Too many people are suffering with diseases that are totally preventable, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
Even if we don’t become seriously ill, I believe our levels of health and quality of life is far below what it could be if we truly understood how to take care of ourselves.
What’s at the root of these problems? Let’s look at 4 major causes:
1. Lack of nutrition education
Most people aren’t taught anything about nutrition or self-care. We’re expected to perform at our physical and mental peak, and yet we aren’t taught how to give ourselves the care needed to achieve and maintain that peak.
I believe one of the central components within our education should be teaching us how to properly take care of ourselves to optimize our minds and bodies. After all, we can’t learn, create or produce to the best of our ability if our brain function, physical health and mood don’t support it—all of which are majorly impacted by nutrition.
What’s more concerning is that many healthcare providers aren’t trained in nutrition or prevention, but only in treating existing conditions.
And the treatments they do provide can be too expensive for people to access, especially in the United States. Insurance payments are on the rise. But without insurance, a simple doctor’s visit can cost two or three hundred dollars. Simple medical procedures can cost thousands.
2. Misinformation about nutrition
Unfortunately, the nutrition education we do receive—whether it’s from reading a diet book, taking a nutrition class or watching a news show—is often unreliable, which makes it incredibly difficult and confusing to figure out what we should eat.
There’s an incredible amount of misinformation and conflict of opinion in nutrition, which can steer us toward misguided nutrition choices, such as taking a powdered fiber supplement to replace fruits and vegetables. Or believing that commercial whole wheat bread is healthy because whole grains are supposed to be healthy, never mind that the bread is highly processed and full of sugar and preservatives.
Most food companies use marketing tactics that trick us into believing their products are wholesome when they aren’t. And many scientific studies in nutrition are funded by a food industry that’s more interested in profit than public health.
3. Difficulty with behavior change
Even when we’re equipped with good information, it can be incredibly difficult to modify our behavior and self-regulate. We may know what we should do, but we can’t seem to match knowledge with actions.
Change can be incredibly difficult and made harder because we haven’t been taught strategies for behavior change. We aren’t taught how to examine our minds and bodies to understand why we have trouble changing. Instead, we tend to criticize ourselves and believe we ought to have more self-control and exercise more self-discipline.
4. Lack of emotional education
Not only does our education system overlook physical health, but it also overlooks emotional health. We aren’t taught how to live with our emotions in a healthy, productive way. But are taught to shut down our feelings, suck it up and carry on as if nothing is the matter.
Many of us have a very difficult time dealing with emotion—whether it’s hurt, anger, anxiety or even positive emotions such as excitement—and see food as the only option for calming down and feeling better. We learn to use food to stuff our emotions and use it as our go-to place to feel okay.
It seems as though it should be easy to change what we eat, but not if food is our only means to feel stable and secure. If food is the only way we know how to deal with painful or overwhelming emotions, then it can be almost impossible to change our eating habits.