As a child, I was taught to respect all of Creation. My Native American community raised much of our own food. Medicines were often recipes handed down over generations. The lines between culture/tradition and “progress” were clear and evident. The way of life I knew was viewed by outsiders as “antiquated.” One could choose a better way of life by buying into “new and improved.” The choice seemed to be clear; why wouldn’t one choose “progress?”
I knew from an early age that I was interested in medicine and nursing seemed like a logical choice. The training and education I received by attending university provided me with the science of our bodies.
We are truly miracles of creation as expressed in Psalm 139:
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
But through my studies I became aware that there were high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease among our people. The elders would speak of a time when these diseases were not known. What had changed?
Our way of life, our traditions and culture, food, food sources and medicines were being replaced by that “new and improved” way of living. It seemed natural to investigate the impact of these changes. Coincidentally, cautions surfaced about food sources that had been treated with chemicals, pre-packaged, processed foods, and food coloring and its effects on children.
It was also apparent that people had become less mobile. Many jobs evolved to include sitting at a desk or computer and driving rather than walking.The appearance of gyms and exercise facilities became more common. This created a more efficient life. But what was the cost?
These questions led me to re-evaluate what I considered a healthy life-style. They have informed my own way of living as well as the way I live into my call as a medical professional. As I continue to grow in my experience of God through studying Creation and science, I have my own experiences of health that provide evidence towards defining health and wellness.
From my perspective, there is something to be learned about food sources. Growing your own food might not be practical but you can be guided towards eating what is normally grown and available. One of my Rules of Life is, “Eat fresh, local and in season.” This might seem like a small statement but the value to my health has been incredible. By following this rule I have gone from an unhealthy weight to a healthy weight. My skin tone is better. I have not been susceptible to seasonal viruses and my energy level allows me to do just about anything I would like to do.
I have also learned that movement is essential to health. When we think about it, everything in our bodies is moving. Our blood flows, our breath expands and contracts, our eyes dilate and contract adjusting to light. Even the little hairs in our ears are vibrating so we can hear the sounds of Creation.
I have been a fairly active person all my life and I thought I was doing a great job moving. That is, until I discovered the UP band (quite by accident) and the reality hit home. The daily recommendation is that we take 10,000 steps a day (that’s about five miles of walking). I love to garden. I play with my little dog as we chase around the yard. I care for my 93 year old mother and keep house, cook and clean. But my work requires sitting at my desk.
When I was held accountable by this movement tracker, I had to admit that most days I had not reached one third of the daily recommendation. So, things had to change. I have my band set to remind me if I am sitting more than 30 minutes. When it vibrates, I get up and get on the elliptical machine that now lives in my office. I take phone calls standing up. And some days, I go for walks.
Water is my last and maybe most important strategy for health. Drink water. It helps us stay hydrated and it clears away toxins from our bodies.
True progress requires weaving the wisdom of our ancestors (culture/tradition) with new knowledge and understanding. This is holistic health/wellness, which leads to Christ-like living: honoring the miracle of our bodies and all Creation.
[Photo credit: Takopix Mixberry Heart, Free for commercial use / No attribution required.]
How do you honor your creation by tending your health?