Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In My Perfect World

In my perfect world, we would all be more compassionate. There would be no such thing as stress. We would have world peace. Politicians would play nicely and work together to do the right thing. We wouldn’t have to pay taxes, drivers in front of me would always signal, allergies would vanish, there would never be another paper jam, no more dust or sticker residue, and people would always return my phone calls. (I might do away with bagpipes and bush balls.) And, as I design my perfect world, I think I would like to see junk food become health food (healthy junk food, that is).

When creating a perfect world, it’s probably a good idea to define the word  perfect.  When I looked it up, I found out it’s derived from the Latin word perfectus meaning, “To finish, bring to completion.” The modern definition of the word is “entirely without any flaws, defects or shortcomings.” One of the slang definitions –Just what the doctor ordered—turns out to be the perfect segue to wellness.

None of us is without flaws, defects or shortcomings, so that in itself bursts the perfect world bubble. But, we can still work towards the "bringing to completion" and "finishing what we start" part. Where wellness is concerned, we can all agree that we want to be well, and while some of being well is out of our control, much of it is up to us.  Statistics say 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, and an estimated 87.5 percent of health care claims costs are due to an individual’s lifestyle.
So, in my perfect world, the choices we make when we don’t know what to do, would always turn out to be the right choice. And, where those lifestyle choices are concerned, they are choices in our control.

We know the world is not a perfect place, probably never has been and most likely never will be. But at least we can all contemplate, face and make those choices that will individually and collectively make it better. And surely, if we all strive to make our own worlds more perfect, we will find we have a better world overall as a result. 

So, where wellness-related lifestyle behavior choices are involved, what are you willing to do to bring your world a little closer to perfect?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ordinary Choices

In the world of wellness there are always new, amazing (OK, maybe not amazing but at the least, surprising) findings, that really make one stop and ask . . . why? Why is it like this? Why do we do this? Why don’t we make better, or healthier choices?  These questions relate to the nutritional, or lack thereof, choices such a large percentage of our population continues to make—on a daily basis. Each of us makes an average of about 200 food and beverage choices a day. Well, according to the Chicago-based NPD Group, here’s what some of these choices come down to, choices about what we decide to eatnot what we say we eat (and that’s key). These are the choices that determine our actual culinary behavior.

For starters, there are some surprises here. On average, Americans frequent an upscale restaurant only about one out of every 100 visits. And, as for choice, we now have about 300 restaurant chains to choose from (with more than 2,000 locations). In fact, Applebee’s alone serves at least two million customers a day.

For the most part, our choices are sort of ordinary. Last year hamburgers topped the list of restaurant choices (we ate 13 billion of them—McDonald’s alone sells about 4.2 million each day in the U.S.). Next came french fries, pizza (about 23 pounds per person a year), Mexican food, and finally, chicken sandwiches. 

Convenience and cost have a lot to do with these choices—and this brings us to “takeout.” Takeout makes life a little easier. It lets you take food home to eat with your family, but you don’t have to prepare it. Yet, if you knew the average takeout meal averages close to 1,000 calories, not counting the excessive sodium, would you still eat it? Would you serve it to your family? How convenient are weight-related chronic illnesses? Where are the cost savings?

When we seriously look at serving size, portion size, calories, saturated and trans fats, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and other added ingredients, we have some serious choices to consider when making our daily nutritional selections.

So, with all these choices, where do we go from here? That’s the question. Do we make sound nutritional choices? Do we try to improve our dietary behavior? Do we really just eat for convenience or do we stop to ask, “Is this even good for me?” 

And, if we’re going to ask the question, maybe we ought to be brutally honest about the answer. Seems like a good place to start. Anyone agree?