By Rich Figel
Only in America is it considered "bad news" when we consume less or cut back on spending for non-essentials. I was reminded of this by two unrelated things in the past week. One was the Sunday Star-Advertiser story about local prisoners complaining they're being underfed, which is causing them to lose a lot of weight. The second was the Green Workforce Development Conference and Expo on Tuesday. On one hand, you have convicted criminals -- who were obese to begin with -- grumbling they aren't getting enough food by their standards. On the other, we have people telling us we need to alter our lifestyles and find better ways of producing healthy food right here in Hawaii.
As different as those two stories may be, in my mind they share a common theme: self-discipline. People object to heavy-handed government rules and regulations. Yet left to our own free will, we often succumb to the "I want, I need" more-more-more mentality that drives the American economy. It's all about instant gratification. And so is addiction, something I'm well acquainted with through my experiences as a recovering alcoholic. I've been sober now for 22 years, nine months and seven days. Whatever success I've had as a writer or in business, is a direct result of principles I learned in rehab and at 12 Step meetings. I stay sober by reminding myself daily what my priorities are, and sticking to routines that keep me grounded.
So when I read that an inmate's relative compared his physical condition to concentration camp prisoners at Auschwitz, it bothered me a great deal. I consider myself to be a fairly liberal-minded person on most social issues. I believe rehabilitation programs for non-violent offenders and addicts is a far better approach than just locking them up. But the first lesson I was taught in rehab is that my way of doing things wasn't working, so I had to be willing to take direction and change my thinking. That meant following a strict daily schedule set by the treatment center, getting up early, going to AA meetings, and eating nutritionally-balanced meals at set times.
Any recovering alcoholic or addict will tell you they had terrible eating habits -- either dispensing with food entirely for long periods while binging, or subsisting on junk food and high calorie stuff. During my 28-day stay in rehab, the food wasn't great, but it was healthy for the most part and I started to feel better once I was on a regular three meal a day routine. I'm not saying the inmates mentioned in the Star-Advertiser article have drugs or alcohol problems. However, a large percentage of our prison population is doing time because their offenses were related to drugs or alcohol one way or another. And many are obese, which reflects a larger social problem that I feel is connected to our culture of addiction in America.
Here's the link to the aforementioned Star-Advertiser story on the prison weight loss program... er, I mean "controversy." I don't mean to sound glib, but it seems to me like these were men who could stand to lose a few pounds to begin with. Putting them on a 2,600 to 2,900 calories per day diet, doesn't seem unreasonable. In fact, I know of people who voluntarily have been restricting their intake to 600 calories per day as part of one weight loss plan -- and the results are startling when you see them in person. They aren't comparing themselves to POWs at Auschwitz though. Maybe someone at OCC should publish their weekly meal plans for people who DO want to lose weight safely -- call it the Halawa Miracle Diet or something like that.
Seriously, if those convicts want to turn their lives around, they need a big time attitude adjustment. They must accept responsibility for their crimes, and admit their way of doing things wasn't working. They -- and their families -- must look in the mirror and admit they need help, and be willing to start following a different path. That includes changing unhealthy lifestyles and bad eating habits. Lest you think I'm picking on the prisoners, I'm not. We all have to change our mindset about what we really need versus what we want. That's what true sustainability is about.
I'll be writing more about the Green Workforce Development Conference and Expo in the weeks ahead, since we'll be doing segments on that topic in future Career Changers TV episodes. Until then, please watch the current show, which airs daily on OC16. You can find daily viewing times on our website, and view videos from past shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.