I live in one of the most unhealthy cities in the country. My home state is first in youth obesity and sixth in adult obesity in the U.S. We are not just an unhealthy state but we are an extremely unhealthy nation and we all live in the wild wild West of health and wellness. In this environment of overwhelming information, nonsense and poor health, we have been easily captured by the loudest and most extreme products or programs promising fast results, despite their proven inability to transform health.
Case in point, I recently set up a VIVE table at a local elementary’s health and wellness fair. I kid you not, I had not finished setting up my table before I heard the words “macro and micro nutrients”. Literally, these words make the hair on the back of my neck stand up and of all places to pimp protein shakes, why in the world would you do it to a bunch of 5 to 10 year olds. But why not, when across the gym a “certified personal trainer” was timing kids doing burpees. Thank God, on my left the local nonprofit gym brought hula hoops and jump ropes, because the other tables were signing kids up to participate in organized sports (and we all know organized sports are not free and not just for fun). Sidenote: I am all about sports but these are elementary kids and they deserve to have a chance to enjoy exercise and be encouraged to play. Seriously, give them a freaking chance to develop naturally and learn to just play a sport for fun and enjoy exercise.
Here we had a perfect opportunity to differentiate health and wellness from sports and to introduce kids to a different way to think about and do health and wellness, but well intentioned adults subjected kids to the same fragmented diet and exercise formula that has failed at least 70% of them. (70% of adults are overweight and obese) Instead of setting kids free to practice health at the most basic level, we squandered an opportunity to teach curious minds and open hearts, by trying to sell products and programs. Unfortunately, we (once again) reduced health and wellness to results, shakes, competition, heavily processed “health foods”, technology and sports; and we did it without any structured classroom teaching.
I am not going to say I was surprised by the scene. Well, maybe the protein shakes surprised me but with a $137.00 worth of Vive health cards, I was ready to plant seeds of free health truths. In all, I spoke to about 50-60 kids. Honestly, it was super fun and the kids were sweet and attentive. Yet, here is a public school that serves a middle to upper middle class community and these kids have plenty of access to fruits, vegetables and healthy foods but only 2 kids knew what foods had fiber, 2 associated fiber with fiber bars, at least 10 wore fitbits and none knew a basic health routine that included the synergistic effect of sleep, sun, play, water, laughter, fiber, walking and laughter.
Seriously, the whole thing made me upset. I believe kids and adults deserve a fighting chance to experience a new approach to health that understands the importance of being known and accepted, the necessity of being given the truth that sets one free to know who they are and trust how they are designed, and the encouragment to practice daily routines and exercises that honor and respect their design (and the same design that their neighbors share). But, the only way kids are ever going to be healthy is if they are surrounded by truth, love and healthy adults, who are practicing healthy routines with them.
Think about it, what if every station was filled with healthy adults, who were practicing the same basic health routine and encouraging an understanding of health that included the spirit, heart, mind and body as a whole. What if we actually taught kids that health is not a program but a daily practice of nourishment? What if kids began to see that healthy communities need the presence of healthy people, who know rest, love, peace, emotional awareness, truth, art, music, passion and imagination more than they know how to do burpees and drink a protein shake? What if we stopped talking about workouts and diets and started practicing healthy routines that teaches kids that being healthy and practicing health gives us results that cannot be measured, timed, calculated or scored? Truth is that we are never going to out-exercise and out-diet poor health with the same programs, formulas and understanding that has created the epidemic results of disconnection, confusion and apathy that we are currently experiencing.
Yet, it is not too late. We can start over and we can move to restore a common sense approach to health that teaches us that no one in history has uttered the words “macro and micro nutrients”, until we started selling something to people, who had forgotten how they are designed. It’s time that we returned to a whole-person approach to health and addressed a missing foundation of truth that has allowed a fragmented approach of health and wellness to reduce people to results and health to a diet and exercise program. We don’t have to squeeze ourselves or our kids into a one size fits all fragmented weight loss formula. We can bring common sense and basic understanding back to health; and set people free to be healthy by practicing the most basic routines that saturate their spirits, hearts, minds, bodies and relationships with the nutrients that they need to live. Together, we can help create a community that sets kids and adults free to be healthy (fitbits not needed or required).