I know it’s comforting to settle for the current level of health we have, especially when faced with the prospect of making seemingly impossible lifestyle changes. Yet, I find that at the end of the day, much of our frustrations and grief, directly or indirectly, come from our less than stellar health.
Most days I feel like I can say I’m “pretty healthy”. There are days though, when I’m more honest with myself, and picky, too. On these days I realize I have a long way to go to reach the level of health I long for. When almost everyone we know struggles with some fatigue, extra weight, acne or other skin issues, mental illness, and other nagging health problems, it’s no wonder so many of us tend to feel that it’s just all an unavoidable part of being human.
Many of us have forgotten that it’s possible to feel and look much better than we do. I used to think that all teenagers got acne. Then I learned my parents never got acne and their peers rarely did, either. I didn’t until I was 23 and my horrible diet finally caught up with me. I used to think that everyone got indigestion after many meals. Nope. Some people rarely get indigestion. Or headaches, stiff joints, mood swings, irritability, hot flashes during menopause. Some people don’t even have to brush their teeth to avoid cavities, bad breathe, and gum disease. Can you imagine? But these select people eat very differently from us. And in most cases, they do it because they have no other choice.
While these people have to work hard to find and prepare the food they eat, we have to work hard not to eat. If the only choices we had were vegetables and fish for dinner, we’d just eat it and reap the health benefits. You and I have a unique situation that is becoming the norm across the globe. We have thousands of foods and “foods” to select from and then hundreds of dietary theories from which we can subscribe and it’s all very daunting.
Why is there a type 2 diabetes epidemic? I hear a lot of talk that it’s our genes that are somehow making us more and more susceptible coupled with our changing lifestyle habits and environment. And that’s technically true, but do we ever think about what changes our genes in the first place? According to what I’ve learned, a big part of the reason is the food we eat and the food we don’t eat or rather the food our ancestors ate and didn’t eat. With each new generation, eating habits in recent years have included more genetically modified foods and chemicals and when we have children, we aren’t building a person as well as we could because our diet doesn’t provide us the tools with which to properly do this. Teeth aren’t as straight, facial features aren’t as symmetrical, brain cavities aren’t as roomy (affecting hormone production), and so on. Nutrients are needed to make a human being and bring them healthy into this world. In a nutrient starved world, we’re consistently churning out more and more children who are challenged with early health issues like the predisposition to allergies, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
The good news is that even if we suffered the effects of malnourished ancestors, (remember you can be overweight and malnourished) we can still turn things around for future generations. We can change our eating habits and create healthier children, who will in turn be poised to create healthier children themselves.
We can also change our habits and gain from doing so right now. Genes get activated much like an on/off switch with what we eat and how we live. If we carry a predisposition to type 2 diabetes, a certain lifestyle has the potential to keep the switch on off and help us avoid developing type 2 diabetes. This is not an easy task in this modern world of ours but I think it’s empowering to know what’s possible and to strive towards the best outcome for all of us. I understand we can’t do this overnight. Personally, I’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to trying to begin to change my lifestyle habits. I can attest to the fact that it takes time and a lot of effort. But, I do think it’s worth it and doable.
Health isn’t just about comfort and looks. It’s about humanity, economic stability, peace, creativity, and growth in a society.
There is no blame game here. None of us is perfect. We are all allowed our weaknesses. It’s about taking responsibility for our bodies and choosing to pay attention and learn about what to do to stay well and improve health. Those of us with extra time or ability to do so can advocate for those who can’t get access to healthy foods and information. Policies from government need to reinforce healthy lifestyle habits because even the most determined and self willed individual is up against huge obstacles when it comes to a healthy diet and lifestyle and where does that leave the rest of us?
I don’t want to settle for so-so health, when I could have awesome health. I’m worth awesome health. And definitely, so are you…and your children, and grandchildren, too.