Today, Americans spend billions of dollars every year to maintain a strong national defense as a deterrent against external attack by foreign powers, but they fail entirely to apply the same principle of preventive defense to their own health.
The United States is home to the world's largest pharmaceutical industry. Of the $880 billion global industry, the U.S. accounts for $300 billion and is expected to increase to $390 billion by 2015 (In contrast, the U.S. military defense budget is expected to settle in the range of $716 billion in 2013).
But not just in the realm of pharmaceuticals, medical care in the U.S. is considerably higher than any other country, clocking in at 17.6% of GDP (in 2010) and with an average spend of $8,233 per person. See?
But I'm not promoting other countries' healthcare systems or philosophies at the expense of America's. The U.S. simply serves as a very poignant illustration of what happens when you--as Daniel Reid puts it--"eat, drink, and live indiscriminately and treat [your body] as engines of pleasure without the slightest regard for the damage [your] habits inflict on [your] health".
Now, even obesity -- the embodiment of eating, drinking, and living indiscriminately -- has been labeled by the American Medical Association as a disease (or is it? Read more on that topic by clicking here).
This mentality certainly is spreading...and at pernicious rates. Take the fast food industry, for example. In 2014, the global fast food market is forecast to have a value of $239.7 billion, an increase of 19.2% since 2009. That outpaces the 4% growth in the U.S. market, as fast food chains enter developing markets, such as those in Asia and Latin America.
What this serves to illustrate is our -- modern humans' (not just Americans') -- interest, not in preventive healthcare but in reparative (if you can even call it that) healthcare. The kind of healthcare that we employ when we've completely wrecked our bodies doing whatever the hell we feel like and then needing drugs, surgery, and other methods that can be equally or more destructive than the illness itself to fix us.
In short, we treat our bodies as a vehicle -- a collective set of replaceable parts that we can simply bring into a mechanic, who, upon examining the vehicle's symptoms, can repair the particular part that is causing problems with no regard to the general care and preventive maintenance that was being given to the vehicle on the whole. And all for a hefty fee, of course.
Is this news to most of you, my wonderful readers? Probably not.
Is this news to everybody else? Well. Sure seems like it, doesn't it?
So enough about the sorry state of things, and let's talk action...
What can you actually be doing to successfully move yourself from reparative to preventive healthcare?
Ditch processed and refined grains and sugars.
This should be a no-brainer. Don't drink soda -- diet or otherwise (the chemicals in artificial sweeteners should give you the heebie jeebies). Don't mindlessly shove bread and cereal and pasta and other grains in your mouth just cuz it's on the U.S. government's food plate guidelines. In fact, anything you see in those guidelines should probably be ignored. Need proof as to why? Look at the nearly 70% of overweight and obese Americans walking around.
Go natural. Go organic. Go Paleo.
Can't afford to buy everything organic? That's okay! There are few, especially in this economy, who can. So prioritize. Read labels, ditch preservatives and GMOs, and utilize the following chart when it comes to buying produce.
Note: Corn is a grain. Grains contain antinutrients that make it nearly impossible for your body to absorb nutrients in the grain itself as well as other foods you eat. So ditch grains in general.
There's a saying I love: "Sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour."
The brain goes and goes and goes. Meditation makes it stop going. And that is a good thing. Do not underestimate the powerful effects of meditation.
For basics on the Buddhist-style of meditation, you can click here.
Remember: Meditation does not belong to one religion or one philosophy. The major religions and spiritual philosophies of the world all encourage meditation -- whether that is in the form of prayer, active meditation, or some other quiet method of sitting and being at peace.
Your body has two main nervous systems -- sympathetic and parasympathic.
The sympathetic nervous system governs your body during the active, waking hours of the day when you are busy and alert. The parasympathic nervous system regulates your body during the nighttime "breed-and-feed" hours, when you are resting after an active day, eating heartily, engaging in recreational endeavors (breeding being one of those), and sleeping.
To successfully separate these two, you must live according to your body's natural laws. Fasting helps you stay fully in the sympathetic nervous system during the day and in the parasympathic nervous system at night. Just as it's supposed to happen. You can think of it as separating the full day into yang period (daytime) and ying period (nighttime). They each have their purpose, and to live most healthfully, you should respect and promote that distinction.
Note: Sleeping is super important. To read more about getting enough sleep, check out a blog post of mine, "Confessions of a Rogue Napper".
Also, be sure and keep an eye out here for announcements on Pat Flynn's Fasting for Dummies book due out around the New Year via Wiley Publishing. The book aims to break down the various methods of fasting so that you can choose which style works best for you. Different strokes for different folks, amIright?
Those five tips are rather basic ones, but as in your athletic endeavors, never underestimate the importance of the basics. Life does not have to be a string of overcomplicated rules and methods. There is much beauty to be had in living simply.
That said, did I miss any tips and tricks you use to keep you and your family healthy? Let me know in the comments section!