“We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children.... These are the basic values that we all share, regardless of race, party, religion. This is what we share.” – First Lady Michelle Obama at the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
When is a blessing also a curse?
A blessing is having that which you need for your daily sustenance. A curse results when this same blessing is overly indulged so that it becomes toxic. In the United States today, and indeed in many areas of the industrialized world, what was once scarce is now plentiful. Across this great nation, where not so long ago, starvation was a real threat to life, there are now rows of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, all full to overflowing with nearly every variety of food imaginable. On every corner of every city and suburb, at every highway rest stop, in every mall, Americans can find more food than they could possibly consume, and at bargain prices.
Unfortunately, the food is not always what your grandmother would recognize. Much of it is processed, salted, corn-syrup, freeze-dried, and modified beyond recognition. It’s designed to be fast, easy, and cheap. The goal is to fill you up and then make sure you come back for more.
The results of the food explosion have been spectacularin a very unhealthy way.
In America today, millions of intelligent and well-meaning peopleparents, children, rich and poor alikeare becoming obese. Not just well fed, but sick.
Obesity contributes to serious health problems including heart conditions, strokes, cancers, and respiratory problems. Each year, younger children are facing the effects of obesity at rates similar to those found in adults. Obesity is troublesome not only because it affects physical health, but also because of its effects on mental health and relationships.
What contributes to the problem of obesity? First, individual differences in life style and genetics play a significant role in physical health. Secondly, environmental factors also contribute to the obesity epidemic. These factors include the media, advertising, fast food restaurants, the family, parenting, poverty, institutions such as schools, and political agendas.
The present trend of dietary unhealthiness is hurting families. To get back to a healthy lifestyle requires commitment, discipline, and a concerted effort to move towards better health. This shift has to happen not only to improve the health of adults but more importantly for the sake of our children and generations to come.
Healthy eating is only part of the solution. A comprehensive approach to good health requires (a) meaningful relationships, (b) spiritual awareness and practices, (c) environmental wholeness, (d) physical health (for example, nutrition, sleep, dental care, and exercise), and (e) ongoing mental stimulation.
Because social and environmental factors can impact our physical and mental health in dramatic ways, we need to develop our own Health Intelligence to take control of our health. We need to look at how we learn from these outside resources, how our learning styles affect our choices, how we apply or choose not to apply our knowledge in the real world, and what it ultimately means to be health intelligent. Because knowledge is all around us and we learn from what we see, hear, taste, touch, and feel, it is critical that we explore how we can become more health intelligent.
How can having Health Intelligence make a difference? Intelligence begins with the ability to gather information. With information, individuals can make better choices in everyday life regarding their health. Individuals can analyze, apply, integrate, and draw conclusions about information that can improve their overall lifestyles and mortality outcomes. With a few significant changes, individuals can achieve strong mental health, enjoy greater longevity, have more energy, and experience so many other positive outcomes.
What Is Health Intelligence?
At the core of problematic health trends, such as the obesity epidemic is a lack of basic understanding of what it means to be healthy. Some individuals who have healthy eating and exercise habits, have difficulty understanding why such a high percentage of individuals in our society have become so unhealthy. But being healthy is not just a matter of using common sense. Rather, to be healthy we need to use what I call Health Intelligence—a ninth category to be added to the intelligence spectrum. Health Intelligence is the ability to supply the mind, body, and soul with enriching substances that will increase the health and productivity of the individual and of humankind. Health intelligence integrates knowledge about the body, soul, and mind. In order to be Health Intelligent, all areas of the individual’s being must be addressed equally, cared for equally, and nurtured equally. No one area is more valuable than another, and all three areas are necessary for positive overall health. Without a balance between the three areas, overall health is at risk.
Beginning a journey toward better health is a process of changing one small habit at a time. Making small and gradual changes will allow you time to practice new ways of doing things without throwing your world into a tailspin. If you do this, you will experience a paradigm shift in the way you think about food, life, relationships, and spiritual growth.
What is a habit? It’s the result of combining knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do). In his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey revealed how we can all be more effective in business, family, friendships, school, and other aspects of life if we follow his seven habits, which can easily be applied to Health Intelligence as well:
1. Be proactive. Make conscious, choices and responses.
2. Begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear understanding of your goal destination so you can better understand where you are now, and if you are on the right path to get there.
3. Put first things first. Prioritize, organize, and remain disciplined as you speed toward your goals.
4. Think win/win. Seek mutual learning, mutual influence, and mutual benefits.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You gain knowledge that you can share with others in a credible, understandable way.
6. Synergize. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Work together.
7. Sharpen the saw. Renew the physical, spiritual, mental, and socio-emotional aspects of life.
When we’re thinking of making any form of life change including improving our Health Intelligence, keep the seven habits in mind: they will help propel you forward, and will keep you on track to achieve satisfactory results. The seven habits are easy to understand, globally applicable, and keep the focus on multiple working parts that require attention. This kind of structure can be helpful in achieving our personal health goals.
One of the most fundamental aspects of constructive change in the life of an individual is having the ability to create a balance. By balancing the four dimensions of our nature; physical, mental, spiritual, and socio-emotional, we will be able to attain and maintain a more fulfilled life. Covey identified the need for balance in maintaining the four aforementioned areas, and suggested that neglecting one area affects the rest. Similarly, improving in one area can increase one’s abilities in other areas...