iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Alex Pattakos

Alex Pattakos

GET UPDATES FROM Alex Pattakos

Wellness: A Revolution Whose Time Has Come

Posted: 04/ 1/11 04:43 PM ET

With all of the civil unrest going on in the Arab world, along with public protests against austerity measures and other actions being taken by governments in other parts of the globe including England, Greece, and the U.S., it looks like we're living in "revolutionary" times.

As the media is focused on such major transformational events, there is another albeit more quiet revolution taking place in our own backyard. It is being called the "Wellness Revolution" and it may prove to be the key to true healthcare reform -- and the only viable solution to rising healthcare costs -- in America and other developed nations where declining health trends, particularly the rising obesity rate, have reached epidemic proportions.

According to the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, "One should eat to live and not live to eat." Likewise, the philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras, advised that "health is a thing you ought not despise; in diet use a mean, and exercise; and that's a mean whence does no damage arise." And the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, was a proponent of healthful eating and hygiene for the achievement of a healthy body. "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food," he stressed, and he wasn't referring to super-sized fast-junk food!

This ageless advice applies today as much if not more than it did in ancient Greece. Yet in so-called "developed" nations with all of the benefits that progress has afforded them, the costs of enlightenment have also skyrocketed and in many ways appear to be out of control. No longer living from and in harmony with the land, we seem more and more content to live from the lab. And this shift away from the wise counsel given us by Hippocrates is influencing our personal and collective health, as well as our entire planet, in insidious and harmful ways.

A healthy lifestyle has been replaced in the postmodern world by "disease management," prescription and OTC drug dependency, and crisis intervention as opposed to prevention. Responsibility for our personal health and for those of others has been turned over to professionals who presumably know better and will take care of us when we're sick. The idea of food as medicine and medicine as food has become a foreign concept for many people who, as they move farther and farther away from the 'land,' don't have a clue where their food even comes from!

The insidious nature of this challenge to our way and quality of life is, or at least should be, alarming. Yet in many respects, too many Americans have chosen -- subconsciously if not consciously -- to live out their lives on autopilot or cruise control, oblivious to the risks and dangers before them. And what's worse is that many people live in denial of their hazardous circumstances much like the poor helpless 'victim' in the oft-heard parable of the boiled frog. This parable contends that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. However, if you put it in a pot of cold water and turn up the heat until the water reaches the boiling point, the frog will stay in the water until it boils to death! Whether or not this parable is actually true is not the point. What is true is that many people through their actions or inactions are 'boiling to death' unaware or in denial of the dire consequences that will result from their lifestyle choices. This is a sad commentary on the state of humanity in the postmodern world, is it not?

Not very long ago I came across several news articles that underscored the problem/challenge that I'm describing here. One of these articles was entitled, "Many Americans Don't Even Know They're Fat," by Amanda Gardner, a reporter for HealthDay News. The article reported a Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll that found a not-so-surprising statistic: 30 percent of people who are overweight think that they are normal size.

Many Americans, in fact, often believe that they are thinner than they really are, even when the scales are shouting otherwise to them! Even among those in the study who could be accurately classified (using their actual body-mass index or BMI) as "obese," some 70 percent of this group felt that they were simply overweight. Such skewed perceptions, it was reported, may help to explain why overweight and obesity rates in the United States continue to go up.

Obviously, if people don't recognize a problem or don't recognize the severity of the problem, they are less likely to do something about it. Society's concern here is not simply about perceptions of body image per se. The issue at hand goes way beyond the need to reconcile such a dilemma.

From a healthcare and lifestyle perspective, again the issue is much more insidious and, frankly, dangerous to our personal and collective health. Imagine for a moment that obesity becomes the new "norm." Besides the body image question, think about how such a standard would influence the rates (and associated "costs") of health threats such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. If obesity became the new norm, one need not be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the rates of these health threats will increase significantly in both statistical and practical terms.

Against this uninviting scenario, the audacity of hope fortunately still exists as people active in the "Wellness Revolution" continue to lead the way out of the abyss. In this connection, you may recall the English chef, restaurateur, and media personality, Jamie Oliver, aka "The Naked Chef," who has been campaigning vigorously against the use of processed foods in national schools.

Oliver is perhaps best known for his American television series, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," in which he tried to change the way people eat in Huntington, West Virginia, which in 2008 had been rated as the unhealthiest city in the United States. We should also recognize the efforts made to solve childhood obesity under the "Let's Move" initiative that was launched last year by First Lady Michelle Obama. As part of this comprehensive initiative, President Barack Obama established the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an interagency plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

Due to media exposure, these elements of the quiet revolution that is taking place in our society are only among the most noticeable attempts to counteract the stark healthcare crisis that looms ahead. They don't by any means take into account what economist Paul Zane Pilzer refers to as the "next trillion dollar industry"-- wellness. He points out that even "sickness industry" companies, such as McDonalds and Wal-Mart, are getting into the act by making huge investments in fresh and organic foods. He also discloses that medical costs now exceed profits for most large employers and that corporations are beginning to recognize that "wellness" and disease prevention "are the only viable solutions to rising healthcare costs that threaten their very existence." As someone of Greek heritage, I also see a window of opportunity here for promoting and leveraging the Cretan/Greek Diet along with a healthy lifestyle that is grounded in the traditional Greek village way of life.

You can find out more about Dr. Alex Pattakos, author of the internationally bestselling book "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," in his HuffPost bio. You can learn about his new initiative, The OPA! Way® lifestyle of "Living Your Inner Greece," which means living All of Life to the fullest with Enthusiasm and Meaning, as well as join the OPA! Village at www.theopaway.com.

 
 
 

Follow Alex Pattakos on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrMeaning