A Surprising Environmental Crisis (And The Simple, Powerful Solutions)

Photo 93--Woman Food Shopping

Just the numbers:

1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two-thirds (69 percent) of adults are overweight/obese. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of men are overweight/obese. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of women are overweight/obese. More than one-third (35 percent) of children are overweight/obese.
2. According to the American Diabetes Association, one in eight adults (and growing) have type-2 diabetes. The total cost of treating type-2 diabetes increased 45 percent (from 174 billion dollars to 245 billion dollars) in just the five years between 2007 and 2012.
3. According to the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, one in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lives. These numbers are predicted to double by 2050.

Many of us are very concerned with our environment. It’s very important to us that our oceans are clean, our soil is healthy, and our air is free of impurities our forests are robust. Consider that we, us people, are part of the environment. The earth is this big sphere with all kinds of life on it. As part of that life, how are we doing? The seven-plus billion of us walking on this Earth—are we a thriving rainforest? Are we in balance with the world around us? What would we do if three-quarters of the apple trees were sick? What would we do if three-quarters of our air was unbreathable? What would we do if three-quarters of an animal population were being wiped out by a disease? We’d get to work on fixing that right away. And as far as we can tell, humans are the creatures on this planet with the greatest problem-solving and creative minds. And consider our bodies to be the vessels for these great minds. What are we doing to our ability to innovate and create with so many of us sick and tired? Our waning wellness is taking away our very ability to be high-performance people who can make a big difference in the world, both locally with our family and friends, and more globally with the work we do in the world. In a closer-to-home look at things, we’re sick-and-tired surgeons and kindergarten teachers and farmers. We’re all here providing services for one another and a large majority of us are working at severely reduced capacity or significantly distracted by issues with wellness.

Two very important distinctions:

1. With this alarming information, there is nothing to be afraid of. Fear helps nothing. We don’t need a war on obesity or a war on diabetes or any other disease. Mother Theresa, once asked to join an anti-war movement, responded by saying that she does not go to anti-warm movements; she goes to peace rallies. I propose the same approach. We need to cultivate a culture of wellness in our own lives, in our families, in our workplaces, and in our society as a whole.
2. With your wellness, if you are not as well as you’d like to be, there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Wellness is not about being good or bad. It’s about what works, free of any of these kinds of judgments. Being well feels good. Being well allows you to be the best friend, partner, parent that you can be. Being well allows you to be the best teacher, software engineer, nurse, or physicist that you can be. It’s just true. Things just work better when you are well. Think of wellness as a workability thing, not a right or wrong thing. You can’t create anything great starting from a place of shame.

Imagine a life where you are full of vitality, sleep great, have awesome sex, feel fulfilled, enjoy your days thoroughly, and where disease is the furthest thing from your mind. Imagine a whole culture like this. Pipe dream? Of course, it seems that way because we’ve accepted disease as the norm. We don’t think there’s much we can do about it. But there is. And with this, I introduce two big parts of the solution:

1. Look at exercise in, literally, a whole new way. Pretend you’re a kid. You’ve been in school for hours, sitting in your chair, and now it’s recess! Yes, you get to go play. Find your play. Maybe it’s racquetball, maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s running, maybe it’s hiking. It’s whatever you actually like. Find some activity that you really enjoy and you have completely obliterated any obstacles to regular exercise in your life. It’s no longer a chore. It’s no longer a means to an end. It’s no longer something your physician or wellness coach tells you to do. It’s yours. You own it. You want to do it.
2. Throw the whole idea of diets away. Become a foodie, to the degree that works for you. What I mean by become a foodie is really get into enjoying food. There are only a few distinctions you need to completely move into a life of great nutrition. We have food (like apples, fish, almonds, asparagus, carrots, cilantro, turmeric, beef, yams, etc.) and we have food products (anything that started as food, but was made in a factory). To start to eliminate the paradigm that good nutrition is complicated and hard and no fun, the first thing you need to do is focus on making meals from food, and cut way back on, or eliminate, food products. Really, that’s all. You don’t need to count anything. You don’t need to measure anything. Simply eat whole, natural, real food. Second, make eating a social event. Make it a priority to eat with your family and friends and make simple meals you enjoy. Now, nutrition is all about fun. Who does not like to eat? Who does not like to be with their family and friends? And with our food-over-food-products distinction, 90 percent of good nutrition is taken care of.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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