Today, 2.1 billion people – nearly 30% of the world’s population – are either obese or overweight, according to a new analysis of trend data from over 185 countries. The rise in global obesity rates over the last three decades has been substantial and widespread, presenting a major public health epidemic in both the developed and the developing world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases (such as heart disease , stroke , diabetes , and cancer) are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, with coronary atherosclerosis firmly entrenched in the #1 spot, claiming one out of every four deaths each year and boasting a heart attack every 40 seconds.

Diabesity, or the combination of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, is likely to become the biggest pandemic in human history. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2040 the
number of people living with diabetes will approach 642 million, which means one out of every three children today will develop this debilitating disease in their lifetimes. The saddest part of this statistic is that it is totally preventable, as are the majority of all the chronic diseases that are currently killing us.

The solution up to this point has been tackled with pen and paper, i.e., physicians writing prescriptions for a myriad of drugs, ignoring the root origins (what we eat) and simply treating the
symptoms (how we feel), while lining the pockets of Big Pharma and its vested interest in keeping us sick. Putting more focus on prevention, not pills, could make huge strides towards fewer 10Ks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The irony is that we spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money on research for a cure, when we already have a pretty darn good idea of the cause.

And speaking of money, the cost of all this illness is on course to eventually bankrupt whatever medicare system may be intact by the year 2050. Diabetes alone has a worldwide toll of 825 billion dollars a year and because it is arguably the fastest growing health problem we have, that price tag will increase exponentially, for it comes with expensive complications: kidney disease, neuropathy, heart disease and stroke, amputations and blindness. The future world we are creating will simply not be able to afford to treat all these ailments, and yet we keep digging our own graves with our knives and forks.

Which brings us to whether we will even have a hospitable planet to live on when all these fearsome forecasts come to fruition. Due to our current love affair with everything processed, the amount of factory farming required to sustain our chicken nugget habit and fast food fix is not only destroying our health, but our eco-systems as well. Animal agriculture is currently the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, with livestock covering 45% of earth’s total land and using 20-33% of fresh water consumption. It is also responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the exhaust of all transportation, combined.

These statistics are mirrored in our country, where almost half of the contiguous U.S. is devoted to industrialized animal food production. It has also caused an estimated 90% of the Amazon
destruction, with 1-2 acres of rainforest being cleared every second for livestock and feed crops. This is insanity. Especially when you consider that the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has put processed meat in its highest level of carcinogens (Group 1) and red meat in the next highest category (Group 2A).

If you are sitting there mired in doom and gloom as you read this, I offer this glimmer of hope and salvation: each of us is uniquely qualified and able to alter the course of these dire stats and predictions. We have the opportunity at least three times a day to either prevent, treat or in many cases, reverse the course we have set for ourselves, our families and our planet via our Standard American Diet (SAD). Change what you put on the end of your forks and you change not only the amount of years in your life, but the quality of life in your years. Think of it as your own personal super power!

Eat REAL, wholesome foods. As unprocessed as possible with little or no added sugars. Reduce the amount of animal products you consume and you reduce your footprint on this earth. Stop with the protein obsession (only 3% of the population eating enough calories is deficient) and embrace the need for fiber (97% of us don’t get the minimum requirement) and enjoy a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Unplug from technology – talk, not text, to your friends and family, and go for a walk. Enjoy the great outdoors and notice how good your body feels when it moves and how refreshed your face feels when it smiles. Together, we can truly “fork disease” and at the same time insure that we leave a happy, healthy and hospitable planet for our future generations.

Cindi is President and Founder of The Noble Path Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to raising awareness on childhood obesity, T2 diabetes and the importance of sound nutrition and lifestyle choices for our youth. For sources and links to the statistics mentioned in this article, please visit our website and search for the article under our blog at www.thenoblepathfoundation.org

A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It, Georgetown Environmental Law Review:

“Biodiversity and Food Choice: A Clarification”. comfortablyunaware: Global Depletion and Food Choice Responsibility. June 9, 2012

Lancet study on dietary risks: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)30041-8/fulltext

“Risk Management Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations”. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2004 Hance, Jeremy. “How humans are driving the sixth mass extinction”. The Guardian. 20 October 2015

Diabetes statistics: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/

Can Diabetes Bankrupt a Country?: https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/can-diabetes-bankrupt-country/

Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat: https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/

Protein and Fiber Deficiency: https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/09/29/where-do-you-get-your-fiber/

Environmental Stats and Sources: https://www.cowspiracy.com/facts