I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to healthy aging. It seems to me that most employers pay lip service to having healthy employees by providing sick leave, health and dental insurance, maybe providing gym or other exercise passes or discounts. But one area that seems to be missing is education and support for optimal health and wellness and reasons and guidance on the best way to use these health perks. There are often conflicts in how the stress of a job will undermine all of the health support employees receive through leave and benefits. There is also the issue of working in a supportive environment that encourages employee loyalty. I don’t know if loyalty was ever a tactic that employers regularly used to bolster their business success, but it certainly seems to me that there should be some way to work towards that direction. Employers particularly seem to forget how much influence their front line employees have on their customer satisfaction. It is always about the bottom line. A happy, healthy employee is going to support a happy, healthy business.
Further on up the line is the fact that we are better supported in our efforts to be unhealthy rather than healthy, by government health plans and standard college mandated recommendations. Have you ever wondered who is really behind these recommendations? If you really stop to analyze who benefits from this well advertised advice, it isn’t usually the common man or woman. The guidelines for treatment given to doctors mandate that often patients must be clinically ill (as per lab tests) before they are allowed to have treatment, usually in the form of drugs or surgery. This is all at great cost to the patient and massive profits for the professionals. There is no incentive to prevent, forestall or reverse the disease process through lifestyle changes and there is no effort made to determine the root cause of an illness. It is assumed that patients won’t comply with recommendations to change their diet and exercise habits, so they are just prescribed a symptom reliever and sent on their way. Until they experience side effects from the medication and return for another prescription to manage the side effects. There may be some brief time spent in advising patients to “eat right and exercise”, the universal disease prevention recommendation, there is no financial or professional support provided, leaving patients to wade through the quagmire of pay-as-you-go alternative services. With several generations of processed food eating under our belts, we no longer know how to “eat right”. We are at the mercy of media reports and big box advertising. The roller coaster continues when symptoms are just bandaged and patients are left to continue their bad habits indefinitely: the alcoholic that gets a liver transplant, the heart disease patient who needs multiple bypass surgeries, the diabetic who is just sent home with a prescription and taught how to test blood sugar, and to recognize the danger zones and so on.
Last week a client lamented that a coworker who was financially supported in her efforts to get drastic bariatric surgery out of country, was regularly eating at local fast food restaurants and hadn’t really changed her diet or lifestyle habits and seemed to be slowly regaining the weight she lost. This type of surgery could result in long lasting weight loss, but if the poor eating continues, she is still a candidate for any and every chronic disease associated with poor diet and lifestyle. It's better to adopt better habits than endure drastic surgery in the hopes of a quick fix.
Education on healthy eating from a holistic nutritionist, which can create lifelong changes from a place of education based on science and what is best for each individual, is something that clients must first find, then choose and pay for on their own. The science is conclusive that lifestyle intervention works, yet there is no incentive or support to make these changes. The client must be self-motivated or hit rock bottom in order to find it in themselves to make lasting changes. This of course applies to exercise as well as diet. There might be employer support in this area as well, but the government and insurance plans are slow to encourage this type of lifestyle intervention. One of the problems of course, is there is no money in it for big corporations. And I’ve said it before, it the food processing companies and the drug companies seem to be in the business of creating clients for each other in the name of huge profits. There is little incentive for them to create a healthy population who need no long-term medication (usually from around age 60 until they die). When my husband went for some cardiac testing at around age 57, they were quite astounded that he wasn’t on any type of medication. It seems to be the norm to have some type of prescription by the time one is 55 or 60, whether for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes, depression, anxiety, obesity or combinations of the above.
It’s up to you to decide to create health promoting diet and lifestyle habits so that you can enjoy your “Golden Years” (which my dad tells me aren’t all that golden). He is healthier than many 79 year olds, thanks to some good genes and active golf schedule, unlike my mother who died at 72 and lived unhealthily for the last 10 years (or more) of her life.
If you need guidance on improving your chances of optimal health well into retirement, contact me for a free 60-minute nutrition assessment. I believe in coaching clients in ways to create better habits, through short programs, so they can go off and do it on their own. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and our friends, families and dependents to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of them and enjoy our golden years. We can’t depend on the government or big business to have our best interests in mind so it's up to us.
“If you think wellness is expensive, try illness” Anon.
Tanya Sullivan is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant with many opinions on the state of our food and health.
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