Monday, June 18, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg: Protector of Health or Food Nazi?

Ask anyone that knows me, “who is the most progressive wellness person you know?” and their answer would be, Donna Martini. So why am I opposed to Mayor Bloomberg’s recent attempt to control the consumption of soda? Simply put, I don’t think it will affect positive change.
Many years ago I learned the hard way that telling people what they should do doesn’t work. Fervently speaking to smokers about their life and death decision to poison themselves got me nowhere. When I turned it around and began to champion the second-hand smoke issue--pleading for the rights of children and adults to breathe clean air--I got my traction for the cause and affected change.
When the Mayor put the “No-Smoking in Parks” law into effect, I applauded him. There is no logic to going to a park in order to get some fresh air into your lungs and then having to breathe in another’s cigarette smoke. In fact, it is ludicrous. I was happy when he instigated wellness programs for city employees. I thought he was reaching for the stars when he began to control fat and salt in the restaurants, but hey, it seemed to go over okay. Now though, I think he might have set the wellness movement back a bit. When people start to believe they are being controlled, they rebel even the most well-meaning attempts at helping them. Control isn’t a bad word…though I think Mr. Mayor is using it on the wrong people.
How do we exert power over consumers without having power over the companies that make what we are consuming? It makes no sense to me that Pepsico is allowed to make such devastating drinks, advertise them to our youth and make billions of dollars on us, just so we have to now make laws to stop the overconsumption. But of course, we have been doing this for years. Where is the logic in spending billions to heal from the ill-effects of cigarettes? How do we subsidize corn growers so we can poison ourselves with high fructose corn syrup and meat from grain-fed cows that have been nutritionally deprived?
In my opinion, one of our biggest issues is lack of creativity. Anyone who cooks can attest to this: It is easy to make something taste great if you have no limit to how much fattening, salty, buttery, sugary ingredients you can put in. The real trick to making a product delicious is to also make it healthy and reasonably priced. If manufacturers would put as much talent into their recipe creation as they did into their advertising, we might actually be able to combat obesity in this country.
I am only one woman, but thankfully, the wellness movement has many champions. Instead of alienating people though, I need all of them, most especially the government leaders of our country to stand up to the real culprits involved in our current obesity and diabetes epidemic. Personal responsibility is crucial, but we also need healthy choices! Right now, living in America and being told to stay healthy, is like asking a reformed gambler to work in a casino. The odds are against all of us and we need to change more than just our minds in order to get this country on track to being the stellar example of world power we once were.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cyclist's Near Miss

He was in the shoulder, speeding and passing the cars lined up at a traffic light about to turn green. I didn’t see him. I was in the only lane, trying to make a right on red and had no reason to check in my passenger-side mirror, but gratefully, something caught my eye, and I slammed on my brakes. His bike sped by just as the light turned green, travelling downhill at over 25 miles per hour. If I didn’t stop, he would have slammed right into the side of my car.

After this narrow escape, I decided to look into the statistics related to bicycle accidents, injuries and death. I wasn’t at all surprised that the average bicyclists killed in 2009 was 41 years old and almost exclusively male. I see this age group all the time in my hometown, which is filled with scenic winding roads. They are usually riding two by two and sometimes three-wide across narrow roads.

There are many bikers in this age group, so the stats seem logical, but shouldn’t any male over the age of 25 be more experienced, and therefore cautious? Only a small percentage of people killed on a bike are under 16, which is the demographic you would think took chances and were not as careful with their lives or bodies. There are many factors that go into the numbers of course, but could we deduce, even partially, that some of it relates to overconfidence?

There are some bicyclists out there who take unnecessary chances and disobey traffic laws. There are also motorists who don’t take into consideration the right of way of cyclists. Who has more rights or who should pay more attention are not questions we should be stuck on though. Who has more power to crush should be the issue. Any biker (and this goes for motorcyclists too) who takes for granted, human error or the size and weight of the vehicles they are travelling next to is not only being na├»ve, he/she is living dangerously.

Rather than debate the issue though, I want to offer some advice. Whether you are a daring, adrenaline junkie, an exercise enthusiast or just an out-for-the-fun-of-it cruiser, there is something you can think about every time you are about to do something even remotely dangerous: “Would I want to see my son or daughter take this chance?” This is the thought I put in my head when I even think about texting while driving. If you are not a parent, replace it with brother, sister, mother, father, best friend (you get the idea).

Taking chances and pushing past personal limits are part of any sports enthusiast’s active lifestyle, but what good is having a fit heart and iron quads if you are in a casket? Keep pedaling, but while you are out there, please keep in mind that your resilient personality and invincible spirit are housed in a very human body, and unfortunately, it doesn’t bounce.