Be Challenged


This week I received an email disagreeing with my stance in this blog; that health is the way to happiness. More specifically, there was disagreement that food should be listed as #1. So... What's the point of this post? 1) To share the lesson I learned from this email and 2) to be a little more clear as to what I am trying to accomplish with this blog. If you decide not to read the whole thing (totally understandable, we are all busy people! But I promise that there is some good stuff in here!) then just read this bullet below:

  • Don't be afraid of a challenge or being challenged.  A challenge can come in the form of a new assignment at work you aren't 100% confident you can do, having to move to a new place or city, dealing with a co-worker or friend who is less than pleasant, having someone disagree with your beliefs or the way that you live your life, establishing a healthy routine like exercise, or doing something totally out of your comfort zone. Tell yourself that you are going to take it on and that you are going to SUCCEED! The power of positive thinking should not be underestimated.

Part 1: My most recent challenge

You've got mail. When I first received the message disagreeing with what I defined as health, I felt... attacked, immediately defensive, a bit angry, and confused as to why I was the recipient of what I read (at the time) as such an antagonistic, mean, and thoughtless email.Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.56.12 PM

Confession time: I don't like being told that what I am doing is wrong... Like most or all of us, I like to be right and can get defensive when I am told that I am wrong.

As I digested the email and began furiously typing my reply, I realized that this person was not attacking me, trying to be mean or put me down.... They were simply challenging my point of view.

If someone openly disagrees with me, they are being mean. HOW DARE THEY! Gawsh that sounds silly. But that is exactly how I can feel when someone disagrees with the way that I am living my life, the person I am with, the job that I have, etc. I get immediately defensive.

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But then I thought about it... If I was always surrounded by incessant positive reinforcement, someone telling me "great job, you're perfect" all the time, I would never have the opportunity to grow, slow down and understand my own point of view more deeply, or understand other's points of view.

DISCLAIMER: I am aware of the not-so-rare but very dangerous"haterz", aka folks who say things that are not always nice, perhaps as a self-defense mechanism. People can point out the flaws in others that they dislike most in themselves. But dat don't botha me :P

But I can still take the opportunity to look at it as a challenge, a chance to slow down, think about the source the challenge or hatah words came from (is it a person who loves me? A Facebook acquaintance? Someone in the checkout line at a grocery store who looks at me weird because I probably have a chia seed in my tooth?) and work through it productively rather than immediately jump on the defensive.

Part 2: So what's it all about?

As in this blog.

I do believe that food is a huge part of happiness. It is something that brings people together and is extremely cultural. Even impoverished countries who do not have the opulence and luxury of being able to go to a grocery store or restaurant to feed their families still have special meals together. For example, families living in the slums of Mumbai still cherish the opportunity to dine with one another, celebrate holidays to the extent which they are able and look forward to a good meal and nourishment. Indian food is unbelievably unique, filled with spice and fragrance. Those people do give a "hoot" about their food because it is part of their culture. People in Cuba who are dancing on the streets still love and appreciate a good meal. Hispanic cultures make beautiful rice, meat, beans, plantain, etc. dishes that they love (which are also quite nutritious).

Healthy means different things to different people. I feel that being "healthy" in all aspects of life leads to happiness. Healthy relationships, healthy foods, exercising, challenges, creativity, and fill in the blanks with what really gets you going!

Lastly, I want to clarify that my blog (especially the food portion) is primarily aimed at our American culture which often times can be considered a bit glutinous and misguided. Hear me out...

In the 1940s during the second World War, we were in a food shortage since most of our crops were sent to the military overseas. From 1942-1947 the Price Administration created "rationing" to make sure that food was distributed as equally as possible. This is also when nutritional information was made more readily available so that meals being prepared could be more balanced. Even restaurants had to ration. This is when protein was a BIG deal because it was so calorically dense.

We no longer find ourselves in that same food shortage situation. What we are now dealing with a crisis of abundance.

Another disclaimer: I am not ignoring the hunger that still persists in our country. It is a huge issue. In 2014, 14% of American households (~17.4 million households) were considered "food insecure", which is when economic constraints are present that restrict a person's access to food that will "fully meet basic needs at all times". This can manifest itself in reducing the quality of food or the quantity of food consumed, which means that those who are impoverished and food insecure can also be obese (17.2% of TX households are food insecure).

Consider these facts from the CDC: 

  • 35% of US adults are obese (78.6 million), with a BMI of >30.
  • Obesity found in 6-11 year olds increased from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2012.
  • Obesity in 12-19 year olds increased from 5% to 21% during the same period.
  • There is no state with a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
  • Health Affairs  reports that healthcare costs due to obesity have risen from $78.5 billion to $147 billion (1998 - 2008).
  • Heart disease killed 611,105 people in 2013 (the #1 killer in the US) and diabetes killed 75,578 (coming in at #7).

If these very limited facts (really we have just skimmed the surface) are not proof that obesity is becoming a serious problem then I am not sure what is.

I don't think spending less money on health care, having less trips to the doctor, or being more cognizant of what we are eating and how it affects our bodies will make anyone miserable... Right?

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There is actually a World Happiness Report taken from 2012-2014, sampling 1,000 people every year in 125 countries looking at 6 factors (ranked on a scale from 0-10). These factors are listed below along with the representative percentage of which ones contributed to the largest discrepancies between countries.

  1. Social support (30%)
  2. GDP per capita (26%)
  3. Healthy years of life expectancy (18%)
  4. Trust (4%)
  5. Perceived freedom to make life decisions (13%)
  6. Generosity (7%)

You might be shocked to discover that US is ranked #15, behind countries like Israel and Mexico.

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Children (<18 years of age) make up 31% of the world's population, or representing 1/3 of all human experience. 10% of children in the world suffer from diagnosable mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. The quality of their life experience is very poor and a majority of them will grow up to be unhappy adults. Taking care of these mental disorders in children needs to be a top priority in healthcare to maximize the number of healthy children and adults.

What has a huge impact on a healthy brain? A healthy gut. There are lots of bacteria in your gut that thrive based on what you feed it. A gut getting lots of fruits and veggies is compositionally different than one getting burgers from McDonalds on the reg. The proof is in Morgan Spurlock's film, Supersize Me. He starts out eating his fast food every meal and is physically sick. His gut flora are HATING what is going on and he is killing the ones that will not thrive in the new environment he is creating. Within a few days, he actually has a headache until he gets his McDonalds. These new gut flora are like hell yeah, this is my jam. Unfortunately, these gut bacterium are not interested in Morgan's overall wellness and the rest of his body starts to decline.

The way this works is from your vagus nerve which attaches your brain to your abdomen. This is how your gut transmits information. There is also a higher content of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is largely associated with mood, in your gut than in your brain. Happy gut, happy brain. SIMPLE.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.47.14 PM.pngFor some interesting and enlightening information on your gut (a topic I intend to become much more well read about) check out Rich Roll's Podcast Live Dirty Eat Clean with Dr. Robynne Chutkan.

Are you done yet? Yes, I am done. To sum it up, I strongly, passionately believe that HEALTH=HAPPINESS. I am not writing this blog to preach or convert anyone to any of my beliefs or lifestyle choices, I am just sharing what has been making me feel unbelievably inspired, alive, and happy.

I always appreciate comments, suggestions, and recommendations! I have gotten lots of great feedback lately, keep it coming!