It’s simple. I don’t like it.
But that wasn’t always the case. Not only did I eat kale by the bushel–I forced it on my family hidden in smoothies, soups, muffins, and even chocolate chip cookies. It started in 2010, when kale won the Superfood Oscar of the Year. Everyone seemed to jump on board this dark leafy plant with the bitter aftertaste and funky aroma. The media proclaimed kale “critical to good health” and I believed every word of it.
My once obsessive interest in health began when I first had children–sound familiar? Our family had to live the healthiest lifestyle possible. I bought only the most “organic,” “grass-fed”, “non gmo”, “waldorf-educated” foods. I spent 120% of our family income on any type of “immune boosting” vitamins, shampoo made from seaweed, and all sorts of potions touted as the fountain of health. I even fought the war on high fructose corn syrup.
And then gluten-free became a thing and I hit a wall.
BREAD. NOODLES. CINNAMON BUNS.
Those things make me HAPPY and isn’t happiness part of being healthy? It also made me stop and question WHY I felt so compelled to continuously change my eating habits based on “health hype.” The things I had already been doing should have put me in near perfect health status but instead, I always felt anxious—like I wasn’t doing enough.
It was time to go from an uneducated health expert to an educated one.
I started pursuing my Public Health degree, and took a class called Chemistry for Nutrition. It was taught by a Professor with a post baccalaureate in nutrition sciences, PhD in neurobiology, registered and licensed dietician, and clinical nutrition researcher at Oregon Health & Sciences University.
Using evidence-based research, she was able to debunk every health claim thrown at her by a pretty tough group of health crazed Portlanders, most of them armed with giant mason jars filled with homemade goop, concocted out of every health myth you could fit in a blender.
“Everything in moderation” was the Professor’s stance but no one wanted to believe her. And herein lies the problem, we have become reliant on the media to deliver complex health information that is engaging and easy to digest. As a result, we are left with competing health messages from savvy marketers, willing to skew research to sell products.
Everyone has a friend or family member touting the benefits their latest miserable sounding health regime. During my health obsessed days, I tried convincing my husband we had to do a “colonic cleanse” to rid our bodies of “toxins”. Thankfully, it was just too plain gross for him to entertain. Turns out, the Mayo Clinic cites evidence showing “colonic cleansing” to cause serious problems if not used for anything other than preparation for specific medical procedures.
Ever experience that satisfied feeling you get when youtube helps you avoid paying a plumber? There is nothing more gratifying than solving your own problems, but we must keep in mind fixing a toilet is not the same as treating a health issue. The recent explosion of digital health technologies increases our access to health tools that track everything from calories burned to resting heart rate. But just like that “colonic cleanse” I was so sure would boost my health, I’m not qualified to interpret my own health data.
Digital health has the potential to transform the effectiveness of the healthcare system and it will be exciting to watch it unfold and evolve. I’ve started this blog to help filter through the endless stream of health information telling us what to do and how to feel. I’m hoping to untangle the good from the harmful, ridiculous things we all fall for in the quest to live a healthier lifestyle.
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