The science of healthy living?


By Clive Lindley-Jones | July 12, 2010 2:14 pm

The other day, my eye was caught by a banner headline on the American news magazine, Newsweek, that announced articles on “The Science of Healthy Living”. Well if you have been following any of these online coaching sessions, you will know I could not resist this and so I duly purchased my copy.

Sadly, it was nothing of the sort. First of all, it makes the cardinal error of mixing medical intervention and screening with health. No one would want to deny the wonderful advances that have been made in both housing and clean water, as well as medical diagnosis and therapy.

One particular wonder that I have witnessed in my career is the MRI scanner. Now we can see into the body in ways that still seem miraculous, especially to those of us who grew up using only such tools as the more harmful and often less effective X-rays. However, marvelous as these tools are, they should not be mixed up with healthy living!

The Newsweek article melds guidelines on what vaccinations, mammograms or prophylactic drugs to take with the idea of a healthy life. As more and more of us become alienated, depressed, obese and sick, we are trading in ‘health’ for a partial reduction of gross illness and instead settle for a half life of lost vigour and dullness that shades into depression and invalidity. Somewhere, the joy and vitality that is true health both of ourselves and our communities, slips from our grasp, soon to drop out of even of our expectation. Without vigilance, we are in danger of falling into the strange existence ordained for us by the darker vision of Monsanto and the amoral world of the multinational corporation – the same companies that buy up the rights to pretend to feed the likes of olympic athletes on hamburgers and coke. How many adverts for real food or drink do we expect to see in 2012 at the Olympics in London?

We don’t even need to get into the argument about the merit (or not) of such things such as vaccinations to see that big drug, big farming/food & big medicine has made a Faustian pact in attempting to co-opt the idea of health with the equally valid pursuit of avoiding illness.

We can see, in the poor health and fitness of so many of us in the Western world, that treating and even preventing illness, can be a worthy and, at times, heroic cause; but the true challenge for us in the future is a bigger and better one. Too much profit and greed is invested in perpetuating the same sorry states we see swamping the world, where our own sad habits of harshness and denatured living are spreading like the diseases, such as measles and syphilis, we once inflicted on more isolated societies.

So, the real question is – how do we design our lives and our societies to encourage true health?