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Healthy Habits – A Call for Community Action

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It’s abundantly clear to most people that our population is facing significant health challenges. There’s been a dramatic increase in degenerative diseases, rising obesity rates, and chronic illnesses have become the norm rather than the exception. Worsening mortality rates and a growing list of unfavorable health-related statistics can leave anyone wondering: why bother getting up tomorrow? To underscore this point, consider this recent statistic from the CDC: more than 40% of children and adolescents now have one or more chronic diseases.

Life is cyclical. Every problem has a solution, and nothing lasts forever. Clichés abound when it comes to offering hope for this dismal societal crisis. The truth is that action needs to be taken as soon as possible if we truly aim to have a healthier population and a functioning society in the future. This runaway train must be stopped.

But where do we start?

We can start in any number of places, but let me offer one particular starting point:

“Healthy habits” is a growing buzz phrase, encompassing a variety of lifestyle choices, such as walking 10,000 steps a day, reducing blue light exposure, and staying properly hydrated. Many individuals adopt healthy habits as a conscious attempt to prevent disease or to maintain health in a society that has become disconnected from the natural laws that have supported human beings for eons. Progress has indeed turned on us, and we’ve created “healthy habits” to fill the void that progress has left behind.

The trouble is that adopting healthy habits and sticking to them for more than a week or a month is extremely challenging for most people. Some individuals do it daily, but most people struggle to maintain these habits in the face of societal pressures. Healthy habits require a supportive community that doesn’t sabotage an individual’s attempt to steer clear of becoming part of the statistics mentioned above.

I’ve witnessed a friend of mine commit herself to a no-sugar diet—definitely a supreme healthy habit—only to surrender days later at Aunt Stella’s luncheon. With wine and dessert, and everything in between, passed around and insisted upon, the pressure was too great to withstand. Her second attempt at a zero-sugar diet was aborted when her boyfriend brought home goodies for movie night. Her third attempt… you get the picture. To this day, my friend is still trying to adhere to a no-sugar eating habit, and her attempts remain a failure, largely because her friends and family fail to respect her commitment and goad her into joining them in society’s normalized sugar overload feasting.

That is why, to stop society’s impending train wreck, we need committed community effort. We need solidarity. We need everyone to pitch in and participate by normalizing healthy habits. Schools, educational institutions, workplaces, book clubs, hospitals, care facilities, families, women’s gatherings, sports clubs, the military, government offices, and employers of all sorts need to take the lead and change what they condone and provide to their people. The processed foods, designed to hook consumers like any street drug and pure poison for the human body, have got to go. People get defensive when you speak of removing the source of their dopamine rush, and it’s no different when it comes to the unwholesome fake food most people eat daily (73% of the all-American diet is ultra-processed, a study indicates).

Prioritizing eating wholesome foods is only one of the many healthy habits that we, as a society, need to bring about to stop the disease train from advancing.

We can do this, but it requires a change of mind—for all of us. Just look at the popular Netflix series “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.” The longevity of these vibrant Blue Zones is largely based on communal sharing of healthy ways of living. When social connection and involvement are part of the equation, it changes the game. Challenges are easier when you do them as a committed group. And that’s the track change we need to make. You, me, all of us, our small and large communities, need to commit to healthier ways together.

I propose that we invent fun and interesting methods and practices that involve individuals and their community and make healthy habits a good sport—until healthy ways of living become the norm again. Healthy Habits Olympics… let’s go.

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