Health Beyond The Scale
For the most part, people strive to simply look good by looking thinner or dressing better or wearing makeup; this is too superficial. In a world where people are constantly defining themselves by how much they weigh, make, their caloric intake, or how many likes a photo has people have become obsessed with quantifying happiness and needing to be validated by people other than themselves. The internet has become saturated with beauty/makeup, fashion, and “health” blogs that further contribute to our obsession with image. From YouTube to Instagram, a majority of the conversations about health are limited to #foodgoals, juicing, water fasting for 10-25 days for “spiritual reasons”, and competition between which smoothie bowl photographs the best instead of educating subscribers why the contents of said smoothie bowl is nutritious. Like beauty, health has unfortunately become skin deep and another area where girls and women are pitted against each other for only the skinniest, prettiest, and one who follows the cleanest diet to emerge victorious.
Neither American or Latino culture places enough emphasis on holistic health. When the topic of health is talked about, it mainly refers to physical health. Our physical health, how we look, can be a manifestation of what is going on mentally and spiritually. Anxiety, stress, not letting go of painful pasts, allow pressure from all directions to cripple us, and many other things destroy our gut health, weaken our immune system, and create an environment where we don’t look or feel out best. Because physical health is so interconnected to our mental and spiritual health, we should broaden the conversation of health to include these two aspects.
In mainstream media you see how spirituality and religion is completely absent if not ridiculed which is unfortunate. American culture tends to eschew religion or spirituality while Latino culture treats religion and health separately which shouldn’t be the case as spiritual health is the foundation of health because it permeates into the mental and physical aspects of an individual. Spirituality as been mainly associated with morality than with health. If there is seldom mentioned a spiritual component, it somehow involves water fasting for an absurdly unhealthy period of time as means to “detox”; even the spiritual aspect of health has become an avenue to lose weight! If one studies the role health played in the Bible, you’ll begin to see how Christ provided a fantastic template of how one should view health as well as how closely spirituality is tied to mental and physical health.
Christ said in Matthew 4:4 that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” What Christ meant that in tandem with sustenance man is to also nourish himself spiritually through a relationship with God. The health of a man is measured not by the quality of food he eats but rather his spiritual condition. This is confirmed by those of faith who pray or meditate living healthier lives than those who abstain from faith.⁶ It doesn’t matter if a person eats the healthiest foods if their mind is polluted with anxiety, stress, and negativity. Having a relationship with God frees a person and this effect permeate to his mental and physical health. A close study and analysis of Christ’s miracles reveals that health was at the center of a vast majority of His greatest miracles. From healing the sick, blind, lame, possessed, or dead, Christ saw spirituality and the worst states of health as a medium to connect with the broken human condition and demonstrate the power of having a relationship of faith with God. It is important to notice that Christ was never condemning or indoctrinating the masses on His time here on earth but rather meeting their needs of hunger and healing. It wasn’t money, materialistic things, adorning the body with the finest clothes and makeup, or seeking power that Christ saw as a path to fulfillment, joy, and success but rather the combination of spirituality and health. After encountering Christ, people were profoundly and radically changed for the better. What Christ did was meet people in their frailest, vulnerable, and most desperate of states and restored their spiritual, mental, and physical health thus initiating a new life and providing a strong foundation by which they could live their best lives.
In this manner, the media should educate people about how to go deeper and nourish their mental and spiritual health above anything else to reap the physical results. I’m not saying beauty, fashion, and “health” blogs are all bad. I’m just disappointed that said type of blogs send the message that looking good is the most importance thing in life thus further fuel our obsession with appearance while neglecting what truly matters: our spiritual and mental health. Beauty, fashion, and healthy eating blogs are simply the cherry on top once you work on the inside.
Empowering Latinos With Information To Eradicate Diabetes and Obesity
Maya Angelo aptly said, “When you know better, you do better.” I truly believe that the greatest problems among Latinos is lack of information; Latinos don’t know any better so they don’t do any better. Education and information of any sort not only liberates individuals but empowers them to make better choices which results in better lives.
Information that can begin to tackle our obesity and diabetes epidemics is scarce be it in English or Spanish. Changing what we eat is at the crux of both epidemics and enabling this change is the key to solving this problem. Unfortunately, educational resources and information about how to change and what foods to substitute unhealthy ones are unknown for the most part among Latinos. I have yet to see any books or information translated to Spanish or vigorously marketed to a Latino audience that talks about the dangers of genetically modified food such as corn and wheat which Latinos heavily consume, animal hormones present in all the meat Latinos consume, how inflammatory foods wreak havoc in our bodies, the negative effects of sugar and dairy products, and why gluten-free might be the better way. A vast majority of Latinos have no idea what the USDA’s “organic” seal means as well as what The Non-GMO Project does; I have yet to find either seal at a Mexican or Latino grocery market in Northern California.
One would think that since Latinos are facing a diabetes epidemic health and wellness bloggers and book publishers would educate Latinos about the low glycemic diet, introduce alternative natural sweeteners, and provide non-dairy alternatives for milk and yogurt such as soy, almond, and coconut but this isn’t the case. One would think that since Latinos face the second highest obesity rate in the nation the clean eating movement, those who advocate for a more plant-based diet, the gluten-free bandwagon would educate Latinos about the devastating effects of modern frankenwheat, corn, and soy but sadly, this isn’t the case.
Two books that I have read and recommend to anyone I meet that radically changed my view on food are Wheat Belly by cardiologist Dr. William Davis and The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner. Wheat Belly was translated into Spanish but judging by the fact it only has 3 five out of five reviews on Amazon in the Spanish translation versus the whooping 5,274 reviews in the English version, it isn’t a stretch to conclude that the book probably wasn’t heavily marketed to Latinos. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People appears to be just recently translated to Spanish without reviews and #307 in Amazon’s book section which is a shame because I enjoyed this book so much and even contains a section about Costa Rica that talks about how a specific region is one of the five regions in the entire world that are home to the most centenarians. Buettner’s book would be well received by Latinos as he doesn’t advocate for a diet but rather a lifestyle change which is more in line with my views of viewing health holistically and more reasonable to follow.
Our obesity and diabetes epidemic present bloggers and brands with a tremendous business opportunity to empower Latinos with information that can revolutionize their health that neither are taken seriously or aggressively pursuing which is such a massive shame for both Latino who are left uninformed and business’ bottom line.
The obesity and diabetes epidemics presently affecting millions of Latinos and millions of others will improve only until the media and all spheres of influence begin sending a different message about health and expanding its context to include a more holistic approach. Empowering Latinos with information that will help them make better food choices is probably a tipping point to affect the change so needed. It is only until there is a shift from “embracing your curves” to “embracing health” that people will begin living healthier lives.
There must be a more concerted effort to target Latinos of all ages as well as those who are the most affected by obesity and diabetes. I honestly feel that obesity and diabetes among Latinos is so fierce not only because of our lack of information about healthier foods but also because our voices are relatively small in the body image and health/wellness arena.
But like Gandhi said, I’m trying to be the change I want to see in this world by writing posts such as these to create awareness about our health issues and how underserved we are in the health/wellness and natural/organic food industry.
P.S. If holistic health interests you, read The Ministry of Healing by Ellen G. White. White was well ahead of her time in many things scientists, psychologists, and doctors have only recently confirmed.