By Nancy Smorch
Have you stood back lately and observed the way our society thinks about health lately? There are many tangents I could go off on here, but the one I am thinking about recently is how, as a society, we have a mindset that is more focused on disease management rather than disease prevention. Actually, I’d like to take that even a step further and say health promotion.
"Health promotion" is a term that we started to throw around when I was in high school (at the risk of dating myself - the mid-80s!). That was back in the day when corporations were just starting to think about incorporating some type of wellness or health promotion program to ensure the health and productivity of their employees. Many companies were even installing on-site fitness centers. This is actually when I started to get really excited about the area of nutrition, health promotion, fitness, healing… etc.
This concept seemed to work for a while. People were on board and excited about taking back their health. Health food stores started to pop up. The food industry jumped on board and created all kinds of “healthy foods” for the public, in an effort to capitalize on this trend. People talked a lot about eating healthy, exercising, and dieting.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and, as a population, we are in way more overweight (in the midst of an obesity epidemic, even!), have a higher amount of diabetes and heart disease, and are more depressed than ever!
In my opinion, many things have gone wrong. But aside from the obvious (or, not-so-obvious to many) degradation of our food (chemical laden, factory farmed, antibiotic filled, pesticide covered, GMO filled, nutrient deficient - wow!), I feel we have surrendered to the assumption that our body can’t heal itself and needs drugs and other people to “fix" us.
It’s as if we have given up and just expect that we are going to get sick... so why even try?
Not to get all conspiracy-like here, but I do feel that companies and organizations have spent millions of dollars and and have made huge efforts to provide food that we think is healthy but really is not, and is contributing to the demise of our health. They also happen to be right there providing a medley of drugs and procedures to fix what ails us - be it an actual ailment or a perceived ailment.
Also, statistics are being thrown around all of the time to remind us of this.
1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
If current trends continue, 1 in 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by the year 2050.
According to this website, “One man in 7 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. And one man in 36 will die of this disease."
And, an estimated 5.2 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease in 2014.
You get the point.
It’s no wonder that many think of aging, or even life in general, as, “I wonder which disease is going to take me down?” or “I’ll probably develop diabetes by the time I’m 60.” Or, “I sure hope I don’t get cancer.”
I understand, that it is easy to get sucked up into these thought patterns. I have been there at various points in my life. But I have found that it is EXTREMELY CRITICAL to be in control of the information you are exposed to, as this has a huge effect on your mindset.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A while back, I was watching TV with a friend, and a commercial came on for a drug for some sort of anxiety. The commercial went through the usual list of behaviors you should look for to see if the drug is suited for you: fear of new situations, ups and downs in mood, nervousness in large social gatherings, sweaty palms when talking to people. If you experienced any of these symptoms, you were encouraged to talk to your doctor about prescribing this particular drug for you. Oh, and the flip side, after the patient was on the medication, were scenes of them smiling, laughing, and confidently interacting with a group of people.
My friend looked at me and said, “Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me.”
After smacking the shit out of them (kidding - I only threw a pillow), I realized, first hand, the danger of allowing drugs to be advertised. People could be living their lives, being nervous, experiencing the ups and downs of emotions - all of which is perfectly normal - and then have someone, or worse yet, an entire industry, tell them that there is something wrong with them and that a certain pill will “fix” them.
How about we take back our minds? How about we take back our bodies? How about we become reacquainted with the fact that our bodies are designed to heal themselves? How about we get back to the basics in terms of good-quality food?
We don’t have to accept the current statistics and medical state as true for us.
I am a firm believer that with a mindset of health promotion we can debunk the trends. Even though our environment has made it really easy to eat like shit, to not exercise, to become isolated, and to become spiritually depleted, we can make a conscious effort every day to make choices that move us towards health and healing. Eat organic (when possible) fresh fruits and vegetables. If you choose to eat meat, know the source and make sure it is hormone and antibiotic free. Move your body! It doesn’t have to be exercise at a gym. It can be working in a garden, cross country skiing, a walk on the beach, or even jumping on a trampoline. Reach out and connect with others. There’s never been a time where we have had such a huge population, but felt incredibly isolated - change that! And finally, take time for some form of spiritual practice - whether that is meditation, prayer, yoga, silence, or walks in nature - just something that connects you to the bigger picture.
Let’s defy the trend! Let’s defy the laws of probability! Let’s change the rules of this healthcare game! Let’s not wait for others to change it for us. We can do it one step at a time. We’ve all got too much to do while we’re here on this earth.
Decide how you want to live and then forge on!