On Saturday mornings I work with a nice group of people in a quiet little suburb just south of San Francisco. It’s a prosperous part of the region, and I enjoy hanging out in the small downtown afterwards and people watching. I love how compact the area is, and that people are usually out and about in droves, walking around. They have two independent grocers, one of which is breathtakingly upscale (and where I often have lunch), and there are many different shops and restaurants.
This weekend, as I sat and ate my exquisite lunch from a salad bar, it dawned on me that the proportion of overweight people really seems quite different there. You would think that all the gourmet food (I was seated by the windows in the bakery section, next to a mountain of mouth-watering treats) and all the disposable income would lead to larger waistlines and heavier bodies. Instead, I noticed that the nice healthy-looking couple next to me, and their two adorable little kids, were animatedly chatting over several relatively modest-sized treats. Other shoppers came and went with carts full of amazing food, but the vast majority of people were not overweight.
And lest you think that these rich folk are merely sticking to good nutritional habits, let me add that I stopped by the local health club afterwards for a free one-day trial. That veritable palace of fitness was well-appointed, providing not only state of the art equipment, but also extremely knowledgeable personal trainers who wandered the floor offering help. My own gym paled in comparison. The clients there were seriously and efficiently working out. Amazing since it was a gloriously sunny day outside.
So has it come to this? Do Americans have to be loaded in order to be healthy? Do you have to be an Oprah or a Brad Pitt in order to achieve a healthy body and eat spectacularly healthy foods? It just seems so wrong that the things that keep one healthy – a pleasant place to walk around, markets with fresh food, knowledge about proper fitness techniques – are so out of reach for many of us. For now I’ll stick with jogging at lunchtime, buying frozen veggies at the Safeway, and digging up free fitness information online!