Mindful Living: What is Really Killing Americans

It’s been drilled into us– the leading causes of premature death for Americans is heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Yet I would argue that those diseases are not what’s causing American’s to die prematurely. And no, it’s not stress either, which is often suggested as the real reason.

American citizens are the sickest people in the world, and yet we’re dying from preventable and treatable causes. What’s killing us is that we’re not paying attention– most of us are living on autopilot and have developed detrimental lifestyle habits. Many of us are clueless about how we are treating our bodies and what we really need to be whole. Our diets are lacking vital nutrition, our lifestyle is lacking movement and we’ve lost the self-awareness to realize something is not right.

Lack of Nutrients

The reality is most people eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) are not eating REAL food, but a mixture of processed ingredients and chemicals. A common chemical found in our foods is MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). MSG is a powerful flavor enhancer that tells our brains we’re still hungry– ever been hungry right after eating Chinese food? MSG contributes to fast growing invasive cancers and also is commonly referred to over 50 different names, so it’s unavoidable if you eat processed foods. Aspartame is another dangerous chemical; it’s an artificial sweetener that invades the body causing neurological problems. Another major concern is that a large percentage of the processed food contained genetically modified ingredients.

Additionally, consider the fact that in our prehistoric days we were forced to go for weeks without food when it was scarce. A slow metabolism allowed us to store fat, keeping us alive; our slow metabolism is a evolutionary gift that brought us here. However, fast forward today’s pervasive high-calorie and low nutrient density foods, and our slow metabolism seems like a curse. Not only has this lead to health challenges, we are a nation who has no concept of real hunger because food is so readily available.

We must take back our power as individuals and make informed conscious choices about what we’re putting in our bodies and how much we actually need. The human body is designed to heal itself and keep homeostasis. All we have to do is support that process by giving it the necessary nutrients, which can only be found in whole, unprocessed foods. Read labels, research your food’s origins and tune in to how foods (good and bad) affect your body.

Lack of Movement

On my last trip to Costco I suddenly saw too many people, with shopping carts loaded with oversized portions, shuffling their feet, pacing about the store in a daze. What a stark contrast from our ancestors who hunted and gathered their food exerting their bodies in order to work up a true appetite. Unfortunately we live in a society that is not conducive to getting the adequate movement our bodies need to be healthy and strong. We sit at desks all day, maybe making it to the gym afterwards to run on treadmills like rodents on a wheel. We have to get outdoors whenever possible and move our bodies in more natural ways. Movement allows our bodies to function efficiently, to grow, and to heal.

Lack of Awareness

We are so focused on the external world around us that most of us have no clue what is really happening to our bodies on a daily basis. We have lost all connection to the messages our body is sending us, which is why we can no longer manage stress, difficult emotions, or negative thoughts. Our minds are too busy keeping up with the Kardashians and eating food mindlessly on the couch to focus on what our body truly needs. And it is this lack of awareness is what is killing us. We’re living on autopilot and not paying attention. Our bodies are starving for nutrients and movement; our minds are starving for attention and are thirsty for knowledge. When we are good to our bodies and treat them right, they are good to us. We have to start making conscious decisions about our well-being if we want to prevent premature death. We have to learn to love ourselves enough to make a healthy lifestyle a priority.

We begin making lasting changes by reflecting on what health means to us, why it’s important to us, and what our vision of health and wellness includes. The answers to these questions will be unique to you. Once you are aware of the value of true health, you can begin acknowledging other areas of your life where your patterns of behavior or poor choices do not align with these healthful values. The next step is to set short term, practical goals for yourself and monitor your progress. Connect with others, ask for advice, do research, and get the support you need to make your health a top priority.

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