Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “overweight”

The Economic Burden of Overweight

My plane was delayed. I sat exhausted in the airport in Texas, sipping a coffee. There was a line of customers forming into the McDonalds about 30 feet to my left. I began to doze. In the haze of fatigue everything blurs a bit. It suddenly felt as though I was on a different planet (I had just seen the movie Planet 51 with my boys). People weren’t green, but they were…well huge.

People walked past me in families or groups of four or six, almost all seriously overweight. I do not know where the line crosses between overweight and obese. Paul Zane Pilzner once defined it as people who no longer control their weight or lifestyle. This is not an anti-obesity post. I respect anyone who is taking steps to ensure their body is healthy, but i fear the repercussions that we all face.

I remember my first trips to the US. Admittedly, they were to California and the beach, surf, and multiple gyms beguiled me. Now not everyone in California is healthy by any means, but that seemed to be the perception.

Last Wednesday, I wrote the first part of a post suggesting that a sustainable planet needed changes in what we dish onto our plates and into our bodies. Today, I want to propose that there is a direct correlation between our health and economy.

The U.S. budget is just over $15 trillion (as is our debt apparently). In 2009, health care costs reached $2.5 trillion—nearly 17 percent of the GDP – and Paul Zane Pilzner suggests that there is a further $1 trillion dollars in the Wellness industry (‘health’ food, fitness, vitamins, and other therapies).

Gallup estimates that we lost over $153 million in lost productivity. But enough with the statistics. I don’t really think that anyone questions the fact that an unhealthy society cannot be an economically successful company. In fact, how many countries where disease and ill health are prevalent are doing well economically? On the contrary, if you look at the more successful nations (Scandinavian and Japan), they score highly on both the economic and health categories.

The question that I am stuck with, and I think at the core of Obamacare, is how much can the government intervene in how people choose to live their lives? There a re two points that I feel we need to realize:

1) When more that half the nation are overweight, it directly impacts everyone’s finances.

2) I don’t believe these people are making choices or feel that they can turn their lives around.

The battle against harmful transfats in fast food is an example of how we can make the necessary changes.  I applaud First Lady Michelle Obama, who has taken on the fight against childhood obesity.

We have messed up the economy for our children and their children. Perhaps we can be more of service to them if we can educate them to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. And this just might right some economic wrongs we have inflicted on them as well. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Fat liberation – by RhondaJo Boomington

Buddah Seems Happy - and Not Thin

I attended a Fat Liberation class on Monday night. I had never even heard of such of thing and had no idea what to expect.

Even more intriguing to me was the fact that it was held at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland (EBMC).

EBMC opened it’s doors about five years ago – specifically to welcome those who are often not welcomed at many local Buddhist Centers – specifically people of color; LGBTQI folk (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex) and people whose disabilities make a traditional sit challenging. And, amazingly, all of their programming is offered on a donation basis – insuring that economic circumstances do not hinder anyone’s ability to participate.

What a model for the rest of the world!

So, off I went to Fat Liberation class. After all – in every Buddhist group of which I have been a part of (and that’s quite a number), the people (except for me)  were exclusively thin. Very thin.  I’ve always thought it rather humorous that all of these thin people quietly sit around breathing. And almost always there’s is a statue somewhere around of a Buddha with a fat belly. But in my experience, many of these Buddhists haven’t achieved a state of non-attachment when it comes to prejudices against those who are not thin (sounds like great material for a future comedy routine : )

So, on Monday night – for the first time in my life, I sat in a room of about 25 people. None of whom were thin. And all of whom were meditating together. No longer “the other.”

It was a very intriguing and healing experience.

I do realize that perhaps the majority of people reading this post are thin. I am writing this post because I believe that the most powerful part of my Fat Liberation evening many be beneficial to you. Yes you.

I challenge you to spend ten minutes of your time expanding your horizon.

Here’s the simple instructions. Find another person. Sit (or stand) facing each other. For five minutes, one person (person A) will ask a question. The other person (person B) will answer. Person A then says “thank you” (and absolutely nothing more). And Person A asks the question again. Person B answers. Person A says “thank you.” And asks the question again, etc. At the end of five minutes, the two switch roles.

Now – here’s the question. “What would it be like if you offered kindness to your body. Just as it is. In this moment?”

When the instructor explained this exercise, I’ll admit. I rolled my eyes. And thought that this was one of the dumbest things I had been asked to do in a long time. But I did it. And I’m so glad that I did. It was so illuminating. And,from the discussion afterward, it was for everyone in the room.

Go ahead. It’s just ten minutes. It may transform the relationship you have with your body.

Compassion for Everyone - Including Yourself

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is not liberal enough. She has earned a J.D. and an MDiv., and performs in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist.

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