Someone had to say it. But it wasn’t me. Lan Bentsen, the agent for Shape Tomorrow and Shape-up Houston, said it.
Bentsen, along with Wendy Hall, the PR director for Yaffe Deutser, met with the editorial writers at the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday to talk about the Houston community regarding obesity and health.
He also brought a 25-pound weight disk.
“I want everyone to pick up this 25 pounds and feel it. Twenty-five pounds extra is overweight. Fifty pounds extra is obese,” Bentsen said.
A Gallup-Healthways poll that came out a few weeks ago measured the obesity rates of major metro areas. Texas took the cake — and probably devoured it. The poll showed the McAllen/Edinburg/Mission area of Texas was the most obese in the nation at 38.8 percent. The Houston/Sugarland area was 26 percent obese. A few cities topped Houston — but who are we kidding? The average Houstonian thinks breakfast means three kolachis wrapped in deep-fried bacon and washed down with whole milk.
Bentsen wants to reach every community possible to raise awareness about obesity in hopes of prompting people to pick up a little responsibility. After reaching out to the large-scale community agencies, Bentsen wants Shape-up Houston to work with the religious community, service agencies and, finally, school districts.
Adults can be overweight and obese, but so can children. Many think kids should be a priority (children are our future and all). But there’s a practical problem when trying to save kids from a super saturated fatty diet.
“It’s really hard to fix a kid if you’ve got an obese parent at home,” Bentsen said. “If you starve your kid, that’s abuse. If your kid is obese, is that abuse? No one wants to talk about that.”
So, first come the adults.
The perpetual problem with solving obesity is that people want to make their own choices without having the government step in and slap the multi-sprinkled jelly doughnut out of their grubby hands.
If the government does something like regulate the food industry, restaurants get upset and political pundits start calling the US a “nanny state.” If people are left to their own affairs, they shove triple-decker beef cheeseburgers into their mouths and wash them down with 40 ounces of sugar-laden soda.
But with crazy work schedules, scarce grocery stores and late-night food options restricted to burger joints, why would anyone in Houston be surprised that choosing to eat healthy is near impossible?
Bentsen did not mention any plans to help regulate people at the Chronicle meeting, so don’t expect any advice here other than eat less/exercise more. Another piece of advice: Be aware of what is going inside your pie hole.
“We’re going to have to get into the math of it,” Bentsen said. “People need to ask what 2,000 calories a day looks like.”
Fact is, 2,000 calories a day can easily look like an egg muffin, pumpkin empanada, hash browns, coffee with five sugars, a barbecue sandwich, fries, soda and a fruit smoothie. That’s just breakfast and lunch in Houston, and statistics say people get most of their calories during dinner. Everyone knows the fried okra and chicken fried stake won’t eat themselves.
The only real solution to the obesity epidemic — other than government regulation — is awareness. People need to see how many calories are in everything they eat. And even then, people need to realize that burning 2,000 calories a day can’t be done behind a computer.
So, if the government has to pull restaurants by the hair to get them to admit that the cheesecake shake is worth 2,500 calories, don’t consider it over regulation.
David Haydon is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]