What we can learn from Bolivia
Bolivia is a very small South American country with a total population of just under 11 million people. When it comes to resisting the fast food industry that exerts a negative effect on our health, however, Bolivia is a giant among nations. As it turns out, Bolivia is the only country in the Americas (North, Central, and South) where the golden arches of McDonald's are nowhere to be found, and have not been seen since 2002. It's not for lack of trying on the big corporation's part, but Bolivians as a whole simply resisted eating at McDonald's during the 14 years that Mickey D's attempted to sell the appeal of burgers and fries to this small, but wise nation.
The failure of McDonald's in Bolivia is culturally related to how Bolivians view their food preparation, food quality, respect for what goes into their bodies, and the desire to "shop locally" and support smaller indigenous vendors in their markets and on their streets. The heavily processed fast fare that McDonald's offers runs counter to the Bolivian view that good food requires proper preparation and cooking time, attention to hygiene and a general level of caring by the chef to assure that the meal is local and authentic.
This naturalistic view of nutrition also stems from a respect they have for their bodies resulting in a deep value for the quality of food that goes into their stomachs during each meal. Food prepared quickly for fast consumption shows lack of respect and even creates a warning sign that something probably is not right – and they may be correct in that notion.
We all can learn a lot about our own food intake and respecting our bodies from the Bolivians. We should each value the quality and authenticity of the food we eat, and we should all strive to eat as much naturally occurring food products as possible. That begins with avoiding processed foods, of which fast food is a major example.
I can assure you that, with this one behavioral change, your mood and energy levels improve.
At the most basic level, healthier eating is about respecting your body and paying closer attention to what you put into it each day.
The other important lesson here includes looking at the value Bolivians place on supporting their local small businesses. With summer upon us, we can always find a nearby farmers market selling fresh and natural fruit, vegetables, meats and more. Give them a try and let's do our part to keep our local agriculture businesses vibrant.
I wish all of you a healthy and vibrant summer season. And I strongly recommend that you shop and eat like a Bolivian!
Stay healthy my friends,
Chair – My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee
(Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)
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