Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column:America’s fat, but we can do something about it

Dan's May 23rd column focuses on the growing obesity problem and Dan's solution--sustained physical activity and healthy eating.  He reports on last week's Ride of Silence and the mounting tragedy in Tracey Kleinpell's case.
By now, everyone knows that way too many Americans are overweight or obese. Having worked in public health for almost a decade, I witnessed in great detail this national phenomenon happen in warp-speed. From a societal perspective, this is as big as a problem gets. And it should be just as big a deal for those who fall into the obese category as it is for society as a whole, although that doesn’t appear to be the case.

There are many reasons for our collective girth, with the two most obvious ones to me being the food industry convincing regulators, retailers and the public that their processed goods are what the public wants, and our own behaviors that include buying into that myth (with vigor); the second being that too many people are sedentary. But all is not lost because we, as individuals, can do something about our own situation. Even the food industry realizes this, as evidenced by some of the better choices now available due to public demand.

Last year, on my flight back from the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. I sat next to a lobbyist for the processed food industry. Since I had just been doing some lobbying of my own, we had something in common to talk about. The message the industry rep told me they convey to our elected officials when confronted about the many ills of processed and fast food is that “there really isn’t any bad food, just bad choices.” Listening to him, I realized I’ve made some good choices over the years, including having sworn-off fast food a long time ago.

Undoubtedly, I could be doing much more for my health and well-being, having an even better diet being one. But those two basic aspects of my life — engaging in regular, sustained physical activity and staying away from foods I know are no good for me the majority of the time — might just be a starting point for anyone to stop the weight gain and associated ills that are otherwise coming.

Admittedly, neither engaging in regular exercise nor sticking to a decent diet is always convenient or possible, but making both part of daily life has become just as addictive as doing the opposite, with the benefits of the former far outweighing whatever pleasures come from sitting around eating food we know isn’t good for anyone. And there are plenty of programs and resources available to help make such a change happen. All you have to do is choose to make your move.

This and that
First, a correction: Contrary to my statement in a prior column, Gov. Rick Scott did proclaim March as Florida Bicycle Month in Florida this year. Of course, May remains National Bike Month.
There were three Rides of Silence in Lee County this year, with the Fort Myers ride attracting almost 100 cyclists who rode through downtown, along U.S. 41, and back via McGregor Boulevard. As part of pre-ride remarks, Lisa Buolher, a world-class runner and cyclist who was struck by a distracted driver while on her final training ride before competing in the World Duathlon Championships, spoke of her serious injuries, remarkable recovery and thoughts on the crash. The message to drivers: We need to keep our attention on the task at hand so we don’t put anyone in Lisa’s position — or worse.

Tragedy mounts in the case of Tracey Kleinpell
Someone who wasn’t as lucky as Lisa is Tracey Kleinpell. A little over a year after Tracey was killed on the Sanibel Causeway by Theresa Shirley, the truck operator who drove across the centerline and into the breakdown lane, striking Tracey and sending her into the water to her death, the state’s attorney announced only a slap on the wrist is warranted in the case. Even though prescribed muscle relaxers and pain relievers were found in Shirley’s system — and she admitted falling asleep at the wheel — she’ll face a minimal charge of failure to remain in a single lane. FHP, the investigating agency, didn’t even conduct a field sobriety check, although emergency personnel at the scene indicated Shirley appeared sleepy and lethargic. If there’s ever been a case that requires FHP to take a hard look at the way it conduct investigations involving bicyclists and pedestrians, this is it. For the many others who’ve experienced similar injustice, I hope Tracey’s death will serve as the tipping point for reform to happen.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at or 334- 6417.

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