It’s a sad scenario that shows just how big the challenge is when it comes to living healthier.
In February, Healthways and Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced that Muscatine and 10 other communities, including Davenport and Clinton, would receive site visits to determine which three or four Iowa cities will receive $2.5 million Blue Zones grants to pay for helping residents in those communities live better. Last month, a 10-member Blue Zones team met here with a cross-section of community leaders to hear why Muscatine should be chosen next month.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear as if there is as much interest in this project as there ought to be in Muscatine. On a scoreboard maintained by the Blue Zone project, about 12 percent of Muscatine residents have been counted as supporters of the effort. That ranks Muscatine behind Spencer, Cedar Falls, Mason City and Ames.
To be honest, it may not be terribly surprising that more Muscatine residents haven’t embraced this idea. It’s not because they are bad people or lazy or anything else but busy. They have about all they can handle keeping their families housed and fed.
And like many other Americans, for many of these Muscatine residents, the perceived easiest and least-expensive way to feed themselves and their families is to buy what they shouldn’t: Fast food, overly processed food and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
Some of these people are working two or three jobs. And that make s it difficult for them to work time into their schedules to exercise and do many of the other practices promoted by the Blue Zones project as ways to live healthier.
Also, it seems likely that not enough Muscatine residents know about the Blue Zones initiative. And if they do, many probably view it as just the latest campaign being waged by their bosses and other leaders in the community.
Only time will tell if Muscatine is chosen as a Blue Zones community. Make no mistake, I am writing this because more of my friends and neighbors need to log on here or text BZP to 772937 in order to show their support for Muscatine in this campaign.
Regardless of what happens, however, the ideas behind this project are good.
I will always wish my dad would have tried harder to live the lifestyle promoted by the Blue Zones project. Instead, he probably didn’t do enough to manage his diabetes and heart disease and he died a month short of his 70th birthday.
Because of this, I’m proud of my mom, who walks every day on her treadmill and does a lot of work in her yard. I may be even prouder of my brother, who is trying to quit smoking and has started riding a bike with his wife in order to slow what sounds like the beginning of the very illnesses that killed our dad.
All of this is what motivates me to ride a bike as much as I do, lift weights and try to live a little healthier than I have in the past. Ten years ago, I weighed more than 350 pounds. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep about 75 of those pounds off. My blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol readings were all in the normal range when I had them last checked earlier this year.
But I’d like to lose another 50 pounds and keep them off, so I’ll keep working at it.
If I have learned one thing since the days when I weighed 350 pounds it is this: It’s hard to make and maintain the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and keep it off. And it may be impossible if you try to do it all by yourself.
That is what I like about the prospect of Muscatine being chosen as a Blue Zone community. If you strip everything else away and get to the core of this project, friends and neighbors — and entire community — working together to become healthier is a great idea. It’s one everyone in Muscatine ought to get behind.
On a related note: I heard most of this interview this morning on Iowa Public Radio. It is an interview with Brian Wansink, author of the book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.” I thought it was pretty interesting. It’s worth giving it a listen.