Don’t get me wrong, I certainly approve of healthy changes and setting goals and the group motivation that is the making of New Year’s resolutions. As we say goodbye to an old year and welcome in the new, we attempt to let go of our bad habits and resolve to adopt new and better ones. No doubt, striving to cut a few pounds, committing to exercise, quitting smoking, giving up sweets, eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, reading more books, and watching less TV, are all laudable goals and admirable resolutions. Unfortunately, most of us make our resolutions determined to change, and unfortunately, abandon those goals long before February.
This year, why not make your New Year’s resolution a “Wellness Revolution”. Across the country people are beginning to make a transition. They’re beginning to see that health insurance is not health insurance at all, but medical insurance —or more accurately, sickness insurance. Today’s medical system is designed to provide medical treatment, or sickness care. The primary function is to match a problem with a diagnosis and provide a pill to cure or cover up that ill. It is not designed to promote health and wellness, and certainly not to prevent illness in the first place. Well intentioned marketing strategies have systematically changed the concept from medical insurance to health insurance and thus transformed the way Americans view how we address our own health and wellness. The result is the impression that if something isn’t covered by our health insurance, then it isn’t necessary for our good health. It has become the responsibility of the insurance company to dictate to us what it means to be healthy. We rely on a once a year physical, renamed a “health maintenance visit” to reassure us that we are “healthy and well”.
A few larger companies, having figured this out, and recognizing that a healthy workforce is more productive are implementing corporate wellness programs to support their employees. If you’re lucky enough to have an employer that supports and encourages health and wellness, by all means take advantage of it. But if you are not, then maybe it’s time to start investing in your own wellness. Maybe it’s time to make a transition from the illusion that a yearly doctor’s visit with a few normal lab values means that you are healthy, and it is time to invest in your own health.
This New Year is the perfect time to learn more about what it means to be truly healthy. Start simply and resolve to drink more water, eat less junk food or less food overall, and cut down on carbs and alcohol. Begin to exercise for condition, strength and flexibility, not just to lower the number on the bathroom scale. To lock in long term changes, meet with a Health coach or Dietitian, sign up with a personal trainer who can design an exercise program that actually fits into your lifestyle, or meet with a counselor or life coach and finally get that stress level under control. Maybe it’s time to begin some quality self-care: get regular massages, go for long walks, take a yoga class, practice meditation or guided prayer, or just frequently make time to grab a cappuccino with a friend. You can commit to spend more time outdoors, invest in a new hobby, join a club, start a regular family date night or game night, take a cooking class, find ways to exercise your mind as well as your body on a regular basis (this helps decrease your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s ).
I think it is time we learn how to exercise and eat and live for a lifetime of health and wellness, not just to cut 10 pounds by Valentines day. I wonder if its not finally time to make your goal to never need to use your sickness insurance, and to stopping deciding whether something is covered by your sickness insurance to dictate whether it’s worth your time and effort. It’s time to eat and exercise and stretch and hydrate and sleep and take care of your body and mind.
Resolve to work less and live more, to believe that strong and fit (not supermodel skinny) is the goal of true wellness. Resolve to change how you think about your health, and remember that medial care is what you get at the doctor’s office, and healthcare is something you do for yourself, each and every day.
My suggestion, make your New Years Resolution to join the Wellness Revolution.
~Dr. Lawrence Hutchison, MD, Medical Director