Healthy Eating: Filling a Leadership Void

Finding “Lifestyle Leaders” in Everyday Places

People always kid me about reading month-old newspapers and magazines.  I say it’s a great way to get an historical perspective on things!  With that in mind, may I report on something from clear back in November of 2009:  Prevention magazine interviewed both Arthur Agatston, MD, of South Beach Diet fame,and Andrew Weil, MD, pioneer in the use of integrative medicine.  These health and wellness giants were asked about their own personal prescription for wellness.  Three surprises:

  1. First, that their personal regimens are so similar and simple:  Eating well, supplementing only modestly, getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly are primary pillars for both.  In addition, Agatston believes in moderate indulgences (chocolate being his favorite) and he cultivates strong family and friend relationships.  Weil grows a lot of his own food and takes a mixture of Asian mushrooms for immune support.
  2. Secondly, it was interesting to see that their regimens were, on the whole, pretty unremarkable.  “Eat right, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly.”  We’ve only heard that mantra a thousand times over the last 30 years!  Shouldn’t good health require something more sophisticated, like intense knowledge about different foods, nutritional facts, statistics, and research studies?  Apparently not.  Both these men are enjoying wonderful health by following a routine so simple that any ordinary Joe Blow could do it.  For dinner, as an example, both men typically eat fish or chicken with veggies.  How hard is that (although I hope they subscribe to Vegetable a Month Online Magazine so they can do something fun with their fish and veggies, like White Fish with Leeks en Papillote.)
  3. That brings me to a third surprise in reading these interviews:  Both experts were so candid about their personal habits.  They could be because they actually practiced what they preached.  They could show as well as tell.

This final thought got me thinking about leadership in the healthy eating area.  Who else is “out there,” modeling how to live a balanced, healthful lifestyle, even though practically every aspect of our culture militates against it?  I thought about our business leaders, political leaders, spiritual leaders, celebrities, sports figures, non-profit leaders.  Very few (even among those debating health care reform!) qualify as role models for the balanced lifestyle that leads to optimal wellness.  In fact, many could be poster children for how not to live.

Surveying the field, it became clear that healthy lifestyle leaders are few and far between.  Weil and Agatston are remarkable not because of some special formula they possess but because they are two of that sadly small group. Maybe the absence of widespread role modeling helps explains why “wellness living” is such a tough act to follow.

Where does this leave us?  Doomed to wander, aimless and leader-less in the fast food deserts?  It might be tempting to consider ourselves helpless until “somebody” fixes our lifestyle mess.  Meanwhile, we can continue buying cookie packs from the vending machines at work.   But maybe not so fast.

It may be a while before those in formal leadership roles become healthy lifestyle leaders.  In the meantime, and before we die of heart attacks, why not head back to the grassroots?

We’re all potential good eating leaders, especially parents since the way we eat is one of the biggest determinants of how our children eat.  It may seem like “nobody looks up to little old me,” but  actually, anybody could be the spark that gets a fire started.  So skip the cookies in the vending machine.  People are watching and waiting for leadership, even from little old me and you.

Put yourself on a pedestal, honor every good choice you make and vow to be more like that person!  That kind of crazy behavior can start a wild fire.

What if, day after day, people saw you eating nuts and dried fruit for a snack?  What if you started bringing a lunch of healthy dinner leftovers instead of heading to the food court for pizza?  What if you hosted a salad potluck instead of a dessert potluck for your monthly book club?  What if your boss took your suggestion to ditch Friday donuts for a once-a-month healthy sandwich bar?  What if your kids stopped bringing sodas to school and just drank water?  What if you order the dish with lots of vegetables when taking clients dinner?

We all touch countless lives.  What better gift can we bring to those encounters than a quiet testament to the beauty, joy and health-giving richness of real foods?  I just read about a new documentary called Food Fight.  It’s subtitle:  “Revolution Never Tasted So Good.”  As with all revolutions, this delicious revolution is happening from the grassroots—enjoy every minute of it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: