Courtesy DiliffWhen zookeepers at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo noticed their grizzly bears were getting flabby, they came up with a novel idea on how to turn their health around. They got the bears acting and eating more like they do in their natural environments. And the lessons learned for the grizzlies can easily be applied to us humans to eat better, too.
In fact, there's a growing trend in medicine now to for doctors and veterinarians to share their research to find out if new behaviors that can help animals could help humans, too. You can read all about it here.
But looking specifically at the grizzly bears in Chicago, zookeepers ditched the laboratory composed diets of mixing dog foods and ground beef for the bears and went to more traditional berries, grains and meats the bears would actually prey on like fish and rabbits. The food was no longer delivered on metal trays the same time each day, but hidden around the bear's enclosure, forcing them to forage and work to get their grub. Within a year, both bears had lost hundreds of pounds.
So what's the human equivalent diet modifications? For one thing, not stockpiling up several weeks worth of food is a good start. Rather, buy just a few days worth of fresher, seasonal foods at a time. Most vegetables at grocery stores now days are engineered to have longer shelf lives, but less nutrition. Buying foods at farmers' markets and the like can lead to healthier greens.
And like a grizzly, we can burn more calories if we "forage" by walking or biking to the market. Not using a cart in a store or a car to transport our food home will also limit the amount of what we buy to what fits nicely in a basket or bag.
Man, there has been a ton of obesity-related news this week (no pun intended).
Kids who sleep in their parents' bed (those that don't suffocate when a parent rolls over on them or die of SIDS, that is -- the studies are conflicting) are less likely to be overweight than kids who always sleep on their own.
(Also, Meow, a literal "fat cat," has died from complications related to his morbid obesity. This kitty weighed in at a whopping 39 pounds! And, yes, I realize that this one is a little off-topic.)
I could go on. There are also a lot of "fixes" out there for the obesity epidemic--everything from national policies to questionable medical devices and weight-loss pills or "cleanses" to "personal responsibility." Ultimately, though, the individual solution to a weight problem means balancing calories in vs. calories out. And it's almost summer here in Minnesota, so get out there and do something. Take a walk over lunch. Ride your bike to and from work. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. It turns out that you only need 20 minutes of moving around to get most of the benefits of exercise and that 100 fewer calories a day can have a major effect: 10 pounds in a year. And dropping 500 calories per day can mean a weight loss of almost a pound a week.
I thought this BMI visualizer was pretty cool. Give it a try. It will probably inspire you to go jogging or something...
Mexico, the country, wants to loss 2 million pounds (more precisely 1 million kilos). Okay, insert your own anti-immigration joke here – I know you can't resist. Now click here to read the story about this national effort to keep obesity under control there. What an interesting concept for McCain or Obama to throw out there for our country in the final strecth of this year's election.