The holidays conjure up thoughts of gifts, wrapped in shiny paper and colorful ribbons. For many of us the end of the year comes with more than a little carefree overindulgence—in the form of spending, celebrating and eating too much. Concerns about our health and wellness find themselves on the back burner until after the New Year, which we often meet with both remorse and new resolve, at least for awhile.
Let’s take a step back. Good health is a condition in which our bodies and minds work well and work in sync. We each get one body—are we taking care of it? Do we pay attention to what we put into it and what we ask of it? Do we look for excuses to abuse it—I’m too old, I’m too tired, I’ll do it later, I’ll take a pill instead?
Ours is the heaviest nation in the world, and this brings with it long-term and serious national health implications. Chronic diseases kill more than 1.7 million Americans every year, and account for 7 of every 10 deaths, and one-third of years of potential life lost before age 65. The foods we choose to eat on a daily basis contribute 80 percent to whether we will develop diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Approximately 40 percent of deaths in the U.S. are caused by behavior patterns that could be modified. As a whole, Americans are 4.5 billion pounds overweight. But, just a 7 percent loss in weight (12.6 pounds for someone weighing 180 pounds) can reduce the risk of progressing from prediabetes to diabetes by as much as 58 percent.
Now, shift the focus to wellness. We know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. We know apples are better for us than candy bars. We know water is better than a soft drink. We know too much sodium, too much saturated fat, too much cholesterol, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup (to name only a few) are bad for us. We know fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes and lean protein are good for us.
So, what happens when we consider the gift of good health? We’re not suggesting a gift-wrapped scale. We’re not even suggesting a literal gift (although we do have some suggestions for healthy gifts). What we’re after is for each of us to treat our bodies as the gifts they truly are. Each of us can give ourselves and our families the gift of health and wellness, and we can do it over and over, every day of the year. We can do it through the choices we make, not the excuses we find.
What do you think? Are you ready for a gift that really does keep on giving?