During my younger years I was very physically active and managed to maintain a healthy weight, despite consuming a terribly unhealthy diet. However, since most of us move less as we age, adjustments to diet must be made to avoid disease, illness, pain, and depression. In other words, proper nutrition must ultimately be addressed to avoid an unhappy and unhealthy you in the teenage years and beyond.
Even though your upbringing is just one factor that may play a role in your current physical condition, there seems to be other major contributors to the increasingly heftier and unhealthier American population. How so?
Our nation has access to more knowledge than ever before about health and wellness. The growing use of technology puts data and research at our fingertips in an instant. We now have more health and nutrition centers available to us. Organic foods are now offered at many local grocery stores. We also have greater access to an astonishing array of supplements and vitamins. Local gyms have made it more convenient to squeeze a workout into your busy day.
So why is it now estimated that one in four Americans is considered obese, with some estimates as high as one in every three? Why are over sixty percent of us overweight? It is predicted that by 2030 half of the American population will be considered obese if we continue on our current path.
According to the 2010 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) State Indicator on Physical Activity, over twenty-five percent of Americans are completely sedentary, meaning they perform or participate in no physical activity in their daily lives. Now that’s scary! No wonder U.S. healthcare costs are rising at an alarming rate.
Even more surprising is the statistical life expectancy of the average American, as ranked in the 2014 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Fact Book estimates. America is widely considered to be the world’s beacon of prosperity, to have the most advanced health care system, and to have the most efficient and productive agricultural system in the world…
Yet when looking at the U.S. life expectancy rating, you would think the above statements were complete fiction, and that the U.S. must be a struggling third world country. Shockingly, when considering longevity, we are not even amongst the top ten countries worldwide. We barely make the top fifty; we are in fact ranked a miserable forty-second in the world.
The estimated life expectancy of an American is 79.56 years, which is ten years less than the country with the longest-living residents: Monaco. That is right the citizens of the most prosperous country live a full decade less than the citizens of Monaco!
When compared to Americans, it’s the citizens of Bermuda, Malta, South Korea, and Jordan (to name only a few examples) who may anticipate a much longer life. It’s amazing that we give large sums of financial and military support to a country such as South Korea, yet its citizens have a higher life expectancy than the average American. I don’t know about you, but that dumfounds me.
The CIA World Fact Book notes that:
Life expectancy at birth is also a measure of overall quality of life in a country and summarizes the mortality at all ages. It can also be thought of as indicating the potential return on investment in human capital and is necessary for the calculation of various actuarial measures.
I believe that health is a critical element of the future prosperity of our country. Yet in America, we are not only losing the battle for health, but we are also losing it at an alarming rate.
No other country spends as much on health care as the United States. In 2012 health care spending in the U.S. accounted for 16.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). According to some estimates this number could be as high as 25 percent by 2020.
That year, the United States spent $8,754 on health per person, a figure more than double the OECD average of $3,484 per person. Americans spent over twice as much as Europe’s wealthiest countries in total, per person, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The U.S. health care debate is in full swing as I write this. Would this topic even be an issue if our citizens were healthy, eating well, and exercising? It wouldn’t; this issue would be mostly irrelevant, and we could easily ensure the less fortunate could receive health care without financially devastating our country.
How is it possible that the citizens of countries who are literally decades behind us in terms of technological development live longer than most Americans? In this program, I will describe the factors that I believe are contributing to the demise of our collective health and give you the information you need to reclaim your well-being.
I believe we are on the brink of a new health awakening in America. At least, I hope we are. If not, the burden of our increasing health care needs will usher in an era of increasing fiscal debt – and possibly financial disaster. Health care costs currently account for one sixth of the American economy and are growing at an alarming pace. This is not a fleeting crisis, but it has the potential to greatly inhibit our social and economic growth for current and future generations.
Our Children’s Health at Risk
But the toll goes further than money. The White House website now indicates that some politicians are encouraging doctors to write medical prescriptions for obese children as young as 8 years old (who are really in need of exercise and whole, natural foods).
If this unwanted interjection into our children’s health by the U.S. government does not awaken and frighten the average American, I don’t know what will. First, let’s consider the implications of prescribing drugs for overweight children.
I believe that prescribing medications for a condition (obesity) that can, in most cases, be completely remedied through proper exercise and nutrition is both irresponsible and immoral.
We have now come to the point where we give our children drugs instead of a wellness-based education. To this day I have yet to see an overweight child or adult who eats plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and exercises regularly. Prescribing drugs for obesity is akin to treating a symptom instead of the causative problem.
It is much easier to teach children about exercise and fitness than it is to instruct them in healthy nutrition. Children have the natural instinct to run, chase, dodge, hide, kick and play. It’s easy to take a ball from your garage and imagine, invent and create new games to play with your neighborhood friends. As children we may have asked an adult to teach us how to play football, but never to teach us the right way to eat.
Nutrition is learned and adopted from our caregivers. If your nutritional habits were anything like mine growing up, then you can likely foresee the work that may lie ahead of you. Parents do the best they can to provide for their children, but now as an adult it is your turn to provide the best for yourself.
No Nutrition Classes for Our Children’s Teachers
Upon completion of my undergraduate Kinesiology course work, I was shocked that there was not any emphasis on nutrition. Similarly, during my seven years as a Physical Educator, all mandatory continuing professional education emphasized lifetime fitness practices and how to increase exercise frequency among children.
Through my own healthy lifestyle practice, reading and research, I have come to know that a healthy diet, in combination with regular exercise, is ultimately the best health prescription for children. But how are Physical Educators (the front lines in fighting childhood obesity) expected to teach children to eat well if they are never given the tools to teach childhood nutrition?
It’s unfortunate to say, but in my first year of teaching at middle school, I had more experience and confidence teaching children about a basketball lay-up than about calories, carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Jennifer G. (Grammar School Teacher)
The good news: If over the years you have developed an unhealthy relationship with food – or with your unhealthy self – you can reverse it! It is time to turn unhealthy behaviors into health-giving habits.
A Misguided Public
The federal government has hinted on more than one occasion they would like to track your weight-to-height ratio (which has some, but is by no means the main correlation to wellness) by mandating Body Mass Index (BMI) records.
Do you think that such tracking will improve our nation’s level of health? I doubt it. Will it lower the cost of health care? If anything, this tracking will make medical costs go up. Surely the government will have to create another agency to acquire and analyze your BMI information, but to what end? To indicate you are overweight?
Clearly we can come to this conclusion on our own, and without creating a new government agency and spending taxpayer money. For example, that money could be used to educate individuals on how to eat better or participate in an exercise program.
At a recent public hearing at the Washington, D.C.-based United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), scientists, nutritionists, and consumers testified in a public hearing on the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).
Every five years, the U.S. government is legally required to update its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is the main document guiding all federal feeding programs and nutrition communication messages. Before the new Guidelines are written, a committee of a dozen of the nation’s top nutrition scientists, called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), meets for about eighteen months.
Those testifying argued that the proposed 2010 revisions to the Dietary Guidelines are less healthy than the previous report (released in 2005). They noted that the updated recommendations will increase degenerative disease and will not help to prevent obesity in the United States.
Dr. Jeff Volek, a scientist and academic researcher at the University of Connecticut, was one of those testifying against the Guidelines, and focused on the Committee’s misuse of scientific data to justify a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Dr. Volek noted that the DGAC report ignored scientific studies showing the effectiveness of low carbohydrate diets for weight loss. “Americans deserve to have official support for the low-carb dietary option,” he said.
In addition, other experts have previously noted that the long-standing (and now defunct) USDA Food Pyramid did not differentiate between healthy and unhealthy (empty) carbohydrates, and that the Food Pyramid recommended a level of carbohydrate consumption that was up to three times greater than that needed to maintain a healthy weight (I argue this number is much higher). They further argued that the Food Pyramid was highly influenced by the food industry – an industry filled with purveyors of highly processed, carbohydrate-rich foods.
From Pyramid to Plate
The Food Pyramid was recently replaced by the government’s new “MyPlate” nutrition guide. Published by the United States Department of Agriculture, the MyPlate recommendations center around a graphic of a plate and drinking glass divided into five food groups.
It replaced the USDA’s Food Pyramid guide on June 2, 2011, ending 19 years of USDA pyramidal diagrams – yet the carb-driven legacy of these programs persist to this day, a wellness-hindering public health challenge we will discuss in detail in this program.
To change a pyramid to a circle cost you the taxpayer a whopping two million dollars. Thankfully those $28,000 toilet seats balance it out (insert sarcasm)!
The Western Diet
The Western Diet is typically eaten in developed (and some developing) countries throughout the world. It is heavily weighted toward large amounts of processed foods and factory-farmed meat, large quantities of added unhealthy fats and oils, sugars, and refined grains. Fruits, vegetables and unprocessed, fresh foods of any type are largely lacking.
Populations who eat the standard Western Diet tend to suffer from high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Some research indicates more than a third of all cancers can be linked to this way of eating.
But there are more health problems associated with the Western Diet. Industrially produced foods prevalent in the developed world frequently contain unnatural chemicals and hormones. Recent research from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has shown that young girls are starting to undergo puberty earlier – some as young as seven or eight years old. These chemical “endocrine disruptors” are implicated in other metabolic disorders involving thyroid dysfunction, mood impairment, and more.
Does the Western Diet sound like your way of eating? I know it used to be mine. How did we learn to eat this way? From our schools, popular cookbooks, government food recommendations, or our family? Perhaps it was a bit of each. What is certain is that the typical Western Diet leads to impaired health and an earlier demise than do the eating habits of poorer, less developed countries, where the diet is still based on fresh, clean, and unprocessed traditional foods.
Thanks to some medical advances, we do live longer than we used to. But what is the real benefit if our added years are largely spent in and out of hospitals or not feeling well? Who wants to be wasting away for years with cancer due to a condition caused by the Western Diet? I know I don’t! Our advances in medicine, health care, and science are exciting, but relying on them to prolong an unhealthy life is not the answer. Just because an individual lives longer than his forebears, yet is sick and miserable, is no blessing for him or his family and community!
But there is good news. Years of research now indicate that the effects of the Western Diet can, for the most part, be reversed. Studies have shown that people who have abandoned the Western Diet for a more traditional and natural diet will regain health and reduce their chances of suffering from the usual Western-Diet-induced chronic diseases.
Shockingly, the first known study on the negative consequences of the Western Diet pre-dates World War II! Such important nutritional information has been known for almost one hundred years or more. Why is it not taught in our schools, nutrition courses, or disseminated in literature produced by our government?
Now, you may feel resistant to changing the way you eat. You may be thinking, why don’t I just exercise more to take care of my current weight and health problems? The reason that approach won’t work is that diet adjustments and exercise when combined yield exponential and powerful results.
Several studies have shown that altering exercise habits alone has a minimal effect on weight loss and health, as compared to combining dietary and exercise improvements. To this end, our program will provide you with exercise information. However, our main focus will be on nutrition, because nutritional choices form 70 to 80 percent of what is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You will notice this is in direct conflict with the fad-based, extreme-exercise programs that are very popular today. This is for the simple reason that without proper nutrition quick-fix results are short-lived at best.
How Prehistory Helps
Modern humans evolved consuming a diet of natural foods based on actively gathering plant-based foods and hunting animals. Our bodies, though highly adaptive, need specific nutrients that can only be found in nature to function properly. This has been the case for millions of years, and for far longer than our modern ways of eating have existed. This nutritional paradigm has only changed in the last few hundred years, thanks to the advent of industrialized agriculture and factory food production.
The prehistoric man/woman concept is an easy tool to use when you become confused about food or health choices. If the modern world as you know it were to end, and you had to live off of the land like our predecessors, what would you eat? What foods would you have access to in your immediate area? This is where the premise for my Primal Power Method book series was born.
Some skeptics may say that the life expectancy of the average prehistoric human was actually quite young, and they argue that this throws doubt on the health benefits of our early ancestors’ way of living. However, their life spans were no doubt affected by other circumstances such as high risk of death by trauma and injury. Our prehistoric brethren were not at the top of the food chain; they were themselves hunted by large predators and did not always enjoy the constant abundance of food that we have today.
Moreover, they would not have necessarily lived by the rules of law that aim to protect us today and would have fought vicious battles against neighboring tribes and groups – and sometimes against each other. They lived a much harsher and more violent life than modern humans, and thus died for many reasons that are far outside the scope of mere nutrition. Had they had constant access to readily available foods, and had they not had to suffer so many stresses inherent in their everyday survival, fewer would have died at an early age. Indeed, in such idealized circumstances, many prehistoric humans would have lived far longer – possibly longer than we do today.
In a similar way, consider the life span of your house pet. Would your furry friend live as long in the wild as it would in your home, where constant shelter, food, and healthcare are provided? Clearly, many factors no longer relevant to modern life must be considered when reflecting upon the average life expectancy of early humans.
Eating should be simple. If you pick up a food product in a grocery store, and it contains ingredients you cannot pronounce, or a list of ingredients so long that it takes up an entire side of the container, it is probably a bad choice. Plus, I’m pretty sure it would not be recognized as a food by our prehistoric ancestors.
I have spent decades researching, and working in various forms of the health world, including being a Special Agent for the FDA. With the knowledge I learned I developed The Simple Life concept. The Simple Life book series was developed for you the consumer to not only change your health, but to change your life. In short, I’ve done the research and endured the pain so you don’t have to.
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