Making us sick: how we are poisoning ourselves and what we can do about it

It would seem the majority of us humans are slowly killing ourselves. It feels awkward broaching the subject with anyone. You don’t want to be the one to bring it up, to actually name the thing. You don’t want to appear callous or rude when your friend whines about how sick she feels after her third donut. As a society we are becoming more and more immune to it. We are overlooking it, looking around it, blaming disease and misfortune, and even justifying it as a choice. However, overeating and under exercising are both there. Unhealthy levels of fitness are there with them. As a people we are becoming more and more unfit and we are consuming more and more rubbish. Toxins.  Poisons.

We are ignorant and under-educated when it comes to our food choices. There is more information available at our fingertips than ever before, but I look around at our children and they are almost never denied what they want – even when what they want is probably just as bad for them as an illegal drug. In Australia some of the additives allowed in our foods are actually illegal in other countries, because there, they are actually considered toxic. We feed them to our children, unaware, because it’s not like the boxes contain warnings like the cigarette packets do (even though they probably should). Food companies dump as much sugar, fat and salt along with artificial flavours and colours to trigger our brains’ dopamine response so we are literally addicted to our foods. We are dropping like flies from ‘lifestyle diseases’. We know the stuff we are ingesting is bad for us, and yet we continue to do it.

Why? Why are we doing this to ourselves? My own struggle with Fibromyalgia pretty much gave me a choice. Either, I continue to put things into my body that are bad for me and live my life with chronic pain and fatigue, or I have a good hard look and educate myself and get rid of the crap. I chose to do the latter, but I know sooooo many people who are almost incapable of choosing that for themselves. Why? Why don’t we care? Or is it because we refuse to believe that a lot of our bodies issues are from what we put into it? Is it just too hard a pill to swallow? I know for me, if it wasn’t for daily, almost unbearable pain, I too would have probably ignored it. Why? Because I like food. Because I like sugar and carbs and fat and salt and junk. I like easy. I am inherently lazy and I like cheap and easy. I know I’m not alone. But I’ve made the changes. I’m still making them. The difference is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve cut out almost all refined sugar. Dark chocolate (a serve or two) is probably my biggest vice. But one of the best things I’ve done is up my exercise.

Nobody ever told me this until I did my own research but in one of the videos I watched in a course on the human body, a professor from Harvard University (among many other researchers and health professionals) said that exercise should be the FIRST prescription for almost every malady that there is. He says that exercise levels should be treated as a ‘vital sign’, so check blood pressure and all the rest and then ask how many minutes of moderate exercise the patient is getting per week. Adults are meant to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. He says that before handing out a prescription for depression or chronic fatigue or (fill the dots), that he will prescribe exercise as his first port of call. Exercise does so many things for the mind and body that it is actually a necessary thing in order for us to maintain our health. The only alternative is that we don’t do it, and our body hates us for it.

These days, you look around, and it’s easy to see how we aren’t getting enough. We work at our desks, we sit to talk, we eat constantly and we drive everywhere. Obviously there are also lots of us who don’t do this as well, but it’s practically considered ‘normal’ to not have enough time to exercise. But if exercise is as important as some suggest, then it would almost be as ridiculous as saying I don’t have enough time to eat, or breathe or sleep. Exercise shouldn’t be left as a something we do if we have enough time, but rather a priority that we make time for and schedule the rest around. After all, we don’ t have time to be sick, but we are essentially making our selves sick by not doing the things we need to do to maintain our health.

How have you felt lately? Are you struggling to have enough energy? Is your body aching? Funnily enough, exercise is probably the cure. Are you getting 150 minutes of exercise a week? If you’re not, this research suggests that it’s only a matter of time before illness will ravage your body (if it hasn’t already).

I know so many of my friends and family who suffer from not having enough energy or not having enough mental clarity. Depression and anxiety are rampant. But the quickest form of relief is usually to take a medication for it. According to this research, that medication should be exercise. Before anything else. The theory is that if you’re actually giving your body and mind what it needs to function well, you won’t need to medicate it.

I could keep writing, but I’m off to do some exercise before I forget just how good it is for me.

- MC