Recently, I had the awesome pleasure of meeting our U.S. Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA. Dr. Benjamin was appointed to this prestigious office by President Barack Obama in 2009. She calls herself “America’s doctor,” and as such, Dr. Benjamin has released her vision for Americans entitled “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation.” Her plan is comprehensive, evidence-based and prescribes a balanced approach to addressing the obesity crises. While not novel, the plan reiterates what those of us in the health profession have promoted for years – nutritious food choices and more physical activity in our everyday lives.
Dr. Benjamin “outlines a public health response to reverse the trend of overweight and obesity” and sends out a call to action (or a war cry, as I call it) for health professionals to join her in “combating this crisis.” Among other recommendations, Dr. Benjamin includes in her plan eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; choosing low-fat or non-fat dairy foods; one hour of physical activity for children and teenagers per day and 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults.
One of the aspects of her plan that resonates with me is that “we must show people how to choose healthier food and add more physical activity to their daily routine…” The emphasis on “show” is an important factor, because research points to the effectiveness of role modeling good behaviors in front of our children and teenagers. In fact, Dr. Benjamin states that “parents and other caregivers play a key role…children and teenagers look to their mothers and fathers and other caregivers to model healthy lifestyle habits, and adults must teach by example.” The old saying, “do as I say and not as I do” is out. Dietitians and other health professionals must take a more active role in showing our families and patients how to make nutritious food choices. Stay tuned to our website for nutrition tips and healthy recipes to keep you motivated.
Arlene Murrell, MS, RD, LD, CLE