Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
UPDATE: (Feb. 4, 2021) I wrote this article about the culture of convenience in 2019. The contents of the article are even more pertinent now. The pandemic made people even more sedentary due to restrictions and health concerns.
People were more likely than ever to use conveniences like curbside pickup and delivery instead of getting out of their car and walking around a store. Gyms, exercise classes, and other fitness facilities have been mostly closed for a year now. People were urged to stay home at all times and many do, staying inside, binge-watching the latest television shows, and working from their computers.
And it isn’t just adults who were affected. The few schools still operating in person no longer hold gym classes, and in most areas, children can’t play sports or play together at the park.
It’s pretty clear you don’t have to get Covid for your health to be seriously impacted.
(May 8, 2019) In the United States, we are lucky to have massive convenience at our fingertips. I was talking to one of the instructors for the urban survival course, who is from Sweden, on a car ride. He was blown away by some of the things I told him about the levels of convenience and comfort in the United States. Things I completely took for granted don’t even exist there. I thought some of you might be interested in hearing about some of the insights we discussed.
Before I left for the course, I was walking my dogs a mile or two every day with my dogs, but that was about it. I thought it was enough but I learned during the field exercises that it wasn’t even close to the physicality required during an SHTF situation. But I digress. Let’s get back to convenience.
A caveat before people respond indignantly and tell me about all the inconvenience with which they deal every day: this is an opinion piece. Obviously many people in America still work out hard and have manual jobs. But when two-thirds of American adults and 30% of American children are overweight or obese, you have to see that you are not in the majority.
And it’s the majority here that I’m discussing. Between a combination of low-quality food and extremely sedentary lifestyles, the majority are killing themselves with convenience.
The American Culture of Convenience
The first thing that struck me when I landed in the Balkans was how different their lifestyle is from ours in the United States. But the longer I’ve been here, the more obvious it has become.
In the United States, depending on where you live, everything is dropped in your lap.
Food can be quickly acquired by shouting your order into a microphone and driving around a building, all without you having to leave your car. And if you live in a larger town or city, with the advent of services like GrubHub and DoorDash, the food delivered to your home is no longer the domain of pizza chains. You can have your choice of practically any restaurant in town brought right to your door within 45 minutes.
But it isn’t just about food. Instacart offers pick-up services from a wide variety of stores, including places like chain grocers, Wal-Mart, and Target. All you have to do is drive up, let them know by phone that you’ve arrived, and pop your trunk. Poof. Your shopping is done. In some cities, you can even use services like Instacart to have these things brought to your door.
Amazon has brought us practically anything else we could want with two-day shipping, regardless of where you live in the country. Gone are the days of scouring half a dozen stores to locate the whatchamacallit you needed. A quick search on Amazon and One-Click ordering and it’s yours within 48 hours and you never moved off your comfy chair.
If you need to go somewhere you don’t even have to drive yourself or take public transit. Uber or Lyft will happily send somebody to pick you up and drive you anywhere you need to go for a reasonable price, and you can watch the approach of your driver from the convenience of your phone.
Entire billion dollar industries are evolving to make our lives more convenient and easy every single day. Imagine how stunned our hunter-gatherer ancestors would be to discover we don’t even have to leave the house to be clothed and fed in epic abundance.
We don’t walk much, either.
And speaking of drive-thrus and driving to the store to get your Instacart packages, we drive everywhere. Part of this is because of the way suburbia is developed. It’s rare to live in a neighborhood where you can walk to the market, the bakery, and the wine store. So instead of walking to get our goods, we drive there, dash in, and get back in our cars. Those in big cities probably walk far more than those in suburbia, and for those in the country, it depends if they actually have a place to walk and whether they’re taking care of a large property.
And if we’re not walking to run our errands, we’re not carrying stuff. We get as close as possible with our cars if heavy groceries need to be lugged in and we carry as little as we can if we’re heading somewhere. When you walk the dogs, you might take your phone and some poop bags but you’re generally not taking it as a training opportunity and strapping on a pack.
Then there are the stairs.
Even two-story buildings in the United States have elevators much of the time because everything, by law, has to be easily accessible to every person. (And no, I’m not saying that people in wheelchairs need to try to haul themselves up the stairs. I’m discussing a trend.) But it goes even further than that. Adding elevators to your home is a growing trend in both the United States and Canada. New home builders are including elevators in the original design of some homes.
On the other hand, in Europe, they don’t have elevators in many buildings with fewer than five floors. I walked up and down more stairs in the past month than I have in the past year at home combined, and I live in a three-story house.
And the list of conveniences that would blow the minds of people I met in the Balkans goes on.
It’s an agoraphobic’s paradise in the United States.
You can get all sorts of mobile services that come to your door – everything from hairstyling to dog grooming. Other people mow our lawns, clean our homes, service our vehicles, and take care of us in general. There are even people who hire others to walk their dogs. Some people definitely need help with physical tasks but able-bodied people should be able to do a little yard work, shouldn’t we? Especially if we’re preparing for some kind of apocalypse.
In many areas, things are perfectly level, the sidewalks are carefully maintained (because who wants to ask for trouble in our litigious society), and a slight incline is considered a “hill” that people avoid to make their dog walk a little easier.
You can get meal kits brought to your door with every single ingredient you need to make a gourmet meal, right down to the seasonings accurately doled out in little packages. You can have fresh fruits and vegetables dropped off at your door by your local CSA. You can get subscription services of all types with the delivery of things like cosmetics, fitness gear, food from exotic locales, wine, candy, home decor items, socks, and dog paraphernalia.
Looking at it from the perspective of the area where I’ve been spending time, it’s simply mind-boggling that all of these riches are brought to you at the click of a button.
And it’s killing us.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, the obesity rate in the United States is staggering. A lot of it is our food. Thanks to subsidization by the USDA, many of the foods that are cheap are highly processed with low-quality ingredients. The NY Times reports:
At a time when almost three-quarters of the country is overweight or obese, it comes as no surprise that junk foods are the largest source of calories in the American diet. Topping the list are grain-based desserts like cookies, doughnuts and granola bars. (Yes, granola bars are dessert.)
That’s according to data from the federal government, which says that breads, sugary drinks, pizza, pasta dishes and “dairy desserts” like ice cream are also among Americans’ top 10 sources of calories.
What do these foods have in common? They are largely the products of seven crops and farm foods — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk and meat — that are heavily subsidized by the federal government, ensuring that junk foods are cheap and plentiful, experts say.
Between 1995 and 2010, the government doled out $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to finance the production of these foods, the latter two in part through subsidies on feed grains. While many of these foods are not inherently unhealthy, only a small percentage of them are eaten as is. Most are used as feed for livestock, turned into biofuels or converted to cheap products and additives like corn sweeteners, industrial oils, processed meats and refined carbohydrates. (source)
And even when we try to clean up our diets, foods are genetically modified, produce is doused in pesticides, and it’s packaged in all sorts of hormone-disrupting material that leaches in when you heat it up.
But it’s not just the crappy food. A lot of folks in the United States just do not get off their butts. And – I hate to say it – but I’m talking to a lot of people in the survival and preparedness world. Sitting at a keyboard or phone typing all day while Netflix plays in the background is sedentary to a deadly degree. On average Americans sit for 8.2 hours per day and this does not include the average 7-ish hours a day we’re sleeping. And when we’re not sitting, it doesn’t mean we’re doing things that are good for us. We spend a great deal of time standing in line and driving in our cars. And the trend toward inactivity is only increasing.
Meanwhile, obesity contributes to many diseases such as:
- High blood glucose (sugar) or diabetes.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- High blood cholesterol and triglycerides (dyslipidemia, or high blood fats).
- Heart attacks due to coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
- Bone and joint problems, more weight puts pressure on the bones and joints. This can lead to osteoarthritis, a disease that causes joint pain and stiffness.
- Stopping breathing during sleep (sleep apnea). This can cause daytime fatigue or sleepiness, poor attention, and problems at work.
- Gallstones and liver problems.
- Some cancers.
The National Institute of Health is incredibly concerned about the future of overweight, sedentary Americans.
More recent evidence points to differential roles for body fat distribution patterns, in addition to excess overall adiposity, in elevating risk of many major chronic diseases. The large numbers of children entering adulthood overweight, together with increased weight gain in adulthood, portend an enormous burden in terms of human suffering, lost productivity, and health care expenditure in the coming decades. (source)
And – since it’s the purview of this website – imagine if the SHTF and you were too overweight and sedentary to go out and acquire the supplies you need to survive. Imagine what will happen when your medication runs out and you have a preventable disease brought on by your sedentary lifestyle. Imagine how your family will feel watching you suffer.
You need to add more movement to your life.
Unless you are among the 23% of Americans who meet the national exercise guidelines, you need to add more movement to your life. I suspect that there are a lot of people who believe they are disabled because getting started on a movement program is hard. It really does hurt, I know. But there’s a very good chance as you begin to move more it will become far easier. Don’t give in to it if your doctor says, “Oh, you’re disabled” and hands you a sticker for your car unless you really, truly are. If there’s even a glimmer of doubt in your mind, try to move just a few more steps each day. Instead of using the scooter to shop, push a cart to give yourself something to lean on. You aren’t training for a marathon – 10 extra steps a day will add up if you keep on pushing. But, MOVE.
The best way to increase movement is to decrease convenience. I don’t mean that you need to suddenly become a hunter-gatherer but you need to get off your duff. (To get started, check out this article or Bug Out Boot Camp and of course, always contact your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Blah, blah, blah.)
You need to carry heavy things instead of getting them delivered. You need to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator. You need to actually go inside the store to do your shopping instead of sitting in your car, waiting for stuff to get loaded into your trunk. Park at the back of the parking lot, or better yet, at a store further away. Quit ordering from Amazon and buy things locally so you can walk around the store. Look for the hills and walk up and down them instead of avoiding them. If you want to eat restaurant food, go to the dad-gum restaurant. Find a place to walk to every day – maybe the post office, a coffee shop, or the dog park – and make it part of your routine.
It’s not unusual in other parts of the world to walk 8, 10, or even more miles, every single day. You don’t need to start there but maybe you should strive to get there. Once you’re in your groove, it should only take an hour or so to walk 4 miles. Using your feet as transportation is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Don’t be a casualty of the culture of convenience.
I’m so glad your getting this experience. It will change your perspective. I did 2 tours in Germany and served in the Balkans during the war but before the main force came in as well as several other place of travel. These were days before internet and cell phones.
Soak it all in and enjoy because you’ll never look at things the same.
Daisy, as one writer to another, I want to compliment you on your incredible writing skills. Your clarity and comprehensive treatment of your chosen subject matter make reading your blog posts a delight. Thanks for the great writing!
Agreed. Two thumbs up.
I think that the medical groupthink has done us a disservice when it comes to fitness. It’s not the calories alone that dictate our weight, it’s how they influence our hormones. Thankfully the Hormonal Theory of Obesity is gaining mainstream traction.
In short, it’s not how much we eat, but how often. The solution is to eat less often, skip meals etc. This is intermittent fasting. If you look at fit cultures, they have few well defined meal times, and don’t snack. They are always busy doing something else or walking somewhere instead of eating. They embrace hunger as a prelude to a good meal rather than something to suppress with constant snacking. I have skyrocketed my fitness with this approach.
In terms of prepping, fasting prepares yourself to random intervals of no food. Handling that all might be key to survival in an unexpected event. Fasting is the secret sauce.
Excellent article. Although at one point you write, “it should only take an hour or so to walk a mile.” The average person — not an athlete, just an average person — should be able to walk 1 mile in 20 minutes. That is considered a standard pace.
The active lifestyle you describe in the Balkans is common in “walkable” cities. The average Manhattanite is estimated to walk about 5 miles a day. When I lived in Manhattan, I walked to work, to the grocery store, to the laundromat, etc. and climbed the stairs to my 4th floor apartment in a no-elevator building. But if you don’t live in a walkable city, and most Americans don’t, it’s difficult to incorporate exercise naturally into your routine. If you live in the suburbs or country, nothing is in walking distance. As a result, it’s an actual effort to find opportunities to walk.
Thank you – that was a typo that I fixed after you guys brought it to my attention! 🙂 I so appreciate it. It was supposed to be an hour to walk 4 miles.
I deserve luxury, wealth, and convenience. I am entitled to this standard of living. I do not need some bitter old lady telling me what to do with my life. I do not want to live with a standard from some third world country. You need to watch some TV every now and then Daisy. Too much internet garbage will ruin your life.
You don’t deserve anything.
LOL. I have to assume you’re kidding. Otherwise, why would a jerk like you be on this site anyway….
The only thing anyone is entitled to is getting out of bed in the morning.
Regardless if Diamond is kidding/sarcasm that exact mentality is contributing to the demise of our society. The hyper-consumer, instant gratification, all things materialistic.
Our first world problems are what are killing us.
Deserve is a key word in advertising, validating your need to go into further debt.
Daisy, your remark about taking “an hour or two” to walk a mile jolted me. Maybe it’s because of my memories of 20 mile hikes with the long-ago Boy Scouts, or the 20 minutes it takes me to walk a mile today. Taking an “hour or two” sounds like either really being in bad physical shape, or maybe wearing really painful shoes.
You’re spot-on correct about convenience creating a helpless culture. I drive an older vehicle because among other reasons I can do most of the maintenance myself. The newer models have been so government-a-fied and so overly electronic-a-fied that less and less maintenance can be done by the classic shade tree home mechanic. This is not so much a problem in other countries that suffer not as much from nanny-state governments. There are probably hundreds of other such examples of convenience wiping out independence.
There’s a fascinating book from American history that can provide some interesting inspiration for better health and physical conditioning. “Handcarts to Zion” (on Amazon, or course)
Handcarts to Zion: The story of a unique western migration, 1856-1860, with contemporary journals, accounts, reports; and rosters of members …by Le Roy Reuben Hafen, 1960
is about the Mormon migrations of desperation to the western states of America, just before the Civil War. Some didn’t have the money for horses or oxen, so they were forced to load whatever household goods they could pull into lightweight two-wheel wooden handcarts. Most made it all the way; a few died.
Today, it’s worthwhile to consider how hunters can bring back a deer on a two-wheel cart over rough ground. I’m close enough to one of my local grocers to walk, with either a backpack or a two-wheel airline luggage cart (for heavier loads). I recently changed barbers to one within walking distance. I walk to the post office, to a second grocer, and to my package shipping and receiving service, etc. [There’s also the el cheapo method of easily converting a two-child bicycle trailer from your local thrift store into a luggage trailer. Lots of people have done this for cross-country bicycle trips.] If you live too far away for walking to most local destinations for your needs, consider walking distance possibilities the next time you move.
I think you caught a major typo! Let me go update!
THANK YOU – that was supposed to read “It will only take you an hour or so to walk 4 miles.” Phew, that’s what I get for writing without enough sleep.
how often are there no sidewalks, poorly maintained sidewalks, and no snow removal so one must walk in the street in slush, ice, and where there are murderous drivers
not to mention hoodlums
where i live there are no stores, doctors, banks, et cetera within walking distance–none.
also age and joints make climbing difficult. young people should do more exercise but many of us are limited by braces and artificial joints
some people go to walmart and malls to do walking especially in winter.
the distances between services are greater here than in europe because planners assume access to vehicles.
just the facts of life for so many of us
DRJH, it’s been the same with many places I’ve lived. It’s a great idea to go to Wal-Mart or the mall – anything that keeps you moving 🙂
This article is correct and full of common sense. But because it is full of common sense no one will believe it.
And the problem will get worse. I wish it wasn’t common sense. But it is what it is.
Well Daisy, I was totally with you, right up to the moment I was not. That was when you declared, “You need to carry heavy things instead of getting them delivered.” Yes, we want to build strength along with fitness. But the Risk/Reward ratio of your recommendation is skewed in the wrong direction for anyone over forty years old.
Up till that age, the average person usually can avoid back injuries, as long as they “lift with their legs,” and “don’t do anything really stupid.” Thereafter, it becomes increasingly easier to hurt one’s back, even when one refrains from doing stupid things. One of the easiest ways to get injured is by Lifting Heavy Stuff.
And once a person really hurts their back, they are going to be a lot less agile and self reliant. Each year, it becomes smarter to make five trips transporting one gallon water jugs, instead of going for five gallons in one trip.
I exercise quite a bit. And nobody would call me “fat.” But when our Hungry Dogs are ready for yet another 30lb bag of kibble, you can bet that I have it delivered.
There are all kinds of things we can do to lift things safely. I discovered some of them after the fact of injury. Once fully recovered, I tried to do it smarter. Like sliding the dog food bag from the trunk to the wheelbarrow. Moving the bookshelves, etc with those little plastic sliders under the corners. Wheee! Even cheap frisbees can help move big stuff around. Work still gets done without the injury. Also there’s no shame in asking for help and then returning the favor.
trying to read this is not worth my time due to all the ads.
I’m checking this site off the list of sites I refer people to.
you have sold out to the advertisers.
Really the options are have advertisers pay for the cost of running a website or charge the readers. I strive to keep this information free. Best wishes.
You could always take a few minutes to download and install an ad-blocker.
But taking the time to do that would be too much of an inconvenience for you, taking you away from your time surfing the web.
See what I did there? 🙂
I do see what you did there. Well played, 1stMarineJarHead 🙂
Have someone give me a call Mike. I’ll remote in to your PC and install ad blocker for you in 30 minutes or less, or your pizza is free, guaranteed. The cost is $49.99 and gratuities are greatly appreciated. America!
Burn more calories than you consume is the simple equation to weight loss, do it sensibly within the parameters of your present capability. Incentive and motivation are the elusive elements that preclude the implementation of all the good advice regardless of any known disadvantages to the contrary. Regards
All calories are not created equal. Science has proven weight loss or gain is based on hormone response and frequency of eating. Factoring that with cheap, overly processed “food” and the removal of required physical education from all grades, coupled with too much video time and sick/diseased based healthcare, gives you the perfect storm for an overweight society.
Great article Daisy, thanks!
Just returned from Holland. Since streets tend to be narrow and traffic is congested, people ride their bikes or walk everywhere. They are physically fit and I noticed that they were much happier as a population.
Everything was very clean and organized. We were very impressed.
Upon our return to Los Angeles, we were struck by the homeless, graffiti and how run down and filthy it is.
America really needs to wake up to the disaster of their decision making and the consequences to society.
interesting and sinister display. i’m not american so i should be puzzled about this “culture of convenience”.
I wanted to say, about a little point, though not being ludicrous, the premise calory in/calory out is quite overrated, if not obsolete. I think Robert Lustig, and Gary Taubes, for example, have made a good case for that. Some things about diet are, or have become, more important than exercise, or will power, for instance:
-purchasing power, (i.e : stagning wages, inflation, corporate rackett, crisis, unemployment, etc)
-food industry use of high fructose corn sirup, and other evil carbs
-medical professions nutritionists and dietiticians obstination to cling to an obsolet model
Again i strongly suggest anyone interested to read at least Gary Taubes, “why we get fat and what to do about it” it is very well documented and convincing.
Again, will power and exercise will not save people from obesity.
That’s a wake up all for me, I use a walker. But..I never order anything to my house.rarely use Amazon. Always go in person shopping. And I do have to have a car for numerous drs appointments. I am going to start walking more. Thanks for the heads up.