I had some big takeaways after my visit with Joe Rogan on his podcast. First off all, Rogan was great. It was awesome to go back and forth on various topics, from what holds people accountable to the Spartan paradox to building resilient kids. There was one topic, however, that kept nagging at me, and it pushed me to write this.
Rogan and I disagreed on one important issue: the intersection of health and freedom. Rogan is a huge proponent of freedom, as most in America are. It’s one of the reasons he’s moving from California to Texas. I am also big on freedom. We should be able to choose a life that is driven by our own decisions. But when the topic of junk food came up, we began to split ways.
JOE DE SENA ON JOE ROGAN: Timestamps, Commentary, and More
Put restrictions on junk food to discourage people from eating it. Poison and freedom don’t work. Junk food is poison, and it benefits NO ONE when you choose to put that shit in your mouth.
Let people choose.
Freedom Is Great ... But Not in All Instances
The four statistics below keep me up at night.
- Nearly, 88 percent of U.S. adults are metabolically unhealthy.
- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
- 88 million U.S. adults are prediabetic. In 2015, 23.4 million people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, compared to just 1.6 million in 1958.
- Only 12 percent of America is metabolically healthy.
We have the freedom to eat whatever we want. What has that gotten us?! Closer to the grave, sick, and obese. Now, let’s be clear: I’m not advocating anti-freedom. We should absolutely have a choice, but it should be an informed choice, and not at the cost of the individual. When corporate interests make money — billions of dollars — at the expense of people’s health, then something needs to be done, just as it was cigarettes.
We Are Eating Poison
I understand that my perspective is biased in some ways, because nutrition was instilled in me at a young age, thanks to my mom. Mom’s lasting influence was her diet. From her, I was put on the fast-track to understanding the benefits of raw fruits and vegetables. One day, the cannolis and ravioli were gone. In their place was raw spinach and sprouts. And she was killer on the raw part. She believed that if you cook it, you kill it. The nutrients are in raw foods. We don't just poison our foods with preservatives. We also make "foods" completely out of chemicals.
And on top of that poison, we have stopped moving. We are as sedentary as rocks!
We Are Ignoring Activity
My family and I have lived all over the world, in such fascinating places as Japan, Singapore, and Vancouver. I can't help but notice the size difference in people when I'm abroad, as opposed to when I’m stateside. There is no easy way to say this: Americans are fat, feeble, and dying. We all know it, but we don’t like to say it because it sounds harsh or insensitive, because it's wrong to fat-shame. But stating a fact is none of those things, no matter how much it may hurt to hear. America, please WAKE UP on this issue!
We Are Killing Ourselves and Our Kids
Why has the pandemic hit us so hard? It's not complicated. Among other factors, it’s because of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. I recently saw the front of a cereal box — I can’t remember which brand it was — and it featured cartoon characters and bright colors, an obvious marketing ploy to attract kids. The claim: Boost your immunity! A box of cereal made out of chemicals, with spoonfuls of sugar … Boost your immunity? Give me a break. But families are buying into this, poisoning themselves and our kids.
"Weight-related complications like hypertension, fatty liver, orthopedic problems, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes are bad enough when they strike in middle age," David S. Ludwig and wrote in The New York Times. "But they have become relatively commonplace at pediatricians’ practices across the country."
When are we going to wake up and take action?
We Are Killing Our Economy
We'll wake up when it begins to impact our economy, right? Wrong. We are already there. According to the American Diabetes Association, “the annual cost of diabetes in 2017 was $327 billion.” And yes, diabetes is just one bowstring of the total cost of obesity. But the total cost is equal to the U.S. defense budget ($643 billion) and Medicare ($588 billion) alone — or 4 to 8 percent of U.S. GDP — according to Ludwig and Rogoff.
Our Nutritional Choices Aren't Equal
The unfortunate truth is that not all of us have a fair shot when it comes to picking sprouts over sprinkles. Ultra-processed foods go way beyond adding salt, sweeteners, and fat. They may also include artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Shockingly, a Harvard University study from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health speculates that "these foods are designed to specifically increase cravings so that people will overeat them and purchase more.” The same report cites a U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found that ultra-processed foods comprised about 60 percent of total calories in the U.S. diet. These foods make us want more foods, all of which make us sick. We’ve got to find our way out of this.
It's Time to Take Action
As Rogan mentioned on the podcast, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the obesity problem in this country, but no one is talking about solutions. You’ll have to go across the ocean for that. Recently, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that obesity played a role in his struggle to recover more quickly from COVID-19. As a result, he began a new campaign to tackle obesity.
The plan is as follows:
- Ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar, and salt before 9 p.m.
- End of deals like "buy one, get one free" on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar, and fat.
- Calories to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out, while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden "liquid calories."
- New campaign to help people lose weight, get active, and eat better after COVID-19 "wake-up call."
Sounds awesome right? But what are we doing over here, instead? Silencing people who speak out about the obesity problem, and accusing them of being fat-shamers. I ask again: Where is that getting us?
I know this is a MASSIVE problem to solve, but we can’t waste any more time. We can’t keep shoveling in what we know keeps us sick and rest on our laurels. We need to take accountability for our own choices AND systematically support measures that prevent us from getting even bigger. This means more informed labels, fines for companies that mislabel, and “junk” taxes. Who’s with me?