Schubart: Taking economic responsibility

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(HOST) Commentator Bill Schubart has struggled to control his weight for much of his life; and now, as he watches the country struggling with its own weight, both physically and metaphorically, he has some thoughts based on his own experience.

(SCHUBART) I’ve wrestled with my weight since I was ten years old.  The range of that struggle has been substantial.  I once lost 200 pounds only to have some of it creep back over the years.  Unlike alcoholics and drug addicts, who must abstain to recover, overeaters must continue to eat.  My occasional successes ave indeed been the result of total abstinence, not from all food, of course, but from addictive sugar, salt, fatty foods, and refined carbohydrates like flour and starches.  In short, adopting the diet that most of the rest of the world subsists on: fruits, vegetables, and lesser amounts of animal products like fish and lean meat.

We Americans have been struggling with another kind of binge behavior for about as long as I have: buying things we can’t afford, incurring debt we can’t service, driving cars that look more like living rooms, and eating industrial foods glazed in sugar, salt and fat.

If our bodies tend to collapse under excessive weight, why would we be surprised if the same holds true for our economy – including our health system?  In countries where the food supply is highly industrialized and, like tobacco, made more addictive with additives like sugar, fat and salt, obesity rates skyrocketed.  Banks, credit card companies, automakers and retailers did the same thing with their products, and we gobbled them up like good American consumers.  But we’re now at the time of reckoning.

Here’s what really scares me.  When I got serious about recovery, it took me several years of mindful eating to lose the 200 pounds, during which I also came to understand that the 50 billion dollar diet industry is itself as flawed as the industrialized food industry that gave rise to it – because it’s predicated on the false promise of diet regimens and exercise machines and the idea that weight loss can be bought rather than lived.

There are few easy solutions in life.  The pundits have already begun their attacks on Obama, who’s only been in office a few months, trying to lead the country back to good health.  The attacks resonate with our persistent belief in nostrums, quick fixes, and miracle cures.  But recovery – whether physical, economic, or infrastructural – cannot be accomplished overnight.  It took years for me to gain the weight that was going to kill me – and years to lose some of it; and I’m not done yet.

To imagine that a new and promising leader will deliver a recovery in a few months is like believing diet industry claims for instant and effortless weight-loss.  Obama cannot fix us.  Even with his inspired leadership, only we can do that.  Diet vendors and doctors don’t lose our weight; we do.  It took years for our country to collapse under our excess consumption.  If we’re motivated to restore ourselves and our country to good health, our leaders can help us find the way, but only if we’re willing to do the hard work and make the personal sacrifices – ourselves.

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