Why the Flour Shortage is More Dangerous Than You Think

We are in a worldwide pandemic. This is not a political problem, though many want to make it so. This is not terrorism, though many are getting eerily comfortable in fear. This is a health problem, and yet too often it doesn’t seem we are addressing it from this vantage point. We are among the unhealthiest cultures in the world, and our degree of death from infection with the coronavirus will reflect this. While the vast majority of people who come in contact with the coronavirus will be completely fine, we have a huge percentage of the population who is at risk.

Many of the chronic diseases putting people at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 are what we call lifestyle diseases, and many people are being diagnosed with them at increasingly younger ages. They are preventable. They are the result of cultural norms about food, poor nutrition education and unhealthy choices. Type 2 Diabetes and obesity are strong risk factors, and these, almost always, could have been prevented.

Type 2 Diabetes and obesity will negatively impact health no matter what, but the changes and the harms happen slowly, so they are easily ignored. The pandemic is bringing to light how important it is to maintain a healthy weight, eat well and support your immune system. Yet, it has become a time to bake cookies. I’m not throwing stones. There has been an inordinate amount of baking in my kitchen too. Bored? Bake something. Scared? Bake something. Need a science experiment? Bake something.

This could be an opportunity for better health education for our kids, yet the only advice we seem to be getting is to wash our hands … with soap. OK. Got it. I’ve actually been teaching my kids that for some time now, haven’t you? With a lack of anything else to offer, road signs, emails from schools and public service announcements are regurgitating the same advice. Stay home, wash hands, and from the schools, bake something. Maybe it is time to send some good, helpful general health advice. I fear we are in this for the long haul. It is time to shift our focus away from crisis mode, hunkering down and consoling ourselves with sugar. It is time to address the virus head on, take steps to boost our immune systems and teach our children how to do what they can to avoid being a statistic in the future. I would love to see the schools get proactive about health and wellness during this time, but whether or not that happens, you can take matters into your own hands.

  • Don’t focus on what you can’t have. Instead, encourage healthy eating by making access to good food at least as easy as the access to the junk.
  • Take advantage of the flour shortage to expose your kids to healthier options.
  • Talk about why we should make healthier choices, beyond, “Because I said so” and “Because it is good for you.” Be specific. Kids are smart.
  • Emphasize small habit changes like having a glass of water before a snack or not eating right before bed. The little changes add up to big habit change over time.
  • Never make food a punishment or a reward. When we do this, we empower food, giving it more control over our lives and decisions.
  • Finally, lead by example! Don’t talk about weight loss, do make healthy choices in front of your kids. Don’t bemoan not being able to have a cookie, do casually comment on how delicious the salad is.

If, like me, you feel impotent right now, acknowledge what you can control. In the dark shadow of this pandemic, all the crazy predictions and the blame game, offer your own light to your family by committing to instill healthier habits, small step by small step. If the virus is teaching us anything, it should be the importance of robust overall health. The answer isn’t to stay inside and wear masks for the rest of our lives. The answer is to live a life of moderation and wellness, supporting our bodies to fight the microbes that have always been, and will always be, part of our world.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.