Change isn’t easy; Blue Zone project could really help Muscatine

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Out of 11 Iowa communities, Muscatine ranks fifth — and that may not be good enough.

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.

This was taken about three months ago at Muscatine Community Y.

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.

10 thoughts on “Change isn’t easy; Blue Zone project could really help Muscatine

  • It might not have hurt if our local paper made a bigger deal of it. They have/had a great opportunity to promote this better,and they dropped the ball. There has been a lot of promotion through social media, but you know a lot of people in this town either don’t really use computers, or do so only for email. Lots of folks here only know what’s going in through the paper. Not surprising, but disappointing.

  • Maybe, Val. And how many accounts do you have anyway? This one also went into the moderation queue.

    But to be honest, I’m not sure that many of the people who really need to hear this message and get on board are reading the paper.

  • Thank you Chris for an awesome blog.
    Texting BZP to 772937 is so easy.
    You are asked your name, email and your Zip code ‘52761’.

  • Thank you! If we have 300 new people pledge thier vote for Muscatine as a demonstration site it will only move the percentage only 1%. We need to show a minimum of 20% of the Muscatine area residents are in support. The requirement of 20% support is for all of the 11 communities. Muscatine is still short 8% or 2400 votes.The announcements will be the last week of April.

  • I think being a Blue Zone Community will only add to what Muscatine has to offer people. I have been impressed with the town and their athletic fields that promote activity. The number of cyclists, runners, as well as walkers that go past my house show that people are striving to get heathier. Years froms now, people will be happy they have accepted this concept of trying to enhance their life for the better. Physcially as well as mentally. Lets get it done.

  • There is alot that comes with becoming a Blue Zones Community. Help from National experts on what we can do in our community to help all citizens become healthier. They will work with schools, restaurants, grocery stores, employers and others to bring healthier practices and to our lives here in Muscatine.The idea is not to force practices, but to make alternatives more accessible to those who wish for them and to put them out there for those who may not have considered healthier choices in the past. There are components that actually promote a return to “simpler times” like the Walking School Bus, a safe way for kids to walk to schoo,l and Public Gardens, for growing fruits, vegetables and even flowers. It encompasses physical and emotional health. texting BZP to 772937 only takes a minute and it will only help Muscatine become a better place to live.

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