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Globe with a political map on vintage background. 3dFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m not so much answering a direct question as I am riffing on an offhand comment. In the comments from last week’s post on weight loss culture, someone mentioned obesity being a “first world problem.” It made me think more deeply about the issue.

In a literal sense, yes. Obesity is often a first-world problem. If your primary concern is figuring out how to stop yourself from eating too much food, you’ve got the kind of problems starving kids in developing countries would love to have.

Yet, industrial food has a long reach. The island nations of Nauru, Micronesia, Tonga, Cook Islands, and Niue are the top 5 fattest countries in the world—even though they aren’t “first world”—because they rely almost entirely on imported, industrial food.

And if you take a look at the global fat rankings, the picture gets even murkier. The top 7 are island nations in the South Pacific. After that it’s Kuwait, whose Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world. Next is the United States, then Kiribati (another island nation). Dominica, Barbados, Argentina, Egypt, Malta, Greece, New Zealand, the UAE, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago round out the top 20. 

It isn’t clear to me that obesity is a first-world problem. It used to be, before industrial food wriggled its way into every corner of the world. Now it doesn’t discriminate.

People also use “first-world problem” another way: to shut down an argument. No one in the comment board was using it like this, mind you. It’s just been on my mind lately, so I’m going to explore it.

It’s tempting to use it that way during an argument or debate. You feel you “win,” and it’s kinda clever, and you’ll get a few chuckles. It has the veneer of valid criticism—yes, famine is objectively worse than too many fast food joints in your neighborhood—but nothing more.

Problems are problems. You can’t expect an obese man to prioritize addressing starving kids halfway across the world and feel guilty for the money and focus on eating healthy to lose 60 pounds. That’s not how people work. We care about what’s close. We care about what hits home, what affects us and ours directly.

Some would characterize this as a flaw that humans must evolve past. I disagree. I think it’s a feature.

Carrying around 60 pounds of extraneous tissue is a big deal. Fearing a single flight of stairs because you’re too heavy is not okay. Having sore knees from added stress each time you take a step is a major material consequence. These are not trifles. This is serious stuff.

And so is famine, and war, and the latest terrorist attack. But which can you actually change?

Caring about atrocities in the world feels like you’re doing something. You can even post to Facebook and help your peers feel like they’re helping. But just being aware has little to no chance of causing material benefits to those suffering. What are you going to do about them? How will you proclaim to the world how mad you are at the injustice of it all help?

There are ways to contribute to the solution, and I’m not in any way denouncing or minimizing those, but caring about larger issues still doesn’t change the truth that we inevitably have more influence on what’s closest to us.

Meanwhile, caring about those extra 60 pounds you personally carry has a higher chance of leading to meaningful change. Those changes can reverberate through your immediate circle of friends, family, and coworkers. They’ll see you lose the weight, or at least give it your all, and perhaps feel inspired to try something similar.

As you lose your weight, you can still care about bad stuff happening to other people. The two concerns can coexist.

Again, I’m not accusing any of my readers or commenters of making this argument. It does seem to happen elsewhere, though, and I don’t want people feeling like their personal concerns are “wrong” or unworthy compared to what else is going on in the world. None of us need that, and it helps no one.

I’d love to hear your take on the “first-world problem” question. Do you agree, disagree with my stance?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care. Be well.

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The post Dear Mark: Obesity as “First World Problem”? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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There’s more than one reason your kitchen is even grosser than your bathroom: You clean it less often; you keep it warm, moist, and full of organic matter; and you drop food stuffs on nearly every surface. As for the worst offender? Well, that just might be the object you use the most: your sponge.

“A sponge is bacteria heaven!” says Dr. Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology for University of Arizona. “It’s wet, dark, and constantly sucking up food.” Plus, we use it to wipe up anything from meat juice to milk spills to grease spots, so there’s all sort of food for dangerous organisms like salmonella and E. coli to feed on.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I first discovered farro when I was living in Italy and longed to incorporate something nutty and grainy into my pasta- and bread-loaded diet. With brown rice nowhere to be found, my only choice was the nubby grain, which I quickly learned to love. I’ve been eating it in grain bowls, as a simple side dish, or as a hearty salad ever since. Now comes this risotto, or I should say farroto.

Made with farro instead of the traditional rice, the result is a whole-grain version of one of my favorite dishes, which serves as a well-rounded meal with the addition of shrimp. It’s earthy, with a nice chew that balances the creaminess, yet bright, thanks to fresh garlic, basil, and lemon juice.

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(Image credit: Chelsea’s Messy Apron)

Raise your hand if you love chicken Parmesan. The combination of pan-fried chicken, melted mozzarella, and warm tomato sauce is a tried-and-true classic. This recipe, however, takes that trio and turns it on its head. Instead of serving individual chicken breasts for dinner tonight, try making these mini meatballs instead.

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This study looked at the effects of weight training on endurance in concurrent training programs.

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If sets require interruption at chosen weight, make as minor an adjustment as needed and complete the next uninterrupted.

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If you’re serious about reaching your fitness goals try not to fall into these 4 traps.

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The last week of our challenges kicks off with the basic movements at some volume.

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Most people don’t need expensive equipment and complicated programming to reach their goals.

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Stay awake and pay attention. Become stronger, healthier, and happier by clearing out your nervous system.

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