NATURAL. HORMONE-FREE. ORGANIC. ANTIBIOTIC-FREE. NON-GMO. FREE-RANGE. PESTICIDE-FREE. GRASS-FED
These words often garner at least 5.29 million eye rolls per eye, per year from those who refuse to join the latest revolution of taking health into their own hands (eye roll count listed is only a guesstimation).
Back in the day, vegetables were vegetables and meat was meat. But as time goes by and we learn more about what is being injected into our food, even the most regular of Joe Shmoes should be aware of what they’re putting into their bodies with every bite.
With the revolution of what is often known as “alternative” healthcare (named as though it’s an underground indie radio station), the integration of more natural, eastern approaches and western medicine is continuing to grow roots deeper into American soil.
Karly (Peters) Hall ’02 (mass communications) is a training and wellness consultant for Anoka County in Minnesota and one of many soon-to-be naturopathic doctors in the nation. Currently pursuing her master’s and Ph.D. in holistic nutrition and natural healing, she believes in a holistic approach toward helping the body reach optimal health naturally.
Hall, a former MSUM swimmer, has adopted a Whole 30/Paleo approach toward her diet. But her food choices are much more than a goal that will be forgotten as soon as a glazed donut rounds the corner. For Hall, it’s a lifestyle shift for the better.
Five years ago, Hall was experiencing her own health battle—digestive issues, fatigue, brain fog, general malaise, and an underactive thyroid. She wanted to avoid taking medication, so she went to a doctor who specializes in the misdiagnoses of thyroid disorders. They discovered she was dealing with an autoimmune condition that, through alterations to her diet and lifestyle, has become a non-issue.
Within the first two months of cutting out gluten and soda, Hall noticed a significant difference. “I saw changes right away with my weight and energy levels,” Hall said. “That was great, but full-on healing takes a while. My gut was in really bad shape, so I had to work hard and stick with it.”
Karly’s Five Quick Tips for a Healthier Life:
- Start small. Don't change everything at once. Substitute one soda for a glass of water, or one processed/sugary meal for a meal with whole and organic foods. Once you've mastered that, then incorporate another healthy change. Be patient with your progress; being healthy is a lifestyle.
- Rest well. Sleep helps your body heal and recover. It's also critical for your success in losing weight and reducing stress. Get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- Get moving. Your body needs physical movement. Pick something you enjoy; you'll be apt to stick with it longer.
- Drink water. It prevents headaches, is good for your skin, flushes out waste, aids in your weight loss process, and more.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude improves your mental and physical health, sleep, and self-esteem. It also enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
The Struggle is Real
Adopting a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy. In fact, it takes something most Americans don’t appreciate losing or having to develop: time, money and a thick skin.
“I’ll hear people say, ‘I can’t afford to eat healthy or live a healthy lifestyle,’ but in my opinion, you can’t afford not to,” Hall said. “It’s a mindset shift. What are the cost differences between ongoing diabetes care, cancer treatments, or chronic inflammation, as compared to joining a CSA, eating fewer processed foods, and finding some time for daily physical activity and personal development? I think people think of it in different compartments, when, really, it either is or will be coming out of the same pool of money.”
Another reality faced when seeking alternative healthcare is financial strain because of limited insurance coverage, or lack thereof. Many holistic, functional and naturopathic facilities are not covered by insurance; and supplements, tinctures, and the like are rarely or never considered justifiable medical expenses by insurance either. But Hall is hopeful that times are changing, slowly but surely.
“There are more opportunities to utilize chiropractic care or acupuncture, sometimes massage, with certain flexible savings plans and HSAs,” Hall said. “You’re able to spend your dollars differently than in the past, but we still have a really long way to go.”
The Food Fight Wages On
Bullying extends far beyond the playground and now harasses the innocent as they eat kale at their kitchen table, in restaurants and at family reunions. We all know someone who revels in their veganism and shames their deer-hunting relatives, or Paleo Crossfitters who wear graphic muscle tees that broadcast to the world that they lift. Because of the many who find pride and identity in what they eat to an alarming degree, it’s become the ultimate food fight of judgment from both sides, and it wages on, forcing every innocent bystander to carry a thick, biodegradable shield.
“There’s a lot to be said about it (the stigma),” Hall said. “There is a massive number of food bullies, as I lovingly call them. People will lash out, whether it’s in sarcasm or just being plain rude and inconsiderate because they don’t understand. You need to be able to push through. You need to love and honor your body, especially as we’re aging.”
The social pressure alone is enough to weed out the iron-willed from the half-hearted. Even those who choose to eat healthily and reap the benefits of their hard work and dedication often find it embarrassing to tell a server food restrictions or ask them to double check to ensure cross-contamination won’t occur in a restaurant. Many people with allergies, intolerances and sensitivities don’t go out at all. But the body-cautious are looking out for the current and future health of themselves and their loved ones, which often produces a long list of concerns.
“We’re not only fighting our own internal battles with staying the course, we’re trying to dodge the landmines of deceitful food labeling and GMOs,” Hall said. “These things, and many more, can create an uphill battle for those trying to make healthier choices—it’s not just the tyrants you encounter at work.”
Falling Off the Bandwagon
For many, “cheating” or falling off the proverbial bandwagon goes far beyond image and presents serious consequences.
“Even today, if I were to ingest gluten, I’d feel it,” Hall said. “Some elect not to eat certain foods, others don’t have a choice. The American people are sick, sicker than they’ve ever been. For every option that’s offered to serve those with food intolerances or other diseases that dictate a certain diet, another ‘Frankenstein food’ is produced to contaminate the masses. Between GMOs and devious marketing, it’s no wonder the average consumer has a hard time making healthier selections at their grocery store. I love science and marketing, just not in my food. At the end of the day, I was simply sick of being sick. I wanted to get my body back to doing what it does best—healing itself—but I needed to make healthier decisions and detox all of my past mistakes in order to make that happen.”
While there’s no denying that medical advancements made over the years have been life-changing, life-saving blessings, there is also a dark reality to our over-prescribed society. Preventative healthcare, by way of leading a healthy lifestyle, should be the first step toward health, and getting to the root causes—instead of Band-Aiding a few symptoms—a top priority. As time goes on, a growing number of people like Hall are determined to spread the information they’ve acquired and the help and hope they personally have experienced to keep the flames lit for this health revolution.
“It started out as a selfish endeavor to make myself feel better,” Hall said. “Now it’s transformed into helping others be the best versions of themselves and lead healthier lifestyles. I have no idea where my path is going to lead, but if I can positively change one person’s life, that’s a ripple that can make an incredible impact on the world. It makes everything I’ve gone through to get here totally worth it.”
This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Fall 2016.
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