In Part 1 of this post, I talked about how volunteering led to my career in sex education and then formal education in PUBLIC (not pubic) health (although I’m pretty knowledgeable about pubic health as well.) Public health uses research data to identify risk factors for disease, disability and death, in order to educate people about how to prevent them (not that we can prevent death – only delay it – but who wouldn’t rather delay it? And perhaps even more importantly, who wouldn’t wish to have a better quality of life leading up to that day?)
I talked a little bit about epidemiology and maternal child health, but when I got to nutrition, I had to stop because, well, a girl’s gotta eat.
So, back to nutrition: I’ve heard it said that cookbooks sell more widely than any other genre, but if that’s true, then certainly diet books must not be far behind. The problem is that they promise a magical formula, usually for weight loss. So do the diets themselves, whether it’s low fat/high carb, high fat/low carb, getting shots, taking pills, sniffing something, avoiding certain foods, eating foods in only certain combinations or whatever. And you know what? You can lose weight on nearly all of them, but not because they are magical. You lose weight because they all involve a reduction in calories while maintaining or increasing activity. It’s simple math: the ratio between energy in and energy out. And it’s almost guaranteed that you will gain the weight back – plus maybe more – as soon as you stop the “diet.” And you will stop the diet, because it’s not a reasonable way to eat. So what is reasonable? It’s no magic formula either, just something we’re afraid to face. Fewer animal-based foods and fats. More plant-based foods and fats. Less processed junk. More activity. End of story. Sound boring? Well, how boring is death? Or lying in a hospital bed? Or being unable to dance, make love, or just take a simple comforting bubble bath?
(In my book in progress, Licking the Spoon, I share some delicious recipes that follow healthy guidelines. Far from boring, they can improve our health, encourage us to relish openness and sensuality in all aspects of our lives, and specifically rev up our sexuality – to the point of ecstatic connection with our partners. Who doesn’t want ecstasy???)
There’s a lot more to public health. Like how reducing stress can prevent a physical or mental breakdown (and take note: Most of us don’t even realize we’re on that train until it slams into the car stuck on the track.) And how most accidents aren’t really “accidents.” Why some of us can drink in moderation while others become out of control. How we can address environmental challenges that threaten us all. And always with goals and strategies for making healthy behavior changes. It’s not magic. But it is the wisdom of our time. If only we would listen to it.
“Want some ecstasy?” “The love or the drug?”
*This has been a pubic service announcement for public health.