Headlines make my head spin

There have been a few recurring and evolving stories over the past couple of years about rising consumer debt; about growing rates of obesity;  about elevated sodium intake in our diets; about people with no work-life balance who are stressed out to the max; about how we live pay cheque to pay cheque.

As I read the Toronto Star this morning, I had one of those moments when each story line collided into one, big, issue.

The story that got me by surprise this morning was the report that Canadians are snacking more.  Apparently, we’re more likely to select fruits, yogurt and healthy snacks than our neighbours to the south, but we’re also in love with potato chips. Is it any wonder when yesterday this story about a nutrition expert who ate a steady diet of twinkies lost 10 lbs?

Are we eating junk food because we don’t have time to prepare a healthy snack or wash an apple because we’re too busy working? Are we reaching for the sugary, high glycemic stuff to give ourselves a little sugar high to temporarily escape the hustle and bustle of it all? Are we working too much because we have all that consumer debt to pay off, and our mortgages are too high and we’re running scared that the Bank of Canada is going to increase the key lending rate for a fourth time in 2010? Is our sodium problem related to all those potato chips?

Did we get ourselves in debt because we forgot how to cook and we’re eating out and buying snacks and not preparing our own meals at a fraction of the cost and a hundred times more nutritional punch?

I’m not pointing any fingers. I’m guilty of some of those things too – believe me. Most of the time, I feel reasonably balanced. Sometimes I come unglued. Just ask my kids.

If my pay cheque suddenly stopped, I’d be among the 60% of Canadians in trouble. I’m working on fixing that problem, but I haven’t “arrived” yet. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to sock away 6 months of expenses.  A few more years, I suspect. Perhaps the difference between those of us who are creating an emergency fund and those who aren’t, is the ability to recognize that like most big tasks, it begins with one step forward. Then another, then another, until you arrive at your goal. Sure, it may take a long time. Why wait? Depspite not having that 6 month cushion tucked away, I’m a lot less stressed because I know it’s in progress, and I know it will continue to progress in the years ahead.

Not too many years ago, I was about 70 pounds overweight. Ouch. Now, I’m at an ideal weight with a healthy BMI. It’s been a journey to get here, but the biggest journey is to STAY healthy. I’d lost weight lots of times, I was never successful at keeping it off. If I gain weight now, I’d have to replace my entire wardrobe, from my winter coat to my lingerie. That’s a lot of money.  Guess who’d be going deeper into debt? Yep, that’d be me. Staying at a healthy weight, or even maintaining a healthy bank account takes effort every day. There is no freeze-frame button when you arrive at a goal. When you get there, you have to keep doing the things that it took to get you there in order to stay there. If we believe that old behaviors can resume after we arrive at a place we got to with new behaviors, we’re doomed for failure.

The whole health/money/stress stuff is one big news story. It’s worth taking the time to account for our finances, to be accountable for food that goes in our mouths, and the energy we expend at work and home, in order to focus on doing the things that align with our values. There is no quick fix, but I can say from experience, it’s a lot less stressful than doing the same behavior and just hoping the outcome is different.

Here’s hoping you do something today that is good for your health, good for your financial sustainability, and good for us all.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve yo-yo’d a lot in the past – particularly with pregnancy and young kids. I think the reason has been that prior to getting pregnant with both kids, I exercised A LOT. When I got pregnant, I ate the same but stopped the exercise that was keeping my weight down. I gained about 60 pounds with the first one and 45 with the second. The first came off quickly, the second I had to really work at it (the difference between being 22 or 36 yo). 🙂

    The same thing happens when I work too much it seems – exercise is the thing that I let go from lack of time (and energy) and my weight goes up as a result. But there’s something else at play nowadays – I eat when I’m bored. I was shocked to find when I stopped eating out of boredom and only at meal times this last week that I lost 4 pounds with only that one change. That’s definitely worth the 2 second pause to ask myself whether I’m hungry or not before I put something in my mouth.

    Re. the article, it looks like he still practiced portion control. For myself (and most people), that’s very difficult to do with foods that are processed like chips etc. which is why I try to steer clear of them (and am not always successful). 😉

    I don’t recall snacking being common back in the ’70’s. When I started working in the early ’80’s, people didn’t eat at their desks much, if at all. Now, some people I know eat all day at their desks.

    Reply

  2. I eat chips because I love the crunch and the salt. Problem solved — I slice my potatoes extra thin, throw them in the oven and bake with some salt. They’re not AS crunchy, greasy or salty, but they hit the spot when I crave chips.

    I generally don’t gravitate towards bad food all the time. I tend to get sick of the greasy creaminess of everything, so I have a binge once in a while (and by binge I mean I eat a meal of it), and that satisfies me for 3 months or more. I’ve grown to appreciate the crunch and sweetness of apples, creaminess of soy milk and enjoying my actual meal (lunch or dinner) more so than craving the next sugar rush or fast food treat.

    We snack more because we’ve relaxed on our attitudes towards food. So much literature is going around about body acceptance (which I think some people CAN take too far), and how eating a certain way like cutting our carbs may not work for everyone (myself included, I inhale white rice).

    Besides, have you seen that AWFUL image going around of what chicken nuggets and fingers are made out of? TOTALLY GROSS. Even the description is gross. It’s this nasty cotton pink colour in a sludge-like foam form……….. *shudder*

    Reply

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