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Political Food Fight

This morning the San Jose Mercury News featured a story on the latest political debate in our community; a proposal to ban sugary drinks at city properties and events, pitched by our local City Councilman Ash Kalra.

“Are you freakin’ kidding me?” is the disappointing response by Councilman Pete Constant. He further went on to call the proposal “crazy” and “stupid”. (In my experience people typically stoop to name calling when they don’t have sound evidence for a fair argument or the educational background to make one—however, I digress.) Councilman Constant believes we need to fix our city and not to tell residents how to live their lives.  Herein lies the disconnect; I believe the health of the city is dependent upon the health of its residents and the health of the residents is dependent in part of the quality of food we feed ourselves, and our children.

Over 90% of how we look and feel (and therefore behave and perform) is based on the quality of our food, I would argue the foods—and beverages– made available have a tremendous impact on the lifestyle and consequently the health of our communities.

Many of the burdens placed on our society is due to what I call “The American De-condition”1, a gradual decline in the state of our health based on poor lifestyle habits, lack of fitness and nutritional education. It is a well-documented fact that nearly 70% of all Americans are either overweight or obese, one of the leading contributors to a proliferation of medical issues. This may in fact be the first generation when parents outlive their children due to our deteriorating health condition as a nation.  Inexcusably, we have passed down our sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits to our children. We allow our children to eat the most convenient and lowest quality foods possible, and they have no idea how negatively their growing bodies are impacted by sugar consumption, displacing needed nutrients they would have received by having healthier options more readily available.

Our personal passivity and demand for convenience are our own worst enemies. Certainly we need to be accountable and make our own decisions as to what we put in our mouths, but why create a temptation in the first place? We as adults know how difficult it is to resist temptation, especially one that is genetically engraved in our DNA to survive, by craving sugar, salt and fat. Imagine how difficult it is for children and teens, who are a bit more impulsive, to make a healthier choice. Consider this: You have a bowl of M&M’s and peanuts on your kitchen counter or at your desk at work. If you have to pass by it wouldn’t you be tempted and even likely to graze on it all day? You could realistically consume an additional 1000 calories each day of unnecessary sugar and fat. But if it wasn’t so convenient, wouldn’t you likely be less impulsive to mindlessly reach for it, and further, would it even cross your mind at all?

By Councilman Kalra’s proposal, we are not dictating the decisions of how people should eat or drink, merely eliminating a few out of a multitude of opportunities for making a poor nutritional choice with the added benefit of providing options to make it simpler for us all to make healthier decisions. The proposal is also being criticized for inconsistencies, for example, why offer healthy whole juice choices when corn dogs are still served? Take a step back, a deep breath and look at the big picture.  Why are high-fat, overly processed foods being served in the first place?

It’s simple, it’s called social responsibility. The proposal is a solid first step in effecting change. We have an unprecedented opportunity here to change our lives, our family’s lives, the lives within our community, and beyond. Simple measures to help guide our communities to make healthier lifestyle choices seem common sense to me.

Councilman Ash Kalra has my full support as a health advocate, nutritionist, 50-something mom of four and San Jose native. If it’s a food fight you’re looking for, count me in.

1Julian, Toni (2011). BITE ME! Change Your Life One Bite at a Time—An Inspirational Journey of Reinvention to a Healthy, Sustainable Lifestyle. (1st ed). San Jose, CA: AABS Nutrition & Fitness

San Jose Mercury News, Ban on Sugary Drinks Pitched August 24, 2013

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