Today is Earth Day.
One of the 7 Dimensions of Wellness is Environment.
What is Environmental Wellness?
According to the Student Health and Counseling Services Department at UC Davis in Davis, CA, environmental wellness “inspires us to live a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings… encourages us to live in harmony with the earth by taking action to protect it… promotes interaction with nature and your personal environment.”
“How do I demonstrate Environmental Wellness?“
- Be aware of the limits of the earth’s natural resources.
- Conserve energy by turning off unused lights.
- Recycle paper, cans and glass as often as possible.
- Enjoy, appreciate and spend time outside in natural settings.
- Do not pollute the air, water or earth.
- Avoid second-hand smoke.
How does Environmental Wellness apply to eating a healthful diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and overall quality of life?
The types of foods that are so widely available in the current food environment can be a cause to the rise in obesity rates. The human brain developed at a time when the food supply was very sparse. Throughout time, humans became programmed to respond to calorie-dense food and as a result food became a source of reward and pleasure. According to Ashley Gearhardt, who is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, “…if we found a berry bush in the wilderness, we’d remember how tasty the berries are and be motivated to go back and get them.”
The brain’s wiring is strong to make sure a person consumes enough calories. In contrast to today, early ancestors did not need a defense for eating too many calories and, as a result, the “signals and brakes” for the amount of calories consumed by humans today are very weak. In present day, food is very available in the environment and the most advertised foods are engineered to be more rewarding than the foods the late ancestors consumed. These same predecessors gathered fresh berries in the environment, whereas humans today cannot walk through a shopping mall or watch television without being tempted to consume foods and drinks, such as 1,000–calorie Haagen-Dazs Banana Split with all of the ‘fixings,’ “Big Gulp” sodas, “Big Bite” hot dogs, and deep dish greasy pizzas. The probable cause for ineffective weight management is too much consumption of these widely available and advertised foods and drinks in the current food environment. Humans today do not struggle with maintaining a healthy weight because they are eating too many apples, broccoli, beans, wild salmon or brown rice; it is the easily accessible unhealthy food in the present environment that causes weight gain. The current population is more likely to respond to food advertisements than non-food advertisements.
The food environment has “flip-flopped”: reacting to food cues within the environment helped early ancestors survive in the past. However, these cues in the environment today are placing people at an increased risk for health disorders resulting in a shorter life expectancy. Difficulty eating a healthful diet and maintaining a healthy weight may not be the individual’s fault. Oftentimes it is a “mismatch” between the individual’s biology and the environment.
What ways can you think of to improve the environment and the availability of healthful foods?
While controlling our food environment can be a challenge, here are some more simple ways to improve the environment in general:
- Stop your junk mail by contacting major senders requesting them to remove your address from their list. Try www.stopjunk.com or www.privatecitizen.com.
- Snip your six-pack plastic rings to protect seagulls and save the marine life.
- Do not leave your water running.
- Use recycled paper bags or reusable plastic/cloth bags when shopping.
What will you do today to appreciate, respect and save the environment?
Leibman, B. (2017). What makes us eat too much. Nutrition Action Health Letter. P. 3-7.