The quick fix versus the long haul.

I had a dream last night that I was in the hospital. I was waiting on some procedure to be done and noticed that this hospital had a snack area for visitors. There was free food available for them while they were waiting. It was simple stuff – nothing that required cooking or plates or utensils. Purely grab and go.

I thought this was a very kind idea. Then I started studying the offerings. It was mostly cookies and chips. It was all simple carbs, with lots of salt and sugar thrown in for “flavor”. While it was nice that they were offering something, they weren’t offering anything healthy. There were no fresh fruit or protein offerings. All of it was quick-fix, not long-term.

Anybody who has ever been on a long hike before the advent of “energy bars” knows about gorp. Gorp is a strange name for a useful thing. It is a mix of M+Ms, raisins, and nuts. You’ve got something in there for quick, medium, and long-term energy, in that order. If you’ve ever been on a long road trip you’ve had to use something similar. If you try to last long on just caffeine and chips you’ll be crashing soon.

Then my thought was if the hospital offered good food, would people eat it? If the hospital staff follow the same parameters of stuff that is easy to store and prepare, then they could offer string cheese, nuts, and bananas and apples. The shelf life is shorter on these, so they might have some waste. And people when in stressful situations often go for the old standbys. They don’t think about what their body needs, they think about what they want. They want quick comfort, the quick fix. It would be better to not even offer chips and cookies at all.

I see so many people that when they take a break at work they grab a soda and cheese crackers. One of my basic rules is never eat anything that has an ingredient list longer than the “food” item itself. It has taken years of deprogramming, but I’ve learned that the best snack for me is an apple, some nuts (either sunflower or almonds) and some water. It is a middle of the road snack – nothing to rev me up.

Eating is like balancing with yoga. If you are trying to do tree pose and you start to wobble, overcompensating with a shift of weight or a wiggle of the ankle too far is going to make you fall. It is about little shifts, and finding the middle. If you try to overcompensate your feeling tired by drinking caffeine all the time and eating salty or sweet snacks that are full of simple carbs, you are going to crash soon. Then you have to have more. It is a horrible cycle of crash and burn.

Then I remember this dream was in a hospital. Western medicine does a laughable job at taking care of the person’s health. I’m not sure why Western medicine is seen as being superior. Sure, we have a lot of money invested in it. Sure, our doctors get paid a lot of money and our hospitals look like something out of a science-fiction set. But there is absolutely nothing long-term. There is nothing about health to be found in a hospital.

Western medicine treats the symptom and not the cause. Go in with a cough and you’ll get cough medicine. The doctor won’t even notice or care that you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. Go in with diabetes and they will say “here’s your insulin”, not “here’s your nutritionist and exercise coach.”

Our medical industry is about reacting to the problem rather than preventing it. It is quick-fix. Its plan is to cut out the tumor, but let you keep eating junk food while sitting on the couch all day.

Now sure, you can’t make people be healthy. You can’t make someone eat well and exercise. You can’t make them be intentional about their lives. But how much of that is caused by our current American mindset? How much of that is just how we have been trained? We’ve been taught to take a pill to fix it. We’ve been taught to place our fate in the hands of “experts.” We are slowly starting to wake up to the fact that just because someone is an authority figure, it doesn’t mean that she or he is an expert. This applies to everyone – teachers, politicians, doctors, ministers – everyone who talks to you as a lesser-than, everyone who assumes you can’t handle your own life and won’t give you the tools to do it yourself.

This country was founded on the idea of freedom – freedom to practice religion as wished, freedom to self-govern, freedom of expression. Sure, it concerns me the amount of freedoms that are being taken away from us. The new information about how our every move and click of the mouse is being watched is deeply concerning. But I’m more concerned with how much we have given away. We’ve become passive consumers, rather than active participants in our own lives. We are allowing ourselves to be molded by advertising and by culture.

Turn off the TV. Go for a walk. Disconnect yourself from your iPod, your Kindle, your Gameboy. They may be wireless, but there is a cord nonetheless, and that cord is around your throat and your mind. Don’t do anything unless you have examined it yourself and found it to be true and helpful. But most of all, take care of your body by eating well and exercising daily. That is the best tool for your kit.