I recently had a big, heady conversation with some health-industry insiders about the serious challenges facing the millions of people who are actively trying to improve their health and fitness — and who are struggling.
The conversation was peppered with comments like these: “It’s just such a cluttered media landscape, and there’s so much confusion, people don’t know what to believe.” “People just want to be told what to do — but then they don’t really want to do it.” “We gotta get to kids before they get chronic illnesses, but there’s no space in the educational system for good health curriculum anymore.” “The world of conventional medicine is stuck dealing with diagnoses and symptom suppression at a time when what we really need is lifestyle medicine.”
As we chatted and took stock of all these troubles, two things struck me: First, a lot of smart, well-informed experts seem pretty overwhelmed by what we’re up against as a society right now, so it’s no wonder that regular folks are having a hard time sorting it out. Second, difficult as it may be, quite a lot of regular folks are sorting it out nonetheless.
To me, that’s encouraging.
Yes, the fact that our culture seems custom-designed to support poor health is maddening. Yes, the fact that tens of millions of people are suffering from preventable conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and lifestyle-related cancers is heartbreaking.
And yet, every year, despite these depressing trends, a significant number of people who once seemed destined to die early deaths from lifestyle-related conditions somehow manage to pull themselves out of the dive. Against all odds, these scrappy individuals succeed in completely changing their lives. They put themselves on a path to health and happiness, and in many cases, they stay there.
So how does that happen? When people do succeed in their health-motivated endeavors, how do they succeed, and what can we learn from their success stories?
Well, a lot of what there is to learn is precisely what we share in every issue of this magazine, and on our website, and in our weekly and monthly newsletters.
We pack several concentrated servings of healthy-living inspiration and know-how into our on-demand Take Action Challenge, a free eight-week e-program focused on baby-step changes. (Find out more about it at ELmag.com/takeaction.)
We pride ourselves on putting all of these resources together, and every month we hear from readers who kindly thank us for providing them with just the information they needed to make an important change or achieve a big breakthrough.
Clearly, getting good, reliable, accurate information about what works and what doesn’t is important. But there’s more to it than that.
There’s another piece to this get-smart equation, and it has little or nothing to do with information. It has to do with a deeper kind of wisdom — the little voice inside each of us that says, “I believe life can be better than this; I am ready to try something different.”
That’s the kind of wisdom that cuts through hype and nonsense and inertia. That’s what endows mild-mannered people with the capacity to leapfrog over daunting problems — problems that the powers-that-be don’t seem to be able or willing to solve for us.
We dedicate this issue of Experience Life to the spirit of learning and growing, to the pleasure of discovering more within us and around us than we knew was there.
I hope you harvest as many new insights and ideas as our team did putting it all together. And above all, I hope you embrace this fall’s back-to-school season as an invitation to keep on learning all year long.
Pilar Gerasimo is the editor in chief of Experience Life magazine.