A shocking statement was made at a recent nutritional conference, and I have to agree with the sentiment:

“The Taliban couldn’t have done a better job at attacking and undermining the health of the American people if they had designed the typical American diet themselves!”

We are a country of the over-fed and undernourished. We don’t have to look too far to see the disastrous effects of fast food, processed food, chemicals, preservatives, and additives on the health of our nation. We as a people are plagued with the diseases of unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, stress and anxiety are on the rise and now affecting our children at younger and younger ages. “No child left behind” is not working. Children are not only being left behind in school with foggy brains from bad nutrition, but also on the playground, where they are unable to skip, jump, cartwheel and feel the joy of moving due to dragging around their undernourished and over-burdened bodies.

The numbers and statics support this. But I feel this problem needs to be addressed on a personal level and not just as a statistic that happens to other people.

Each one of us is affected by unhealthy lifestyle habits. Our parents, family members, friends, spouses, children, colleagues, and neighbors are all at risk of having or developing diseases of unhealthy life choices, as are we ourselves. It is time that we look at and work on this problem as a community. We can become a support system to help move each other into making better food choices, becoming more active, mentally focused, relaxed, and satisfied with life.

Connect Offline

One of the first steps towards a healthier life is to start having home cooked meals with the people we love. Turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer and prepare a meal together with fresh produce bought from the local farmers market. Cook and eat together, talk about your day, and really listen to one another. We are in need of smiles, hugs, connections, and understanding from our families and friends. Mealtime is the perfect time to connect!

When raising our daughter it was so important to have wholesome home cooked meals when we sat down and ate together as a family. We somehow found time to cook even though we were over-worked, high-pressured New Yorkers. This brought sanity and precious family time into our lives each evening. And our daughter, now 23, has a healthy relationship with food, a very active life (she biked 4,000 miles across the county this summer) and an understanding of taking care of her health on all levels.

Take Responsibility

We can’t expect the health care system or the government to protect us as citizens from our bad behavior. Our ”health” system is about disease management, not about prevention. By the time a disease is detected and diagnosed it has been lurking in the body for many years. The pharmaceutical industry is growing richer by the day responding the symptoms of the deteriorating health of the American people.

It’s time to stop blaming these industries and make a commitment to be actively responsible for our own healthy choices. We need to tune in to ourselves and self-correct before needing medication for disease created by our own unhealthy eating habits, addictions, lack of physical movement, and excessive stress.

In Chinese Medicine we say “don’t wait to build the well until you are thirsty!!!” It’s all about prevention. We are all creatures of habit, so therefore it’s best to develop good ones.

As an acupuncturist for the past ten years, and a personal trainer and nutritional counselor for the twenty years prior, I have been working with patients towards becoming responsible for their own health. The patients that really improve their lives make long term commitments to improving their health–not a starting a fad diet, or creating shortsighted goals. Real change takes work and dedication.

The Future

Think of a time in the future where there are no longer aisle in the grocery store where soda, chips, and processed packaged food are sold, and fast food restaurants do not line our highways and shopping malls. When we stop buying these types of foods there will be change within the food industry. As they say, money talks.

We can become better citizens by making a personal commitment to our own health and encouraging all our family and friends to do so as well.

We can encourage our communities to embrace sustainable fishing, local produce, organic farming, and treating our farm animals with respect by spending our money with businesses that follow these practices.

It starts with each of us making a personal commitment to cultivating healthy life habits so we can be vital, active, and vibrant in our lives.

Be the best you by:

• Eating home cooked meals
• Being active on a daily basis (walk, skip, play)
• Supporting your local farmers
• Not buying foods in a box or a bag too often
• Having news-free days
• Taking nature breaks
• Finding passion in your life
• Reducing stress by finding a daily meditation, yoga, or relaxation practice
• Taking a healthy eating cooking class
• Supporting restaurants that are “farm to table”
• Eating breakfast that supports a healthy brain
• Being thankful for all that you have

American needs vital, clear thinking, healthy citizens! BE ONE!