Health by Stealth
The overall inactivity and lack of the movement of the nation’s population has created a plethora of medical disorders that costs the country dearly, not only financially but also in its’ overall well-being of its population. The importance of physical and mental health of any large population in the modern world has been highlighted in recent years by the obesity epidemic and the rise of mental illnesses in the youth of today. How can we address this?
Over the years I have been a vocal advocate of making exercise a central part of your everyday life, whether that be at home, in school or in the workplace; in particular, the workplace. The decadence of modern living has dulled the basic instincts of people to such a level that people now have lost sight or never known a world where you have to make your own way on a daily basis. Everything these days needs to be convenient and accessible, guided and provided.
What I mean is that people are not encouraged to think for themselves but be content to be told how to live their lives. The independent spirit and basic instincts have been superseded with compliance and subservience. Maybe this is the downside of being a so called developed country. The more “help” we get in a modern society the less active we become. So what’s the upside? And there always is an upside, it just needs a catalyst to encourage the positive and a vision to inspire people to create the upside.
Over the next few weeks I would like to explore some of those positives’ and how we might get people more active without the need for a stick. Less stick and more carrot! Which brings me nicely onto the first positive: nutrition and our relationship with food. What’s that got to do with moving more, you ask. This is where the “stealth” comes into the argument.
If you unknowingly or willingly enjoy an activity you will naturally continue and behave in a positive way and expand on that interest creating a “positive feedback loop”. This is a well-known phenomena and when combined with a healthy attitude you are well on your way to maintaining a healthy life balance.
In the case of food, its “diets” that almost always represent the negative side for maintaining a healthy weight, whereas, the positive side is to have an understanding of your relationship with food which will create a positive feedback loop and drive towards a healthy life balance.
Let’s explore that… people are overweight because they eat more calories than they need or more calories are taken in for the energy expended on a daily basis. Simply, if the calories you use is less than the energy expended then you lose weight, if more, the body lays down fat and you gain weight. So, why are so many people overweight? Why do they struggle all their lives trying to lose weight? I believe it’s the focusing on the food alone where the problem lies , we should take into account where eating is controlled, the mind, and this should be addressed first before any diet is undertaken.
It’s all in the mind. You decide on the food, how much you eat and when. So just concentrating on the food itself is missing the point. What influences the choice and quantity consumed is social and environmental. So let’s focus on the social aspect now and the environmental component next time.
We are continually sold contradictory messages about food and our bodies. The luxury items like ice cream, chocolate and cakes are sold as treats and special and told we need these to relax and enjoy ourselves but conversely we are shown images of idealized body shapes that are neither obtainable or realistic; this is completely inconsistent with the high sugar content food festered upon us. No wonder we are confused and we all at some time seek solace from comfort foods.
This sense of guilt and shame is only made worse when you consider the very idea behind diets. Central to every diet is that some foods that are 'good' and some that are 'bad' yet this is fundamentally flawed and perpetuates the conflict people experience when it comes to their food. By seeing some foods as 'bad' it sets up unhealthy understandings of our diet and makes us feel that we are denying ourselves something that is pleasurable and therefore forbidden. When we give in to temptation, we feel guilty and out of control and this further perpetuates our sense of low self esteem which many people then combat by resorting to eating. And so the sorry cycle continues.
It's far healthier if people can take a step back and see that, while it can be enjoyable and fun, food is essentially fuel that we use to live our lives. Society associates different food with different things, but ultimately, it's simply providing us with energy. Non processed foods give us nutrients and slow release of energy and we should aim to have the majority of our daily energy requirement from these rather than processed foods.
Being overweight or obese is a symptom, rather than a condition in itself. Changing your mind will help in bringing about a healthy attitude.
Breaking down the messages and mantras we have gradually taken on board throughout our lives can be hard and peoples' minds need to be changed to tackle these unhelpful messages proffered by manufacturers’ and the food industry. Talking amongst your friends and maybe seeking professional advice from an psychotherapist can help in breaking down some of the myths and begin to show how your mind has been deceived into believing certain things about foods.