Time for a new year’s revolution

Well here we are, it’s 2018 and I wasn’t even ready for 2017 when it began! Time has been flying. Anyone else feel like they would be so much more together if they could just put life on hold short term? Wouldn’t it be great to sort out things behind the scenes and then continue when we were ready? Amazing if we could do that with weight gain too. Imagine being able to hit pause, eat all the Christmas canapés we wanted, and then carry on in January as if nothing ever happened.

Instead, the new year comes around and our pants are a little tighter, our bodies a little heavier. We feel more sluggish and fatigued. It’s hard to get out and exercise because it’s cold and we don’t feel good either inside or out. We tend to either stick our heads in the sand and continue down the slippery slope, or find new motivation within new year’s goals and resolutions.

Last weekend, on New Year’s Eve, for the first time, I stayed home with the kids. They were desperate to stay up and were excited to watch the clock strike 12. They were flagging a little at 10pm so we livened things up with a dance party. It’s probably the easiest way to burn off a thousand calories — especially when they insist on being picked up and dipped repeatedly …. not so easy when they are 7 and 9!

But we also talked about new year’s resolutions, although Belle kept calling them “revolutions”. I gave up correcting her because it was really cute and, to be honest, maybe we all need a little revolution in our lives. “New year, new you” is a popular mindset and I love the enthusiasm that comes along with it. We have to be careful that we don’t imply the existing “you” is bad news. I’m pretty sure you’re great as you are , but there’s no harm in shooting for the best version of you that you can.

Last week, I promised you some detox tips, ideas for helping to ditch the sugar and the alcohol and get back into a healthier way of living. I promise I’ll still do that on social media, but I’ve got distracted this week by David Burt’s cool determination for a healthier Bermuda.

In the Premier’s 2018 new year’s message he said: “If I only had one wish, it would be for us, as Bermudians, to focus on becoming a healthier community.” Well, hear, hear. I can’t think of anything that’s more important.

The simple fact is that our health is the axis upon which everything else turns. Absolutely nothing gets worse when you are healthier and absolutely everything gets better. If your body and mind are happy and healthy, if you eat in a way that supports your body rather than taxing it at every single step, your relationships will be better, your confidence will be through the roof and your desire to move will be at an all-time high.

The problem is, how do we get there? How do we end the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting and self-sabotage?

It’s tempting to answer that question with a detailed nutrition plan. But to achieve a cultural shift, one in which the average Bermudian really does become healthier (and happier), then we have to do two things. People have to make healthy choices because they genuinely want to and there also has to be a supportive environment. It doesn’t matter how motivated or determined we are, the average person’s resolve can only hold fast for so long within our current food environment. It needs to be cheaper, easier and more socially acceptable to be healthy. At the moment, the opposite is true and until we change that, we’re always going to struggle.

With all that in mind, I have put together a wish list for 2018. I’m obviously not an expert in public policy and regulation, so maybe this list is for dreamers. But somewhere along the line we’re going to need a little revolution. We need to be OK with bold decisions and uncomfortable change. We need a list of ideas of how we can make these changes happen rather than a list of reasons why they won’t work. What’s below isn’t exhaustive, but maybe it’s a good place to start:

New Year’s Health Revolution: Three wishes for 2018

1. Community role models

In the same way that kids thrive academically in a nurturing home environment led by emotionally supportive role models, so they thrive from a health perspective. If children grow up around adults who are sedentary and eating junk, then they are most likely going to do the same. This extends beyond family though. Sometimes we’re “good” at home, only to be sabotaged at social events or by the community set-up.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional blowout, but if every holiday, every birthday, every christening, job promotion, bachelorette or social event is celebrated in an unhealthy way, then we are really in trouble.

Bermudians like to push the boat out at every opportunity (that’s one of the things I love about our culture) but it’s a problem when it’s largely unhealthy.

So what if parents, godparents, uncles, aunts, coaches, athletes, musicians, teachers, church leaders, politicians, doctors, police, entrepreneurs and firefighters all committed to leading by example? What if we created a team of people who were committed to spreading and advocating a message of good health within our community at every level? David Burt has promised that the Government is going to lead by example — imagine how amazing that would be!

2. Ethical food marketing for kids

In the US, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood exists to prevent Big Food from marketing their products directly to children.

They have had their hands full taking on Oreo adverts inside school buses and McDonald’s sponsoring reward “points” for good academic achievement (the better your grades, the more points you have to spend at McDonald’s…)! I am not sure we need a similar committee here, but as long as everyone agrees that targeting children with junk food ads is unethical.

Shouldn’t our kids be able to grow up without an automatic association between fun and junk food? Surely it’s not fair to teach kids about healthy eating at school and then send them home on buses advertising kids’ deals at KFC?

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to say yes or no to what a child can have, but we have to be practical about “pester-power”; exhausted parents are going to give in to their kids at the end of the day. It would be so much easier if companies weren’t allowed to target kids in the first place.

3. Sugar tax

I’ve been told it will never happen, but I really, really wish it would. Our healthcare claims are out of control — and largely spent on preventable disease.

Not only are we unable to afford our escalating premiums, but we can’t afford them because we (as a society) have been careless. I am not pointing the finger at individuals, I think we could all do a better job and we could all be more responsible. But again, we (as a society) are not set up to succeed — and that makes healthy living an exhausting battle.

Healthy food has to be cheap and easily accessible. Conversely, junk food needs to be expensive, harder to find and socially less acceptable. As it stands, we have junk on every street corner at affordable prices and we are always, always encouraged to celebrate or reward ourselves with some kind of “treat”.

Somehow, we are in a position where a large bucket of fried chicken costs less than a pack of blueberries. A big bottle of soda is cheaper than a bunch of bananas. And even if an apple is cheaper than a candy bar, the candy bar is still cheap enough for us not to bat an eyelid.

So what if a chocolate bar was double the price? Triple? What if a can of soda cost as much as a glass of wine? Would that impact our choices? Sure it would. Of course, this could only work if the money made was used , transparently, to subsidise fresh produce. Imagine if broccoli was 25 cents, filling up on fruit and vegetables instead of processed sugar and refined grain would impact our health potential dramatically.

I know that could mean financial fallout for lots of businesses and that it would be tricky within tourism, but there have to be solutions. A five-year grace period to adjust and diversify? Maybe that’s where we start. We need the big thinkers and we need them now, because I’m not sure there is any other way out.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda

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Published Jan 5, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 8, 2018 at 9:18 am)

Time for a new year’s revolution

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