This guest post is by Jacqueline M. White (jackie123@mindspring.com) owner and head instructor of Gwinnett Judo in metro Atlanta, a USA Judo Certified National Judo Coach and ACE Certified Personal Trainer.

Jacqueline has competed at national and international levels in judo, and at some level in a wide variety of sports. She has a degree in Biology from Indiana University and was an elite level resident athlete at the United States Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her most current focus is the sports specific and cardio and strength training for the junior judo athletes in the Gwinnett Judo program and individualized personal training programs.

Food Consumption Trend

Technology and innovation have made our lives easier in so many ways. But as we have embraced the modern conveniences these breakthroughs have brought us, we have also lost some of the many healthy aspects we unknowingly gained in the daily lives of the past.

When we look at the increasing obesity rates in America, the rabid interest in quick weight loss programs and the plethora of gyms and fitness centers, it is clear that fitness and health are hot topics in America. If you search for celebrity diets on the internet, you will find a vast array of fad diets and nutritionally void eating plans to ‘get you skinny quick!’ Every nutritionist and personal trainer on TV has a plan for you. How did we get here? How did we as Americans become some of the least fit creatures on the planet? Well, there are books on the topic, but let’s start with a few of the basics. We, as Americans, move less and eat more than our predecessors.

There are two factors here, the food we are consuming and the energy we are using.

Let’s start with the energy. I live in a suburban town, like much of America. I drive to the grocery store, I drive to my child’s school and I drive to the gym. If I am leaving my house, more often than not, I am driving. There is less and less incidental walking, or incidental exercise in our lives. Going for a walk these days is typically a purposeful choice to get exercise not because you have to get somewhere. We have elevators and escalators in every commercial building more than one story tall and whether we are capable or not, most people choose these over walking up the stairs. With cell phones and cordless phones we don’t even have to get off of the couch to answer the phone. Even the newspapers delivered to your home are often tossed out of a moving vehicle rather than flung by a kid riding a bike. As we get further away from days of old we get further and further away from activities and choices that created a healthier lifestyle.

Technology and innovation have made so many aspects of our lives easier, more efficient and more convenient. However, these changes have a toll on our daily health. It is increasingly important that, while we can enjoy the advantages of technology, we not forget to do things for our health in our everyday lives. Take the stairs to your third floor office, park further away in the parking lot, and take that purposeful walk regularly. Most of us no longer grow our food and raise our own cattle and consequently do not do those labor intensive tasks that go along with that; we have very efficient washer machines, no more hiking to the river with a wash board. While very few of us would chose to return to those days, it has certainly freed up some time, so be sure to use that time to physically expend some energy.

Now let’s take a look at our consumption. We have more consumers in this country than farmers and in order to meet the growing food demands of this nation technology and innovation have entered into the growth and development of our food sources. While again, technology is not a bad thing, indeed it is necessary to fuel our future however we need to be aware of the nutritional value of the foods available on our grocery store shelves and the products we are choosing to bring home to our tables. I recently spent an hour and half flight with an educator in the field of agricultural technology discussing the merits of industrialized farming and the health effects of the choices being made in the industry. It was an interesting and enlightening conversation with varying perspectives on everything from free range chicken to genetically modified vegetables. Regardless of your views on current farming practices it is important to be diligent and cognizant in the foods we chose to consume and the amounts in which we consume them. Portion control, calorically dense carbohydrates and elevated levels of sugar and sodium in foods are just a few of the factors that have lead to the increased obesity in this country. Author, Michael Pollen, in his book Food Rules, notes one of the rules as being not to consume anything that your grandmother would not recognize as food. When you walk down the grocery aisle, think about all of those products that were not around or available two generations ago.

Technology and innovation has enabled products like fruit chews to end up in our children’s lunchboxes in lieu of actual fruit. When you shop, think of those foods that could exist without a factory; real maple syrup or maple flavored corn syrup? Take a look at that instant oatmeal with fruit, is that fruit actually what it is supposed to be or is it another fruit flavored to be something else? Get basic oatmeal and slice real fruit into it. Why choose an artificial flavor when you can chose the real flavor. Read labels, be diligent, and think before you eat. Surely you have heard it before, get a to-go box at the restaurant and get it at the beginning of your meal, so you are not tempted to consume the extra large portion on your extra large plate.

Here in the United States we have a lot of choices, a lot of opportunity in everything from where we live to what we drive to what we eat. With this comes the ability to find nearly any food, have you ever been to a grocery store in a foreign country? Our choices are amazing and vast. Didn’t someone tell Spiderman that with great power comes great responsibility? Well we, as American consumers, have great power; great power to make the responsible choices in the foods we consume and the activities that we choose to keep us moving and healthy.