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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Notes from the Road


Forgive me my girlfriends if I take a break from the science for but a week and wax philosophical?

It has been quite a whirlwind over the last 10 days as I crossed the country on my first ever book tour. Although exhausted might I say that I am feeling rather inspired these days.

I have had the chance to speak to the masses through media about my little labour of love. I can’t help but reflect after almost two week on the who experience.

Sure on the surface there were the 25 or so outfit changes and the ability to finally justify my past season’s fashion binge. There was also the fact that my beloved was along for the adventure which made the whole experience more like a vacation than anything.

But it is a strange  thing to put oneself on display for the home viewer to watch and to sit in judgement. Every morning for the last 10 days I would get up at the crack of dawn, put on my best self and walk out into the world and onto a morning news set to discuss my book in 6 minutes or less.

It was indeed an unsettling feet to put oneself “out there” in the name of a healthy agenda and hope that the message might stick.

Make no mistake, I’ve had the most amazing  encounters with people from all over Canada and I consider myself so blessed to have been able to have such a platform for change.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, my sisters, about what makes a community a healthy one. For me health is a language I try to speak as freely as fashion be it in my daily life or in my daily work.

But I wonder if the conversation can’t be more of a global one- if we can’t extend the concept of health to the communities we live in.

What makes a neighbourhood or even a society a healthy one?

On the surface, when we think of healthy societies we often think of Sweden- yeh, Sweden – there’s a healthy country. The healthcare system is amazing, they have the longest life expectancy and many of their disease rates are at an all time low.

Let’s be clear- healthy communities need a healthy structure at their core. They should by their very nature promote wellness and therefore stave off illness.

You can’t have a healthy community without a code of conduct that stresses certain innate wellness principles. First things first- there has to be a philosophy behind a community’s desire to be healthier. If the members of a community or the governing body of that community doesn’t get behind the problem or the solution then we end the discussion here.

Next, you kind of have to have the infrastructure to have a healthy society. When you build a park- children will play. When you build sidewalks connecting people they will walk to connect. When you make it easier to be active in a person’s daily life they are more likely to do so.

I live in downtown Vancouver. I remember when I first moved here seven years ago I read an article about how the city planners of Vancouver insisted that their city be designed such that it was a place that people could live and work in. They wanted a downtown core where people could walk to work and play. Where they could live within proximity of all their daily needs so that they never needed a car for their daily activities. I remember thinking that THIS was a city for me.

It’s no surprise that Dr. Robert Ross, a professor of Kinesiology from Queen’s University talks about the concept of “Optimal Default”. Optimal Default implies that exercise or activity is the optimal choice. Take any office building, for example. Where are the stairs? Are they easy to find? Remember the high school you went to. Did it have a second floor? Was it easier to get to the second floor by elevator or by taking the stairs?

As buildings got higher, stairs became less and less prevalent for their use. I would argue that in any building over 3 stories, the stairs are used “in case of fire”. Unless the building is burning down- we use the elevator.

You can see how we already have a big problem. We have now essentially made a stipulation that unless we build cities differently we are doomed to fail in the wellness world.

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll ever restructure our current cities. Culturally we’ve become a nation of convenience. We’ve found a convenient way to eat and a convenient way to get from one place to another. I’m not na├»ve to think that we’ll tear up the freeways tomorrow and everyone will ride their bike to work. I know that fast food and fast cars are here to stay.

I’m not suggesting we abandon the use of elevators and walk ways but there must be a return in some form to activity as the default. When did we systematically engineer activity out of our lives and how do we try and bring it back?

As I write this I must admit…. I’m feeling a little sad. I’m not sure I have the solution for what make a city or a community a healthy one. I am baffled by how big the problem really is.

Perhaps it involves a return to the grass roots of it all, if you will. Could we delve a little deeper and see whether certain everyday healthy habits could be applied to our communities at large?

Maybe this is just what we need to shed a little light on a bit of a bleak situation. I am reminded that throughout history, no one ever solved any significant problems by continually highlighting how bad the situation is.

One thing I do know is the power of the human spirit. People really do want to be well. They want a better future for themselves and their families. They want to hope for more. So maybe its as simple as starting a conversation.

In the past week I've seen what one girlfriend can do to spark a change. I put myself out there and I really do believe that people will be better for it. It's not just about a change of an outfit, it's about a change in perspective

I guess in the absence of a global restructuring we’re going to have to start the healthy revolution one sister at a time.

Let’s start talking. Talk to your families about what they think it means to be healthier. Maybe we should ask ourselves what we could do tomorrow to be healthier. What one thing that we can change in our everyday routine to make our lives a little bit better?

Could we leave our car at home and walk or bike to work one or two days a week? Could we eat out less? Could we always take the stairs? Could we park our cars in the farthest spot in the lot? Could we take time every day to do one thing for our own health?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe by asking questions we’ll find some solutions. One thing I am clear on is that we really need to start talking; to each other and our leaders about what our healthy priorities should be. Maybe we’ll start a “wellness revolution” or maybe nothing will change.

So after almost two weeks of me talking endlessly, I thought I might start listening to the voices around me. It has been a remarkable lesson- this little “ego trip” of mine and I have no idea where it will go.

But here’ my challenge girlfriends- open your minds and your mouths and see what you come up with- I’m here to listen and watch the story unfold and hopefully participate in the magic that comes after. Go for it my cybersisters, I dare you.


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