It's All About the Environment!

Written by Dr. Chris Hastings for the Brattleboro Reformer October 10, 2014.

Having just turned 50, and being involved with health for the majority of those years as an athlete, coach, and now, as a chiropractor, I'm starting to realize what works. I also begin to realize what doesn't. For the latter: sound bites. They don't work. Eat more protein. Don't eat gluten. Eat whole grains. Do Cardio. Don't do cardio--do weights. You get the idea. Whatever the latest diet fad or exercise craze, it just adds to the confusion and confusion is great for making everyone stop dead in the water.

What I have learned does work, for most areas of people's health and my own, is changing the environment. As I have written before, we are all creatures of habit; if you want to change a habit, you better change your habitat. Here are some of my personal successes.

I am the father of an 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. I am well aware of the morning chaos that ensues with the school year. For a long time, we compounded the problem with the TV. I would wake up and watch the weather; my wife would follow with the news (most of it bad). As a result, there was always a constant struggle to get lunches made, teeth brushed, and hair combed.

The solution was simple: turn off the TV. I'm not talking about not turning on the set. I'm talking about getting the cable turned off. I would love to see the differences in the levels of stress hormones in my body between watching the news and not. Trust me, it would be significant.

The second change to my environment which has been significant is the garden. Apart from raising really good food, it has turned out to be a godsend for my children. I fight the same battles most all of us with children face, trying to figure out how to get healthy calories into kids against a tsunami of Cocoa Puffs/Nestle/et.al. advertising. No easy task. And by no means are my kids the models for perfect diets. I'm trying to win the war, not the battle!

The point is when my kids see peas and carrots coming out of the garden, they take a little pride and a little ownership in the process and as a result are more apt to eat those vegetables. Recently we have been experimenting with lacto fermentation--making incredible pickles and dill beans. And my kids actually eat them! We're laying the groundwork for some nice habits later on. I should add that I consider gardening relaxation therapy with some mild physical therapy thrown in!

A final tip is the family ski pass (send me an e-mail and I'll tell you where to get the best kept ski deal!). This one is a godsend as it makes winter not just bearable, but enjoyable. We often go with a group of families.

It gets us out of the house for some physical exercise with groups of friends to play outside. The difference between a pass and buying tickets can't be overstated. It's the difference between going often or waiting for the perfect day, which in Vermont in the winter . . . you get the idea. Pre paying, for any endeavor, is much more likely to make it happen.

Most of us live hectic lives and yet we all want to experience health and have happy, healthy families. There are so many ways we can all creatively make small changes to our environments which lead us to do the things that we know will make us healthier in some way.

I invite all of us to start looking at health in a broader context--not just what we weigh or whether we're sick--but are we truly happy and living fulfilling lives with enriching relationships.

Dr. Chris Hastings is a Chiropractic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. He is a former Olympic athlete and U.S. Ski Team Development Coach. His expertise is in sports medicine, nutrition, and Functional Medicine. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic at (802) 722-4023; 4923 U.S. Route 5, Westminster, VT; www.sojourns.org; find us on Facebook.

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