We all know how people seem to be addicted to fast food. I recall those special times when my parents or family members would return from the south to our home in Attawapiskat with Kentucky Fried Chicken by the buckets. We would all gather around those buckets of pure heavenly fried chicken and it would be gone in a matter of minutes. KFC was the first to arrive on our doorsteps but soon after returning family members would be hauling back burgers and fries from McDonald’s. An entirely new era of food offerings had made their way to Attawapiskat in the mid-1980s and my addiction to fast food had started.
Don’t get me wrong I am not completely against fast food after all it is a free world and we are entitled to eat whatever we want to. It is just that at this point I realize just how bad it can be to eat too much of the fast-food taste treats that are available today. If you look at the nutritional value of these foods you will see that most of the content has little to do with real quality but lots of fat and sugar. A diet too rich in fat and sugar can be dangerous. In particular such diets are really bad for First Nation people because we seem to have a predisposition to diabetes and fast foods can contribute greatly to this terrible disease.
I remember a time when most of my friends I grew up with back home were in good shape. Most of us kids were trim, even skinny and we spent a lot of time on the land with our families gathering food or hunting. We also played out most of the time and got lots of exercise. With the coming of fast foods that returning travellers brought home it all changed. Today, in most northern communities so many children are overweight to the point where their health is in danger.
In the 1980s, we also started buying a lot of fast frozen foods at the local food store. It was easy to prepare, stored well and filled us all up. About the same time as we really began to change our diets in remote First Nations up the James Bay Coast, television became more accessible and the videotape era was well underway. That meant that we were all staying in more and sitting around watching television. Along, came satellite systems and we had a multitude of channels to choose from. We no longer had to leave our home to experience so much of life. We could simply spend most of our day watching TV while we ate fast food.
These days things are really critical when it comes to the overall fitness and general health of young First Nation people. With the introduction of the computer in the late ’80s and ’90s, an entirely new form of socializing, entertainment and news has invaded our communities and homes. These days it is unusual to see young First Nation people outside playing because most of them are in the house watching TV or they are online chatting with friends and surfing the net. However, this is not merely affecting the children as most adults have also bought into this new lifestyle. The result is that most people I know these days are overweight both Native and non-Native. We are seeing higher rates of health disease and diabetes in younger people and most of them are overweight. What a sad situation.
Is there a way out of this? Well, that depends on how much our governments and the education and health systems decide to spend on prevention. We need major advertising and education campaigns to help us out. We need initiatives and events that inform the public of the dangers of bad diets, overeating and sedate lifestyles with little or no exercise every day. If you care about the health of your children and those of future generations, you should be asking your school boards to make sure that a big part of the curriculum is devoted to this type of education. It is time to get back in shape.