Are you a food addict?

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“ So if there is already enough information circulating around the world on what makes us healthy and well, then why do we still encounter a lot of sick people?”

It has been many years now that I have been writing in this column. I have written about rice, camote, sayote, beans, bukel, squash, water. I have written about sugar, meat, eggs, milk, chocolates, vetsin and many more. If you, dear reader, have been reading this column, I hope you would have accumulated enough information to guide you in healthy food choices. I hope I have not confused you. Of course, I am not saying that this column is the only source of health information. I presume that if you are reading this column, then you are also reading other publications from the newstands or internet. One scientist said that as of the present, humanity has already enough information on what makes us healthy and well and what makes us sick. I say we don’t have to go to the moon or to the center of the earth to look for the answers.
So if there is already enough information circulating around the world on what makes us healthy and well, then why do we still encounter a lot of sick people? Why is there an epidemic of hypertension and diabetes nowadays? Nowadays who is over 60 years old, has gone to college and not hypertensive? I am sure those who are hypertensive know the reason why they are hypertensive. Those who are diabetic know why they are diabetic and they know what to do to get well. They know but it is hard to quit. It is hard to quit… to quit eating bad food.
Just this lunch, I was eating with colleagues. Then after the meal, suddenly a big bottle of Coke appeared. Nobody claimed to have bought it. Of course, all of us in that group knew we are not supposed to drink Coke. But some people in that group are addicted to Coke. Their meal is not complete without that soda drink. Their day is not complete without it. And they won’t be able to sleep well if they didn’t have their fix. They are addicted to Coke. Just like many people are addicted to sugar. Just like some people are addicted to cigarette smoking and drugs.
We have placed so much importance to food nowadays that we are letting it control our lives. We work so hard to buy food that we like, not food that we need to be healthy. Analyze your expenditures and, bet you, the bulk of your spending goes to food. And what kind of food are you buying? Lucky for those who produce their own food. Nowadays, we live to eat when we should be eating to live. Eating is now our happiness. In the town centers and cities, it is easy to observe how eating has taken over so much of our lives. Just walk up or down Session Road. Almost all the business establishments fronting the road sell food. I was shocked last week when we were looking for Jet bookstore and it was no longer where it used to be. The whole stretch was all kainan! And watch the people you meet on the street- chances are that half of them are munching on something. In the past, it was bad manners to eat while walking. Well, well, well… times they are a’changing.
It’s not only times that are changing. It is people, too. Observe how many obese people you meet in Session Road and how many obese people you meet in Tinglayan. If our blood pressures were written on our foreheads, we would also notice the difference between city folks and rural folks. You will also notice that people in the rural area don’t usually eat while walking or doing anything else. In the rural area, you eat at mealtime and sitting down or even squatting. Or if you eat in between meals, you sit down. Now, where did I see this group of elementary pupils playing Chinese garter and eating at the same time. Imagine this, one hand swinging the Chinese garter and one hand holding the cookie, busy eating and busy talking din. This must be what we call multi-tasking. Hahaayyy…
Really, something must be done. More health authorities now recognize that hypertension and diabetes are occurring in epidemic proportions. And affected populations are getting younger. But what’s the response? It seems the Zika virus, ebola, SARS are getting more attention and resources. Look at the media coverage. And how much are we spending for gadgets, medicines and other logistics to combat these emerging infectious diseases?
And yet how many are dying from these new infections? How many are dying from hypertension and diabetes? For sure, hypertension and its complications is the number one cause of death in Mountain Province and many other provinces worldwide. Dengue is not in the top ten causes of deaths. For sure, kidney failure is on the rise worldwide as a complication of hypertension and diabetes. Records and reports show these. What else do we need to know before we take action? What else do we need to know before you and I take action?
We take wisdom from our experience with cigarette smoking and other addictions. Surely, addiction cannot be overcome by the individual addict alone. If we love the smoker and we want him or her to quit then we have to give him or her the family, community and government support. First, we remove ashtrays and other stimuli for smoking from homes and offices and establishments. This is so we take the mind of the smoker away from smoking. We have to change his or her environment. Then we set rules and not allow smoking in public places. This is where government will greatly help. One smoker said that this smoking space is getting smaller and smaller.
Likewise for eating or food addiction, we do the same. We remove the carbonated drink or sugar from the environment. If we want to quit eating refined sugar, let us remove it from our homes and offices. Let us remove those sodas from the table. You put in on the dining table, you bet there’s one addicted hand that will reach out for it. You put junk food on the table and there will be another addicted hand that will reach out for it. Such is the power of addiction. Thus we are happy that some barangays in Mountain Province have banned junk food in their stores. We are happy that in Mountain Province the late Governor Leonard Mayaen signed an executive order for healthy meals and snacks during provincial activities. This order was patterned after a Department of Health circular promulgated by then Secretary Ona for nationwide implementation. These rules are meant to help those addicted to bad food. In your home, do you have similar rules? Of course, at home you don’t have to have it written. But then with techie children, perhaps it would have more chances of being read if you post it on your wall in facebook.
At home, parents should set the rules, not the children. We, parents, set the rules including food and eating. Or is your 5-year old child in control? Would you let a 5-year old child be the barangay kapitan or the mayor or the governor of your place? The home is as much a political unit as the barangay or the nation.
I look forward to seeing junk food labelling that says something like “Warning: Eating high-sugar, high fat and high-salt food is dangerous for your health.” I also look forward to graphic labels on unhealthy food products just like what’s being required now with cigarettes. And I believe increasing tax on junk food would do well for the economy just like sin tax. Not only good for our economy but good for our health as well.***
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

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