By now, most people know that the United States is less healthy than we want, or than we can afford. If we keep going the way we are going we are going to wind up a nation of obese, diabetic peeps, not strong enough to walk around the block, and in the grave sooner than our parents. Of course, this impending doom and gloom is fodder for the media in a big way, and in the last few days both MSNBC, through Michael Smercomish (guest hosting Hardball) and the Atlantic, in an article by David Freeman, each spoke to the challenge. Both are right, but unfortunately both are trying to BE right, in a situation which requires way bigger than ‘right’. Here’s what they each had to say:
On June 22nd, Smercomish did a bit of a rant, which he called “to solve the obesity crisis, start in our kitchens“. Now, as you probably know about me, I am all for this approach. So much so, that I started a culinary school, The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, to teach an emerging generation of chefs the discipline of plant based, health supportive cooking. I believe in cooking, and I appreciate what Micheal had to say. I could really take issue with the specifics of the recipes he talks about, and the somewhat overly romantic thought that we could solve the obesity crisis by just going back to our grandmother’s kitchen. A nice thought, but the world is now really different, and our environment demands we respond in a much different way. However, big applause to him for even talking about cooking skills…its a huge part of what’s missing in the discourse, and it will help.
Then, in the June 2012 issue of the Atlantic, David Freeman did a great job writing about health behavior change, Skinnerian psychology and iPhone apps as the panacea of health, in “The Perfected Self.” Freeman’s picture of health behavior change is much more nuanced in some ways than Smercomish’s, and he seeks to expand the range of solutions individuals have. He does a more inclusive ‘cut’ at the problem, though he doesn’t make it inclusive enough for really allowing the reader to find his or her own personal way through to better health – though he does provide some excellent direction, and to his credit doesn’t greatly oversimplify the issue of behavior change.
We have to keep remembering, folks write about us and a group, as a population. Change is personal. It happens to you and me, and it happens almost miraculously. So when we capture concepts that work for some folks, like social support apps, or tracking our calories we have to be cognizant that the overwhelming majority of the time, the most common themes to success in health and well-being are rooted deeply in who we are as human beings…we change because we are loved, we change because we are members of groups, we change because we are creatures of our cultures and our environments. I appreciate the commitments of these authors to bring forth more information. I implore us all to keep it personal, keep it local, and act in relationship to our unique selves.