Do the healthy thing, even when it’s challenging, inconvenient, or considered weird. Take pride in that.
Disruptive innovation is all the rage in business circles these days, but until recently, it wasn’t so popular in the health and fitness world.
That’s changing now, and thank goodness for that.
For far too long, we’ve been fed a steady stream of not-so-great advice. (“Eat low-fat and low-calorie! More grains and dairy! More cardio sessions! More willpower!”)
We’ve been offered a lot of not-so-great medical counsel. (“Er, we don’t actually know what’s causing that chronic problem, so here, just take this prescription.”)
We’ve sensed that these approaches weren’t working for us, and yet we’ve been a little afraid to strike out on our own. We weren’t sure where to go, or how.
The Renegade Path
For me, defying convention has never been about wanting to be different. It has been about wanting to have a snowball’s chance in hell of staying healthy in a world that has often seemed intent on making me sick, fat, and depressed.
That’s why we created Experience Life back in 2001. It’s why I later penned my little 10-point chapbook, Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World, and came up with the 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy. (Now an interactive Web feature, a poster, and a mobile app, all available at RevolutionaryAct.com.)
We need help with daily choices and perspectives, and in seeing what we’re up against. But we also need support in feeling less like weird, isolated outliers and more like part of a healthy movement that’s gaining steam. Which, I am happy to say, ours is.
Thanks in part to the rise of Web-based and social media, the call for a healthy revolution has spread quickly over the past decade — into forward-thinking food and fitness communities around the globe; into progressive healthcare circles; and, slowly but surely, even into the mainstream media.
But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Because right now, the best, most helpful information still isn’t getting out to a broad enough audience (for a sense of why, see “Decoding Health Media”. ) And the results aren’t pretty:
- Today, two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese (and our kids are catching up fast).
- More than 50 percent of U.S. adults are chronically ill; one in three of us has metabolic syndrome (prediabetes), and 90 percent don’t know it.
- About 70 percent of us regularly take at least one prescription drug. More than 50 percent take at least two.
- The top-selling prescription drugs are meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, and heartburn — all lifestyle-related conditions that can be greatly improved or healed through lifestyle changes.
- Seventy-five percent of the money we currently spend on healthcare is used to treat (ineffectively) chronic lifestyle-related diseases.
It’s not just our bodies that are suffering. It’s our minds and spirits. Depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and eating disorders are rampant.
Epidemiological data suggest that fewer than 20 percent of us are mentally and emotionally thriving. The remaining 80 percent, according to psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, are languishing or “living lives of quiet despair.”
The Need for a New Normal
OK, so let’s just stop and mull over those facts for a moment:
- The majority of the U.S. population is sick, overweight, mentally or emotionally disrupted, or all of the above.
- Only a relatively tiny minority is healthy, happy, and thriving.
What does it mean that our society reliably produces more unhealthy, unhappy, vulnerable people than healthy, happy, resilient ones?
It means, quite plainly, that our society is sick.
That sickness shows up everywhere. In our bodies, yes, but also in our families and communities, our healthcare system, our food supply, our government, our schools, our religious institutions, our economy, our ecological systems, and especially in our relationships to ourselves and each other.
Fortunately, this is something we can change.
How? By rejecting the unhealthy conventions that are producing all this misery and embracing more promising strategies with fresh hope and enthusiasm. By diligently mastering the renegade healthy choices and healthy skills that matter — and ceasing to waste our time, energy, and resources on things than don’t. By seeing that choosing to be healthy in an unhealthy world isn’t some odious, obligatory chore or a hopeless battle. It’s a transformative hero’s journey. It’s a revolutionary act. It’s a sacred art. And it can be done.
That, in essence, is what this new column of mine is going to be about. In each issue, I’ll explore one of the 101 Ways. And the renegade fun starts right here, with the mother of all Revolutionary Acts: Defy Convention.
So how do you do that? Start by simply noticing how many unhealthy things have become the convenient, default choices in our culture, including giant-size portions, checkout-aisle junk-food displays, and elevators made easier to find than the stairs.
Notice what’s presented (and pushed) as “normal” — in the media, at restaurants, at work, at the doctor’s office, everywhere you go. Realize a lot of it is crazy-making and sickness-producing, and very much in need of some disruptive innovation.
Next, start disrupting and innovating. Push back where you can. Take pride and satisfaction in the ways you are rejecting our society’s mixed-up version of normal in order to reclaim your well-being and your own healthier, happier version of reality.
When that makes you seem weird or different, pat yourself on the back and just keep going. Remember, given where the conventional majority is headed, different is a preferable destination.
That’s where we’re starting, anyway. I hope you’ll dig into the rest of the 101 Revolutionary Ways, both here and online, to see where our convention-defying journey goes next.
“Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: Renegade Perspectives for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World” — You want to be healthy? Well, hey, that’s wonderful. This article is designed to help you succeed.
A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World — Pilar Gerasimo’s 10-point handbook for the healthy revolution.
“Fitness Redefined” — Baby boomers, a generation of convention busters, are reshaping expectations when it comes to their personal health and fitness, too.
“The Way of the Healthy Person” — If there is any clear path toward the promised land of healthy living, it begins on the fertile ground of our own assumptions, beliefs, and daily choices.