Community Health, Diet and Fitness

health and fitness in virginia

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY

One of the most important issues in our community today is the state of diet and nutrition health. With the increasing popularity of processed foods and fast food restaurants, poor nutrition and eating habits has become more and more rampant. One of the biggest problems for many people today, especially for the younger crowd, is the lack of information of proper eating habits and nutrition. Because of this lack of proper nutritional knowledge, many people gravitate toward fast food and junk food, which is more convenient and often a tastier option. However, these junk foods can result in deadly health effects over time.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, eating and physical activity should be focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. It describes the current state of health in America as being plagued by poor diet and physical inactivity that is contributing to an epidemic of obesity and high mortality rates.

One of the most important recommendations is to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages, because Americans generally consume too much sodium and calories from solid fats, sugars and refined grains, instead of the necessary nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk products, seafood, lean meats, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds. Further recommendations include increasing vegetable and fruit intake, especially a variety of vegetables such as dark-green, red and orange vegetables, along with beans and peas. Another tip is to replace refined grains with whole grains. Some of the nutrients and vitamins to focus on in good diets are potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and Vitamin D.

Additional tips include avoiding fried foods and replacing them with baked or grilled foods. Also, one very important point is to plan ahead, because laziness can be the crux of the problem when it comes to a healthy diet. Many people just opt to eat the most convenient option, which is usually poor in nutrition, even though it may be more tasty. Lack of planning can also result in skipped meals and replacing nutritious meals with unhealthy snacks.

Quality resources that combine information about good nutrition and physical activity include this site that focuses on sports and bodybuilding nutrition fitness. It has excellent information and articles about the diets of top athletes and common questions regarding proper nutrition for staying healthy and in shape. One of the articles that everyone should read is about the superfoods for high endurance performance that helped one middle-aged, overweight coach potato turn into an elite ultra-endurance athlete. Another good resource for fitness and physical activity is this site that focuses on powerlifting and bodybuilding muscle fitness. This site is geared toward those that want to improve their physical fitness, build muscle, and maintain a proper diet that will help them achieve their physical fitness goals.

In this day and age, there are so many accessible resources out there that there is no excuse for not gaining proper knowledge of good nutritional practices. One improving trend has been a more health conscious generation, which can be seen from the growing popularity of healthier fast food alternatives that are also environmentally conscious, such as Chipotle. This has resulted in a decline in less healthy fast food restaurants that used to be popularity juggernauts in the past, such as McDonalds. However, there needs to be a much greater transformation in the mindset toward healthy eating and living in the community before this significant problem of poor diet and fitness can truly begin to improve.

Asian Americans in America

One concern that I’ve had for a very long time is how underrepresented the Asian American community is in the United States. Whether in the media or general community, Asian Americans don’t seem to have the same voice or opportunities as other ethnicities in the United States. Part of this has to do with Asian Americans only making up about 5% of the population, but based on the representation that this group receives in the media, it would be the equivalent of this group making up less than 1% of the population. Given the significant academic and professional achievements of Asian Americans in general, it would seem they would be able to gain a more influential voice and higher representation in this country, but it just is not the case. It is concerning that Asian American youth have very few Asian American role models in the public to look up to, because there are so few Asian Americans being represented in the media. It seems everyday that the rights and voices of other minorities are being strongly talked about and discussed in the media, but there are very few conversations revolving around Asian Americans.

However, there is progress being made with different organizations being led by strong leaders in the Asian American community who are striving for change. One of these groups is the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which is: “one of the nation’s leading experts on issues of importance to the Asian American community including: affirmative action, anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigrant rights, immigration, language access, television diversity and voting rights. Our expertise is widely acknowledged: in the media, by the public and lawmakers at the very highest tiers of government.” They have made an impact on different policies and programs and have empowered Asian Americans to demand change in policies and programs by their presence in the election process. Furthermore, this organization is focused on: “Creating an Inclusive Society by helping Asian American and other minority groups to successfully challenge discriminatory barriers to fair and equal access to justice in the courts, jobs in the marketplace as well as government programs, benefits and forms of assistance at every level.” This is an organization that needs to be supported in order to promote the rights of Asian Americans in this country.

asian american community

Another important organization is the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. According to their website: “We are the oldest and largest organization representing Asian American and Asian American-related groups in business, sciences, the arts, sports, education, public and community services. In 1984, there was a strong lack of organizations that traced their members’ heritage to Asia, and there was no organization that represented the interests and future of the diverse pan Asian American (includes East, South and Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) business and professional community. Few noticed the growing diversity and size of the pan Asian American (AA) population. Even fewer knew about the burgeoning growth of the AA business community—which would become the fastest-growing group with the highest job creation record, highest household income, highest education attainment (U.S. Census 2010, Pew Research in 2012, and Nielsen Report in 2013). The need for an organization that would address the aspirations, potentials and the challenges of AAs faced in the mainstream market place was essential. Thus, the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC) was established.” This organization fills a dire need for Asian Americans to receive recognition of their voice in a variety of different fields, business, and in the general public.

Finally one group that supports Asian American youth is AALEAD, which: “envisions a United States in which low-income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth, and youth of all backgrounds, are equipped with the tools and opportunities to define themselves and their own futures. We are the leading community organization that provides educational enrichment and youth development programs to low-income and underserved Asian American youth in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Our highly dedicated staff and Board deliver specialized after school programs, one-on-one mentoring, academic support resources, and life skill development for students through After School, Summer, and Mentoring Programs. We also assist parents with school related issues affecting their children. Our goal is to provide a nurturing environment and culturally sensitive guidance so that each child we serve will be a contributing member of his or her community. Our programs currently serve over 350 students in the District of Columbia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Fairfax County, Virginia, who represent more than 16 different Asian ethnicities.” This is an example of a local organization that supports and makes an impact for the youth in local communities.

Although the rights and representation of Asian Americans has a long way to go, there have been encouraging signs of progress. There have been more Asian Americans being represented in different areas such as the entertainment industry, in sports, and public policy. There is now the beginning of a presence in these public arenas, when before it was almost nonexistent. It is important that one day Asian Americans be seen on equal footing as other ethnic groups, and not just as foreigners but accepted as Americans with the same rights and opportunities that others have.

State of American Deli

arlington lunch

There seems to be a negative trend happening these days in to an iconic subset of the American food industry, the deli restaurant. Particularly in large cities, such as New York and LA, where there used to be thousands of these delis, now these numbers have been reduced dramatically. These places used to be thriving restaurants in the mid-twentieth century, particularly in big cities, but are now struggling due to a mediocre economy and changing consumption trends. Fortunately, in the Northern Virginia community, there are still some of these types of restaurants in business and ready to serve your favorite deli sandwiches and eats.

One factor contributing to the demise of these signature American restaurants is the consumption trend and dining preferences of the younger generation. These kids seem to be more into fast food than ever, preferring quick eat places like Chipotle and Shake Shack, which also have a reputation for quality. The relatively low prices of these meals and the fast nature of the service is what appeals to these kids. Many deli restaurants are sit down places and the prices can be expensive relative to fast food. This is in part due to higher food costs, such as record high beef costs, and high cost of leasing commercial space in bigger cities. In many of these deli restaurants, a pastrami sandwich meal can run north of twenty dollars when factoring in tip and tax.

Another negative factor is the extremely competitive nature of the food business. Theses days there are more restaurants than ever, with a seemingly unending number of options and types of food. There are new restaurants and eateries opening up on a new daily basis with new innovative concepts and philosophies. Delis are seen more as traditional and old fashioned, compared to some of the new cutting edge restaurants and fast food businesses opening up in recent times. Also for younger more health conscious consumers, the traditional deli offers comfort food that can be higher in fat and calories. Although the food may taste better, it may not be seen as a daily meal option.

As a response to this change in trend, some delis in the local community are making adjustments and offering more healthy options in addition to the traditional comfort food. According to Best DC Metro Food, one deli cafe in Arlington VA, Manhattan Cafe, offers salad, fresh fruit, soups and healthy buffet options on the menu. Although offering many sandwiches as a traditional deli, this cafe also offers healthier alternatives that appeal to a modern, more health conscious consumer. The prices for this deli café are also very competitive with the fast food offerings that younger people enjoy. Manhattan Cafe is one of the more affordable lunch time and breakfast establishments in Arlington VA.

This seems to be the typical pattern in business for industry wide trends to break old models of business, and the people who actually survive these changes are the ones who adapt to the new conditions and meet evolving consumer demands. This goes for the food industry and is particularly apparent in the tech industry. Dominant players today in these business spaces can be obsolete in no time at all if they are not constantly adapting and evolving to changes in the world.

Education in VA

Based on US News and Word Report, the top 10 high schools in Virginia are all located in Northern Virginia, and the majority of the top 20 schools in Virginia are as well. Additionally, the majority of these top schools appear to be concentrated in Fairfax County. This seems to be a byproduct of an excellent environment and community, an area with thriving businesses and great neighborhoods.

The top school in Virginia and one of the top schools in the country is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, located in Alexandria, VA. This schools admits its students based on test scores, academic record, and other merits, which is similar to the college application process. This allows the school to admit the top students in the area. The academic achievements and accomplishments of these students are well documented.

It seems that the type of student who thrives at Thomas Jefferson, a competitive and challenging academic boot camp, are those who are psychologically well prepared and driven for hard work and achievement. They have an advanced maturity at an early age to be able to manage their schedules, prioritize and focus on hard work, and plan for the future. Many of them are so well aware of their future plans that they have their university and career progressions already mapped out. Compared to the majority of high schoolers in the country, this is an extremely rare characteristic and represents a very small percentage of the population. These are students that demonstrate a maturity well beyond their years, fostered by either their parents or just through natural tendencies.

But aside from these top notch students, who could probably thrive on their own without too much guidance, the question is how effective is the American educational system for other bright students who find the current uncreative education system extremely demotivating. Let’s face it, the typical high school classroom consists of a teacher reading from a textbook the majority of the time, which any intelligent student could do on his/her own, making this exercise a complete waste of time. And when you combine all the classes and teachers doing this for an entire school year, you have several years of wasted time in a classroom where the amount of actual learning is minimal. This wasted time has a tremendous opportunity cost, because these same students could be spending these years developing skills or knowledge that could greatly benefit their futures.

Also, it is rare for one of these teachers to actual teach material in a way that can be related and applied to the real world, which is the key to engaging the interest of students who have the potential to learn and excel but are demotivated by the pointless nature of the typical classroom. When the only objective of a class is to memorize material in a textbook and take a test on this memorized material, it does not facilitate actual learning of the subject of study. What is required is an emphasis on why the field of study is important in the real world, how knowledge learned can be applied, and how learning this information will benefit oneself and allow one to achieve goals in the real world. This is how you motivate those who have the capacity to excel but don’t have a worthwhile purpose.

However, it remains to be seen whether there is any incentive for a major overhaul in the American education system. Improving the quality of the education system would require effort and resources for training teachers and improving curriculums. And of course, education is only a priority for politicians in name and not in actual practice. Although the United States can boast to have the most brilliant business people, scientists and innovators in the world, its educational system unfortunately has a mediocre ranking compared to other countries. This is why the students who have the greatest advantage are the ones who have the parents with the expertise to guide them to excellence.