The Whole Truth

Call me radical, but given the ragged state of health and fitness in our country, I think it’s about time we started seeking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what really makes for a healthy way of life. It’s also high time we all started saying “no thanks” to the hype.

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So much of what we’ve been sold under the guise of “health and fitness information” is a false bill of goods. What we’re told is so often only part of the story. And in the past, we’ve been way too eager to swallow the half-truths we’ve been given.

We’re told that this or that diet will make all the difference in our bodies, but no one explains how our internal reality — our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and so on — inform our ability and willingness to follow through on the most basic of personal commitments, much less a one-size-fits-all eating plan. Meanwhile, we ignore the fact that no diet has ever worked for long, and instead we start sniffing out the next miracle plan.

We obsess about the details of the latest studies and product claims, while we ignore the commonsense eating advice that somewhere, deep down, we all know is right: Cut down on the processed junk (including the “diet” junk) and eat a wide range of the whole, natural foods (including lots of fresh vegetables and fruits) that our body knows how to use to its advantage.

We’re told to get plenty of exercise, but no one explains how challenging that can be in a society where activity-friendly zones can be downright elusive and where passive electronic entertainments beckon at every turn. Meanwhile, we use convenience as an excuse and we stay planted on the couch, plugged into DVDs and reality-TV shows when our bodies are crying out for a little movement — when our hearts and minds are calling out for connection, expansion, release. We take heavily advertised drugs to feel fewer pains instead of making life changes that could eliminate their causes.

We’re told to get plenty of fresh air and to drink plenty of clear, fresh water, but then we hear that the air-pollution levels for our city are in the red zone and that a recent chemical spill has put our local water supply at risk. Meanwhile, we continue to live our lives in ways that contribute to the very types of pollution that have us worried for our own, and our children’s, health.

As a rule, these are not the kinds of health and fitness concerns that we’re encouraged to think much about. Nor, for that matter, are we encouraged to give much thought to how and why we get the health and fitness advice we do.

This spring, a cover feature in Newsweek (“Diet Hype,” March 13, 2006) provided counsel for those confused by the recent blizzard of contradictory scientific and media statements on what constitutes “healthy eating.” The article pointed out that sensational and oversimplified media headlines are notoriously misleading, and that large-scale food and drug studies are often funded by “industries with a stake in the outcome.” When corporate sponsors fund research, the authors explain, they tend to report only beneficial findings. They also design studies and report outcomes in ways that lead us to believe that virtually anything can be “part of a healthy diet.”

So buyer beware — even when you think it’s “just facts” that you’re buying. And remember, while your health is certainly dependent on your personal nutrition and exercise choices, it’s also directly affected by a great many other things — including factors in the culture, media, economy, politics and environment at large — that influence your choices in ways you may not realize. And that’s what this issue of Experience Life is all about.

While we know we’ve only scratched the surface of “the whole truth” about health and fitness, we hope the articles we’ve assembled here get you looking more deeply, and with a more discerning eye, at the connections that affect you most.

Pilar Gerasimo is the founding editor of Experience Life.

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