We left Kansas City May 30th. . We picked Claire up from her last day of school, put our dog Shiro and everything that we can fit into the Acura MDX, and off we drive to Orlando and the “Sunshine State”. Two days, 21 hours, and 7 states later, we arrived. While filling the tank at a gas station in Gainesville on the second evening, I was mesmerized by the warm Florida breeze, palm trees, and clouds that seem as though you can reach up and grab them by the handful. But before that moment, Dave and I had many hours during the drive to solve the U.S. Healthcare Crisis.
Our last night in KC was spent watching the Joe Cross documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. It was terrific, inspiring, and encouraged me to start our “cleanse” and have a strategy for our 2 day drive from KC to Orlando. I stocked up on water, fresh fruits, and Naked smoothie drinks like the “Green Machine”. We left Kansas City westward in the middle of a waterfall of rain and storm, and only after 2 hours did we reach some clear skies. Having a plan was definitely helpful, however, fresh fruit and smoothies did not appear to us to be enough for our child, so we did stop at McDonald’s the first night and bought her a happy meal. Yes, the woman behind “A Healthier Wei”, bought her child a Happy Meal. All I can say if anyone wants me to defend such a decision is that thank goodness this is a rarity for Claire, not to mention there were truly few options for dining when driving across America! I will admit, if you believe national fast food chains like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Arby’s are in fact, “good options”. I have never visited the buffet “Cracker Barrel”, but must admit whomever is behind the operations of that restaurant knows how to make themselves a household name across America. We drove past a billboard for a CB restaurant just about every 15 minutes! As we stopped to let Shiro (our 50lb fluffy Samoyed) out and refuel, the stops generally were near if not associated with a fast food restaurant as we also needed to use the restroom. I will not impose on you with details of how uncomfortable we were using them, suffice it to say that everyone probably overheard me yelling at Claire, “Don’t touch anything!”
We spent the first night in Nashville at a nice pet-friendly hotel by the airport, and I splurged and ordered room service for breakfast before we started our second day of driving. Afterall, pancakes and fresh fruit seemed better than what awaited us on the road. Having just watched “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, I felt as if I was in the movie as we shared the road with so many truck drivers. Each time I look up at the tractor (front part), I smiled at the person I see, and wondered how healthy he/she really is. I only saw one female driver in our 22+ hours on the road. Nontheless, as we saw one billboard after another, through 7 states, of almost nothing but advertisement for fast food restaurants, I realized that this is an area of health concern that must be addressed. It’s easy to fantasize when you’re in the passenger seat, staring at “cotton candy” and animal-shaped clouds while watching the green fields pass by. I thought about what is needed to help ensure the health of so many truck drivers in the US. At every major truck stop, we need a chain of places with juicing stations, salad bars, freshly prepared fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, lean protein, etc, such that truck drivers and all who are on the road may enjoy and choose such options instead of fried and processed foods. I am certain by now you are probably pointing out the obvious to me, it doesn’t matter if the drivers do not go into such places. I believe that without trying it, we can’t afford NOT to consider such an idea. Imagine even larger billboards with gorgeous colors of fresh fruits and salads, and smart slogans with factual health information which may inspire change in the typical American diet, perhaps we can entice and inspire change, one person at a time. Also, what would be critical is perhaps the union of drivers collaborating and supporting the health of their employees, by either providing stipend for healthy eating, along with incentives for demonstrating improvement in health whenever necessary. Such a revolution is possible, and much more likely to succeed if the van line industry supports it. It also would not hurt if for those less than healthy, who drive trucks for a living, can watch the film and be aware, concerned, and even inspired to actively pursue better health.
I love watching the TV Food Network, and enjoy a variety of their programming. However, I challenge the station and the celebrity hosts to creating a show that is perhaps the antithesis of “Diners, Dives, and Drive-In’s” which while certainly celebrates those small family-owned, delicious foods that represent America, but instead highlights healthy options on the road across America. Guy Fieri is so fun to watch, yet most of the foods he features are undoubtedly delicious but may not be the most nutricious for a nation facing critical obesity and all its related morbidities. Can you imagine a show where we share healthy options with truck drivers and real American on the road, and share real life chuckles as we entice Americans to not go into a fast food restaurant but instead, try our new healthier/greener approach.
I know that my dream is possible. But I have arrived and started my new job as the Division Chief of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, and Throat) at an amazing children’s hospital, and must stay focused on the tasks at hand (there are many). However, I am committed to reaching out to those around me, because I believe somewhere, somehow, someone will likely agree with me, and together perhaps we can partner and change the culture of fast and convenient all along the gorgeous and amazing highways that allow us to reach across this great nation.
We have now been in Orlando for 9 days. I am committed to eating better, being more active, and truly being as healthy as possible. Every day is an opportunity to live “A Healthier Wei.”
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.