Can Cycle Chic Combat Diabesity?

Editor Melissa Balmer in her new bike portrait by Shereef Moustafa

The truth about riding a bike? It's fun. The sun on your face, the breeze in your hair, and discovering you own neighborhood in new ways because you're seeing it all from a different angle than in the car or even walking. What's even more fun? Sharing it with old and new friends. That's the wonderful adventure I had this past Saturday as Women On Bikes SoCal gathered for our first group bike ride.

We celebrated the event (miraculously rain free!) with the artistry of Shereef Moustafa taking our portraits for his ongoing Long Beach Bicycle Portrait project - he's photographed over 70 local residents with their bikes so far!

Here I am above with my newly refurbished bike - a retro 70's? 80's? a "Kent Gran Concor" (whatever that means). I'm so enjoying it. Now I need a back rack, and to raise the handle bars a bit, but it'll all come together. I'm going to put myself soon in the trusty hands of Evan and Nicole at The Bicycle Stand. But I digress, the point I wanted to make was what fun we had getting together for an easy ride, touring some of Long Beach's bike friendly streets and bike friendly businesses, and chatting about the issues that face women today when faced with the idea of riding bikes - safety and fashion, fashion and safety. For women they go hand in hand. The elephant in the room has often been health. While those who are fond of riding bikes often divide themselves by their "pro-helmet" or "anti-helmet" stance the reason for so very needing to ride a bike in the first place is lost - we need to break free from our seriously dangerous sedentary lifestyle we've grown so accustomed too.

Over the weekend I read a fascinating and compelling article by Dr. Mark Hyman on The Daily Beast about how our current health care system focuses on the wrong treatments for what he has coined as "Diabesity" - all of the diseases that are now being linked to the "sedentary" issue including diabetes and obesity, and we can now add breast cancer to this list. Yikes.

We are a society very used to looking to drugs and surgery for answers to our ails in this modern era - but according to Hymen and the research he quotes it's only lifestyle changes that have been proven safe and effective treatment for the sedentary diseases that now threaten our society over the long haul. Not only is our health threatened by the various diseases that come about from our inactive lifestyle, our financial wellness is threatened by the expensive ways we now treat these diseases - and our society's wellness is threatened by the fact that our youngest generation may not live as long as its parents.

Am I on a soapbox about this? You bet I am. My Mother successfully battled breast cancer last year and has kept herself "pre diabetic" by carefully watching her diet. She stays active by working one day a week at a and running after my two year old nephew  - but yes, I'd be happier if she'd also include biking or walking into her regular routine more often.

I have been very fortunate to be schooled in the ways of healthy eating first by my parents, and then by one of the best nutritionist's and a specialists dealing with diabetes prevention - Susan Dopart, M.S., R.D. author of "A Recipe for Life." Susan also blogs for the Huffington Post and this recent blog on "Diabetes: 7 Myths and 7 Facts" is really worth a read. In Dr. Hyman's Daily Beast article this quote from particularly struck me "If the things that create health are easy to access and things that create disease are hard to get to, extraordinary change occurs." Yes, that probably needs to happen. It does.

But fashion can play a strong role as well. I believe that the Cycle Chic trend can help to combat diabesity. By that I mean a fashion forward culture shift focusing on the bike as a smart, savvy, chic tool to ride can be a way for women to help turn back the tide of diabesity. We are only at the very beginning stages of it, but I believe we have the makings of a very strong and effective movement - if we also remember the bicycle is also a lot of fun!