Thursday, July 7, 2011

Get Moving Mississippi

Today's Blog is a bit of a rant... 

I am proud to call myself a Mississippian. My state is not as depicted in Hollywood movies and TV shows. Sure we have things in our past that we aren't proud of, but we are not all barefoot rednecks wearing overalls and drinking moonshine. Mississippi is actually a state that has produced some amazing athletes (Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre), some Amazing musicians (Jimmy Rogers, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Faith Hill, etc) and other celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman etc).

Mississippi does not just produce celebrities but casting aside the stereotype that we are illiterate our state is also been the home for William Faulkner, Willie Morris, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and John Grisham among others.  Mississippians have also influenced the arts with such notables as Leotine Price, Walter Anderson, and George Ohr. Mississippians have risen to many heights in politics, the military, business, and even space exploration.  Not only have many Mississippians risen to prominence and been wildly successful but most Mississippians are the friendliest people you could hope to meet. Friendly is only one attribute that can accurately be used to describe Mississippians. Look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; you will see that Mississippians are resilient, hard working, determined individuals who do not give up easily. 

Mississippi is not all backwoods and swamps; we have a lot of majestic scenery, but we also have a lot of thriving industries, our seafood industry is second to none. We build ships on the gulf coast, cars in Canton, and guitars in Meridian. We have huge casinos and thousands of kitchen table entrepreneurs.  We have Miles and Miles of beaches, and beautiful untouched woodlands. We produce lawyers in Oxford, Polymer Scientists in Hattiesburg, and  business leaders from colleges and Universities across the state. We are blessed with banks that did not need to be bailed out and most of our people do not have their hand out. 

Unfortunately, no matter how much I brag on my state there is still one dubious distinction that I can't put a nice package on. According to this article for the 7th Consecutive year Mississippi leads the nation in obesity with 34.4% of all adults being considered obese. This means that more than one out of every 3 Mississippians is obese; this number is entirely too high.  As the article goes on it lists some of the possible causes for our great state leading the way and also some of the possible solutions; here is a sampling:
The report released on Thursday showed that over the past 15 years, seven states have doubled their rate of obesity and 10 states have doubled their rate of diabetes

Mary Currier, Mississippi's state health officer, says her state has struggled to drop its No. 1 status and it has been challenging because much of the state is poor and rural.
"We live in an area of the country where eating is one of the things we do, and we eat a lot of fried foods," she said. "Trying to change that culture is pretty difficult."
Long Leaf Trace
She says the state has had some success by making school lunches healthier, taking high-calorie foods and drinks out of school vending machines and trying to find more low-cost exercise facilities for residents of rural areas.
"It is frustrating, but we've had some progress," Currier said. "We just have to continue to work at this. It's not something that's going to change overnight." 

Natchez Trace
While I appreciate all of our political leaders doing all they can to help get us from the top of this dreadful list this is where I get on my soap box for community and personal responsibility. As a state we must begin to chose healthier foods. we can learn to grill our chicken instead of fry it, we can learn to make healthier choices at the drive through or forgo it altogether. This is not the government's responsibility to mandate these lifestyle changes it is our responsibility as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, and friends to help each other make smarter choices about food and exercise. We have a lot of great organizations and initiatives in our state designed to help us turn off the tube, and get moving it is time that we begin to encourage each other to get involved in some of these programs. Take a walk, take a spin on a bike, get up and get moving. I have posted a few pictures of great places in the state to take a walk, a run, or a ride, I am sure there are many many please share some of your favorite places. If walking, running, or cycling are not your thing, there are countless trails to hike, and rivers to canoe here in our state.

Biloxi Ocean Springs Bridge
If you are not sure how to get started there are many organizations that can help with that as well. I wrote a blog a month or so ago about a great program called the Couch to 5k and there are many more. Here is the link to that post. 

Let's get ourselves moving and get our friends, neighbors and loved ones moving and making better food choices. Let's all make it a goal to not be on top of this this list next year. We don't need a government program or federal funding all we need is to hold each other accountable.
I am very proud of a lot of aspects of my state, this is one area I am ashamed of and I am committed to trying to improve. Who is with me?

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