COMMENTARY: Healthy options are few on Qualla Boundary

by Aug 5, 2019OPINIONS





I, like many others, have been disheartened but not surprised by the recent five-year study presented by the EBCI Health Board.

What I will focus on is the rate of diabetes and a lack of physical health of folks in Cherokee. According to the study, the percentage of people that have diabetes on the boundary is a staggering 25 percent. It also shows that “the diabetes death rate among American Indian/Alaska Natives among the five-county area was about six times higher than the state average”.

To start, I must say that I am not using this platform to shame people or to be on a high horse. What I want to do is illuminate a significant issue that plagues us as Cherokee people. Though I try to eat healthily and exercise, I can’t say I’m a model of human fitness.

However, I almost always bring in my lunch to work. I do this for convenience, price, and options. But, I wasn’t able multiple times last week. So, when I went to take my break, I was baffled as to where to go. I had been to Sassy Sunflower somewhat recently, and I couldn’t think of another place where I could get something healthy.

Sandwiches can be ok, but if you’re avoiding carbs or are gluten-free, they’re not an option. What else is there? A salad from a fast food restaurant? Really?

Health is a serious issue, but it’s hardly going to get any better if one of the simplest ways of improving is unavailable. There need to be more healthy options in Cherokee.

Don’t get me wrong; I love a burger. I still eat frybread and fatback on occasion. Moderation is a big part of this. Eating things like this isn’t the end of the world. They taste great. But, they should be a treat, not a lifestyle. I’ve done my best to take steps toward a better lifestyle, and it is difficult given where I work.

I challenge us, as a people, to not just settle for what we have. Request a diversified menu at more of these local establishments. Heck, open a place yourself knowing that you’ll most likely have a regular in me.

Being healthy isn’t as daunting and tedious as it is often made out to be. You don’t have to eat salads and starve yourself. I will say, though, that salads can be incredibly delicious and varied if you use the right ingredients

One must be thoughtful about how they are feeling. Listen to your body. I don’t know how many times a friend of mine might have a headache just because they’re dehydrated. That sort of thing seems to be happening on a much more major scale on the boundary. We need to treat our bodies better.

Often, it’s learned behavior. When you grow up eating KFC every Friday night and have a limited array of cuisine most of your life, it is difficult to move to newer options. Things are only ‘weird’ because they’re not part of your life. A lot of kids these days grow up in the drive-thru line. Family dinners were an essential part of my childhood, and it hurts to know that a lot of people don’t have that.