So, there I was: dressed up in my Saturday best, walking to synagogue last week, when something hit my head (thank heavens I was wearing a hat). Yes, folks: a bird had relieved itself directly above my head. Thinking that it was an acorn (in June??), I continued on to synagogue and proceeded to greet people outside the building, oblivious to the fact that I was sporting a huge bird **** on my lovely new straw hat. Fortunately, I passed a mirror before walking into the actual service (what a shock that was!) and managed to wipe it off. Phew!!
Why, you might wonder, am I sharing this minor misfortune with you? Here’s why:
We tend to think of disease like that bird poo – landing on our heads out of the blue as we are unsuspectingly going about our daily business.
And, indeed, some conditions do land like that. But not most. Because, in the world we live in, what most of us end up suffering from is a chronic disease rather than an infectious or contagious disease. Now, here’s the thing about the lion’s share of chronic disease: it’s caused by the little decisions we make day to day. It doesn’t fall from the sky. It is not an act of God. It is not a lightning strike. Nobody sets out for the supermarket one day in rude health and comes home with Type 2 diabetes.
By the time of actual diagnosis, things will have been going very, very wrong for a very long time. Inflammation, the driver of chronic disease, will have been building for years. Take Alzheimer’s for example (now dubbed Type 3 diabetes because Type 2 sets the scene for its onset): did you know that the disease takes hold decades before the first symptoms appear?
The fact is that the vast majority of disease and early deaths we see around us are preventable. They are preventable because they are lifestyle-driven. And unlike your genes, you can modify your lifestyle at any point. You can even start today.
We live in an environment that, unfortunately, propels us at every junction along the road to chronic disease. That means that, unless we opt to be proactive, deliberate and absolutely resolute in looking after our health, we just get swept along with the tide. And that tide is now a tsunami of chronic disease that is threating to capsize our health service.
The biggest factor in determining whether you develop a chronic disease or not is what goes into your mouth. Eating a pro-inflammatory diet of highly processed foods filled with sugar, refined carbs and toxic, industrially produced oils has, disastrously, become the norm. It is killing us. Not in a sudden-death type of way. Not in a bird-poo type of way. But in a creeping-up-on-you, ever-so-slowly-that-you-don’t-even-notice type of way. Make no mistake, though: it is killing is.
If that sounds bleak, the flipside is empowering, positive and hopeful. You have the power to make different choices surrounding your lifestyle that will set you on a different path. You have the power to change what you put on your fork. You can choose to ditch highly processed, fake foods and choose instead to fill your plate with potently anti-inflammatory wholefoods (including a rainbow of veggies, olive oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds) that have the power to not only protect you from chronic disease but even reverse it.
So please, please don’t let your health strategy be to carry on feeding your body a crappy diet until a heart attack or stroke shocks you out of it. Don’t pray for good health one minute and eat a whole pack of chocolate biscuits the next. Don’t play Russian roulette, counting on getting away with it, because you’ve got away with it so far. Chronic disease is shifty, lurking, insidious and it’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to it slowly taking over your body. Until, that is, the day that the **** hits the fan.
The bowel movement of a passing bird? That’s out of our hands. But our health? Well, that’s primarily down to our lifestyle. And our lifestyle is in our own hands and our hands alone. Don’t hand your health over to the waiting arms of the processed food industry. It’s far, far too precious to exchange for a pile of junk.