Turning Doughnuts

A sunny, temperate April day in Seattle is a rare thing—so much so, that I ditched yoga in favor of a walk around Greenlake.

As I set foot on the concrete path, I knew something was up: instead of dodging power-walking mommies with strollers three-abreast and labradoodles in tow, I fell headfirst into a seemingly endless throng of racers. Closer inspection revealed that I was amidst the 5k “Doughnut Dash” sponsored by Top Pot Doughnuts. (http://www.promotionevents.com/TopPot5K/Info.htm) Immediately, it became apparent that this 5k was unlike anything I had seen before.

The Fremont Brew-Ha-Ha 5k brings out the past-and-current frat boys (picture a sea of men with “game day” beard growth in cargo shorts, T-shirts and backwards baseball caps.) The Furry 5k elicits dog lovers and their pals dressed in ridiculously fashionable finery, arguably better than what you or I might wear.

This event called out to passionate doughnut lovers from around the Sound.

I hesitate to knock the event or its participants for several reasons: first, it encourages people to exercise—especially those who may not otherwise do so. It also benefits a good cause and promotes camaraderie. Finally, I think it’s commendable that this event was sponsored by a local business who cared enough to support a charitable cause, as well as encourage its clientele to get in shape.

What I had difficulty moving past was the physique of the waves of people coming toward me. I have never seen so many obese men, women and children together in a race. I would like to be clear: I am not making fun of them; in fact, I applaud the effort it took for them to show up and participate. I hope that they are encouraged by today’s success.

What disturbs me is how unfit they were as a class. I watched them struggle with their weight—some a little, some a lot—even though Greenlake is a flat course. They were sweaty and tired after only one lap around, and what made it seem all the more wrong is that they were rewarded at the finish line with doughnuts and cookies.

Supporting a local business is  a good thing, but something is amiss. These people were not healthy. The food that they chose to eat—the food that Top Pot makes—is not healthy. Their “reward” for good behavior is not healthy, and ultimately will not reward their bodies in any positive way.

If eaten in conjunction with an otherwise healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise, it’s okay to have an occasional Top Pot Doughnut—or frozen custard or homemade cupcake, all of which are food fashion nouveau—but that’s not what’s happening here. Truly, the doughnuts are merely one piece of a more complex systematic failure.

Education about and access to healthy food is more prevalent in a city like Seattle than most places in the nation; yet, the message is obviously lost even here. How much earlier in life will the people I saw today experience physical problems because of their weight? How early with their joints fail or their backs become sore? How many will die earlier, leaving siblings and children behind? What will the toll on our healthcare system be to care for thousands or millions of citizens with early-onset diabetes? How many children will learn poor nutrition habits from their parents? How many will simply experience a decreased quality of life—the ability to feel strong and healthy—every single day?

Our culture does not teach moderation or quality. It teaches instant gratification and consumerism. What I hope is that the next doughnut that these racers decide to take is the 2.8-mile Greenlake circuit rather than the Feather Boa or the Sprinkles.

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