May 4, 2012

CHOCOLATE! It's not just for breakfast anymore.

Yet another sign I have in my health promotion office to help clients feel less judged and stressed out; "'s not just for breakfast anymore". As I was thinking of what to blog about next, I looked to the sign...chocolate for breakfast. What if we had chocolate for breakfast? Would it really make a difference to our health? To a further extent, what if we didn't eat our suggested servings of veggies and get our daily exercise...what would really happen? Would we all keel over with cancer or get bigger and bigger like that Violet character in the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"? I have a feeling some believe this is exactly what would happen.

I don't know if I should reveal this; perhaps I'm breaking one of those rules, not unlike keeping the secrets magicians hold dear, but if you think about it hard enough, health promotion messages aren't worth the t-shirts and poster boards they're printed on. Messages such as, "get your five servings of vegetables a day" or "take the stairs instead of the elevator", although they may have positive implications to health, could also do nothing for you if the other components to health aren't recognized. Not only that, but for every research study that shows second hand smoke is bad for you, there's two that suggest it isn't. What the?

Seriously, we don't live in compartments and our health research shouldn't be compartmentalized. What I mean is we study things like exercise and weight loss (for example) in sterile environments or without consideration for other variables that may influence our health. We take one thing, examine it, test it, and then make a statement about it (example:  Red Meat will Kill You!). I know many health advocates who restrict their diets and exercise every day only to get sick. So what's up with that? By now, if you read my blog a lot (and thank you soooo much for that by the way) you will know that I'm a champion of a holistic (and realistic) view of health. 

Unless a health nut is taking care of all their health needs can they really call themselves healthy? Does eating chocolate for breakfast really matter in the big picture? I dont' think so.  There is research on happiness, hope, belief, intellectual challenge, friendship, stress, pets, job satisfaction, passion, and the usual eating and exercise studies and they all suggest a link to good health...all of them (not just one or two). Conversely, there are studies that examine the toxins in our environment (offices, cars, bathtubs, clothing, teeth whiteners, hair shampoo, and nail polish....well maybe not teeth whiteners, but they freak me out anyway). It's not going to be our chosen lifestyle that kill us anyway, but the rubber duck we played with as kids or that sunless tanner we slathered on day after day.

Here's a question for can we judge what is a good habit or a bad habit without taking into consideration all habits (ouch, I hurt my brain)?  If one smokes they are judged as having a "bad" habit. BUT..if this smoker exercises and eats well while managing her stress and emotional well being, how is smoking a "bad" habit? All the research suggests that she is more healthy than a sedentary non-smoker who eats deep fried cheese all the time. Mmmmm...makes our health promotion messages more convoluted and confusing...dontcha think?

What I'm trying to say...(and maybe not so eloquently) is you can focus on healthier eating and exercise for better health if you wish, but focusing on getting out and socializing or laughing more will also reap the same health benefits. If you want to learn more about this, please comment and I'll make a point of sharing the studies (in a not-so-boring way).  This is great news for the person who is struggling and stressing themselves out as they try and make a change to their diet.

I believe the health promotion field is still in its infancy (or maybe its teenage years as it is getting a bit surely and hard to live with) and we still have so much to learn. I am learning something new everyday about my profession and it's blowing my teeny, tiny mind (assuming I use only 6% of it). I also believe that our current approach to health promotion isn't working; and I intend to find out what does (even if it takes me all day). Could it be that our messages are making people do the opposite? If we say stop smoking...does this make a smoker buy another pack? If we publicly chastise the obese are they really going to run to the local gym or to the local KFC for some comfort food? The research has been done (and keeps on being done) and it is strongly suggesting that is exactly what is happening.  Health promotion, as it may seem, may be hazardous to your health.

We need to change the way we promote health so it is conducive to health itself. We need more support, empathy, and understanding in this biz'nuss. We need more laughter and less judgement. We need to make some pretty big changes... and I think we will. It will just take time... like all good changes do.

Who says? And if you are suggesting I have to drop my five bad habits, what habits do you have that could lead to illness? We (the global we) are so quick to judge others and never turn the finger on our own behaviour.  Perhaps it makes us feel better about ourselves. Perhaps it is a lot easier. Or perhaps we just don't understand the importance of social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional well being and continue to focus on diet and exercise? At any rate, just being aware of the judgements in messages such as this may be enough to make a positive change.

Meanwhile, I will be continuing to move towards creating my own dream business offering people what they need to make lifelong changes. After signing up for MY program you will receive a piece of chocolate cake with vanilla icing and a bottle of "Miracle Bubbles".  Believe me, it's gonna catch on.


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