When is Normal, Abnormal?

The normal high temperature in Aiken for July 1-15 was 94.5 degrees. I don’t know about you, but for me this is abnormal.

It is normal to have debt. According to a recent Pew Trust report, 80% of Americans have some sort of debt. Over 38% of households in the US carry a balance on their credit card and the average balance for those who do is $16,048. Being debt free is abnormal. I want to be abnormal, don’t you?

Likewise, being overweight or obese is also normal in the US. Almost 69% of adult Americans were overweight or obese as of 2011-12, which is the latest reported data. This is calculated by Body Mass Index (BMI) which is a reasonable, though not perfect, measure of body fatness. A BMI of 25-29.9 is in the overweight range and a BMI of 30 or over is in the obese range. There are many diseases that are tightly linked to being obese including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, liver disease, and hypertension. It is estimated that obesity-related diseases account for 75% of our health care costs. I want to be abnormal, don’t you?

It is normal in America to take prescription drugs. Only 24% of adults 55-64 take no prescription drugs and only 10% of those over 65 take none. One-half of American adults live with one or more chronic diseases, so that is “normal”, too. Normal Americans are getting 2/3s of their daily calories from foods such as added vegetable oils, flour and cereal products, and added sweeteners. They are only getting 1/3 of their calories from nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, meats and dairy. This is a prime contributor to our obesity epidemic.

Normal Americans consume almost 20 teaspoons per day of added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. I want to be abnormal and consume 6 teaspoons or less.

The first definition of normal in the dictionary is defined as common. All of the examples above are of common situations. But I bet if you are reading this, you want to avoid being “normal”, but instead be abnormally healthy. Fortunately there are things we can to to help ourselves be “abnormal”.

1. Check your vital signs. These include your BMI (optimal is 20-24.9), triglycerides (optimal is under 100), HDL (optimal is over 55), fasting blood sugar (optimal is under 90), and blood pressure (optimal is under 120/80). If all of these are in the optimal ranges and you don’t have any other chronic concerns, then this is a fairly good indication you are on the right track health wise. If any of these are not optimal, then check your diet, exercise and stress levels.

2. Check your diet. What do you eat on a daily basis? A good starting point was given by Michael Pollan when he said “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Are you eating mostly whole foods or do you use packaged or frozen foods for most of your meals at home and eat fast foods often? How much added sugar are you eating (or drinking!) on a daily basis? Are you consuming five or more servings of vegetables daily?

3. Check your exercise. Are you doing some form of physical activity most days of the week? If not, then can you figure out some things to start doing on a regular basis?

4. Check your stress level. Stress is not determined by the amount of outside forces on us, but rather by how we handle the stressors in our life. Sometimes we can eliminate the external stressors, such as by eating a healthier diet and choosing non-toxic personal care and household products. In other cases, we cannot eliminate them. We have to learn to live with them by adopting stress reducing practices such as prayer, meditation, deep breathing and other similar strategies.

Let’s not be normal, instead let’s adopt Dave Ramsey’s principle. “Live like no else today, so you can live like no else tomorrow.” If you need guidance on improving your health in any of these areas, I would be delighted to help you. Contact me for a free, 20-minute phone consultation.

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