Dr. Oz' message really connected with me. I don't feel I am particularly overweight: I stand about 6 feet, 3 inches tall and, at the time of the conference, weighed about 200 pounds. I've always liked exercise, and usually spend 4 to 5 hours per week in the gym or in the pool. But regardless of where I stand relative to what is considered "healthy," Dr. Oz' message was powerful for me for three reasons. One, I had been trying to lose ten to fifteen pounds for several months without much luck. Two, Dr. Oz' diagnosis of the relationship between the food industry and widespread difficulties Americans experience with their weight parallels almost exactly the relationship I identify in Accountability Citizenship between the information industry and widespread dissatisfaction with our government. Third, the guy is an amazing communicator--with great anecdotes and pictures. For instance, Dr. Oz doesn't just tell you the average American eats 144 pounds of sugar per year. He tells you that our sugar consumption is like eating an entire Bruno Mars made of sugar!
Let us consider Dr. Oz' argument. The bottom line: we are all able to take some simple steps that can positively impact our weight and our health almost immediately once we understand the nature of the food trap that ensnares many of us. First, we have some natural tendencies as human beings that have evolved over long periods of time. Our brains tell us to eat when our body chemistry signals we need nutrition. Second, the food industry is big business, and big business is about making money, and a food business makes more money when more people eat more of the food it produces. So of course, food businesses can get each of us to eat more if they produce processed foods that taste good but have lower nutritional content--that makes us like to eat it and it keeps our natural nutrition sensors telling us we need to eat for longer than they might if we ate more nutrition-dense foods. This isn't an evil conspiracy. It's just food businesses doing what we should expect food businesses to do: tailoring products to align with our natural instincts so we will buy more. Dr. Oz' simple remedy is for us to eat more unprocessed foods, like raw fruits and vegetables and nuts. These foods are more nutrition-dense, and will cause our brain to send the "you're really not hungry" message sooner rather than later. I tried Dr. Oz' recommendations and have lost fourteen pounds in four weeks without starving myself. Pretty powerful stuff--no wonder the guy has his own television show.
Remember a few weeks ago when I posted Close Encounters with Accountability? Of course you don't! Well, I will bottom line it for you: the main idea of that post, and the main idea of my book Accountability Citizenship, is that each of us has the power to take some simple actions with regard to the information we consume that will improve the civic health of our society. First, we have some natural tendencies as human beings that have evolved over a long period of time. We like to be right, and once we feel we know how the world works, we are empowered to act to take care of ourselves and those around us. Furthermore, our brains tell us to respond to perceived threats and catastrophes NOW, by either confronting the threat or running away from it. Scientists call this last bit our "fight or flight" reflex. Second, the information industry is big business, and big business is about making money, and an information business makes more money when more of us buy more of the content (information and advertising) it sells. Information businesses sell more content to each of us by catering to our expressed interests, likes and dislikes. This contributes to a phenomenon known as the "filter bubble." Once our information consumption and purchasing behaviors tag us as a Democrat or a Republican or a yellow-spotted hippopotamus, we are inundated with information that makes us feel justified in being Democrats or Republicans or yellow-spotted hippotomuses (should that be hippopotami?). Furthermore, we come to see those who aren't sharing the same bubble as less moral or less intelligent or less patriotic than we are! This polarized world view lends itself to the creation of "fight or flight" scenarios out of nearly every issue in the public sphere. Social security won't be there when we need it, the health care law will destroy America as we know it, guns cause crime--you name it, and there is a filter bubble ready to whip you into a frenzy over these and other issues. Too many of us mount up and do battle from within our bubbles, and too many more simply run away and surrender our voice in the public sphere. My simple solution: take some positive steps to get outside of your filter bubble every day, help create a respectful dialogue in the public sphere, and register your new filter-free perspective (whatever it is) using the powerful constitutional processes available to every American.
Geez, I'm like the Dr. Oz of political geekdom! I wonder when they'll get around to inviting me on Oprah?