. I am anxious to help the cause.” Sorry to say, I never got a response from her or anyone else from the organization. When I arrived at the meeting, not only were bagels present, there were also pastries and muffins.

Initially my response to complacency about the state our Country’s health crisis is shock. I can’t say anger or judgment because I understand that most people just don’t know enough about the human body to make the right choices for themselves. However, when given an “expert” opinion and information gained from years of research, how do you ignore it? Obviously, I didn’t join the group, but it wasn’t because they ignored my email. It was because they are not motivated to lead by example and I believe that is the only way we are ever going to create real change amongst ourselves and our children.

Am I acting like some Don Quixote, fighting issues that don’t exist? Fifteen years ago, people told me I was crazy fighting for clean air and a reprieve from second-hand smoke. They don’t think I am so crazy now. The food issues in this Country are real and we, the people that make up the population, are the only answer to the problem. Unless we stop eating and serving the junk, the food companies will continue to make it and never come up with better choices for us and our kids. It is up to us. It always has been.

Simple solution for us all to follow: ALWAYS serve wholesome foods at every school and business function. It’s easy! There are many caterers that will be happy to offer healthy choices and if your source doesn’t, ask them to change or you will change and use someone else. Unless we stop eating what we know is not good for us, we will never be able to change the unhealthy course our kids are on, and that is no windmill I am fighting. That is fact. D.