In my studies of health and wellness management, a professor made an interesting statement in a lecture about taking personal responsibility for our own wellness:
“To talk about health only as a matter of individual choices and personal responsibility assumes that we are always aware of the choices we’re making and that we are always free to make them. The truth is that not everyone is in the same position, and there are differences in how we live and the context in which we make our decisions.”
I had to think about this. In this world of information-overload, how can we possibly be unaware of choices? In this land of the free, how can we not be free to make those choices? How does this affect our personal responsibility?
First, how can we be unaware of choices? Here are a few reasons:
- Lack of facilities, businesses or services that offer health information or healthy choices in small or rural communities
- Limited access to health information for low-literacy and non-English speaking populations
- Limited computer or Internet access to find online health and wellness information
- Belief that natural wellness products and services are very expensive and only available to wealthy people
- Confusing information about the safety and trustworthiness of wellness information and products
- Medical professional bias that encourages patients to discredit natural health and healing as fake or ‘just a fad’.
From the above list, we can see choices are limited by a lack of quality information in formats and places where people can easily find it. You’re not free to choose if you don’t know you have choices.
Second, what could limit the freedom to make those choices? Here are some things that can limit the freedom to make healthy choices:
- Health conditions that prevent eating certain foods, such as trouble digesting vegetables, fruits, legumes, or grains, or mobility conditions that limit movement
- The over-availability and convenience of processed packaged foods, junk foods, and ready-to-eat microwave meals that encourage convenience over healthy nutrition
- A steady diet of convenience foods that contain chemical additives that may promote carbohydrate addiction, or strong cravings for sugary and starchy foods, which are often mixed with unhealthy fats and oils. This addiction may cause an inability to choose healthy foods because of the strong physical cravings.
- Influence from family or friends who believe natural healing is “bogus” and discourage talk about it, practicing it, or using natural products or treatments.
- Lack of sources for quality information and ‘how-to’ instruction.
These examples serve to show that “not everyone is in the same position, and there are differences in how we live and the context in which we make our decisions.”
Take some time to think about whether any of the things I listed affect you, your family or your friends. If you have any of these limitations, think about ways you can overcome them. If you live in a choice-limited community, get together with others and brainstorm ideas for getting more natural health information and services. You may find ways to create some do-it-yourself healthy choices that can empower you toward taking personal responsibility for your health and wellness.
If you’re stumped for ideas or things to do, the DIY Healthy Lifestyles Journal can help you and your groups to discover ways to get around the limitations that keep you from exploring natural health.
Please use the comments box below if you have questions, comments, or would like more information.