We all know where WV ranks nationally among health statistics. How did we get here? Was it always like this? What’s the solution?
I recently saw a picture from Dreamland pool taken in the 1950’s. The place was packed! Interestingly, every single person in the photo, old or young, man or woman, was fit. Seriously, every single one.
What changed that has led us to the challenges we now face? The 1950’s were known as the golden age in America. Times were peaceful; the post World War II U.S. economy was strong. The turmoil and dire necessity caused by WWII brought about numerous scientific advances in chemistry and technology. Life was good. For the first time in known human history, life was made easy… maybe too easy.
Fast forward to today. Those chemicals developed now wage war on insects and weeds. They constantly bombard the bulk of our nations “food” supply, which has been genetically modified to withstand copious amounts of substances designed to kill living things. This highly profitable, highly mechanized streamlined system takes corn, soy and wheat and morphs them into thousands of food products that contain plenty of chemicals that ensure a long shelf life so they can be delivered safely to your home for consumption. Read ingredients labels if you want to see proof.
Beyond the questionable practices employed by the “food” industry, food and food-like products are easily available. We have massive grocery stores. Imported foods make for year round availability. We have drive through windows and snack machines. Bottom line: calories are very easy to obtain.
Not only has food become more available, our lives have become more sedentary. We flip a switch and our homes become warm. We have machines that bring us to places. We take pills that contain chemicals we think will make us feel better. The ease with which we live is also our biggest downfall.
How can we fix this health crisis we now face? I think we must look to our roots. The solution lies in our cultural heritage. Instead of paying for a gym membership or seeing a doctor we can get healthy by embracing the same outdoor activities or that kept our people alive for centuries.
Mountain people are among the toughest, most resilient, self-sufficient people in the world. This spirit lives on in our souls and in every strand of DNA in our bodies. It is imperative, not only from a cultural standpoint, but also for our health that we keep our traditions alive.
With fall nearing its end, a good place to start is by splitting and gathering firewood. This activity is a wonderful family pastime and an amazing way to enjoy a crisp fall day. It is good cardio exercise and builds muscle strength and endurance. The exercise is sustained throughout the winter as we work to bring the wood into our homes and supply heat for our families. Not to mention it seriously cuts down the electric bill.
Another past time is hunting. The exercise involved in securing your own food is great for your heart and muscles. Eating wild game is extremely good for you as well. Since these animals live on a wild diet packed full of nutrients, their meat will be much better for you than grocery store meats that lived on diets consisting entirely of genetically modified corn and soy.
Foraging for wild foods is another amazing way to keep our heritage alive, get exercise, and supplement a nutritious diet. Many wild plants, herbs and mushrooms are edible, and many of them have medicinal properties as well. Do some research and buy a field guide or two so you can go out and experiment safely. Your favorite food or replacement for certain medicines could be on the hill behind your house.
Farming and gardening is something our people have done for hundreds of years. One of the best things you can do for your body and the environment is to grow your own food! You’ll get plenty of exercise and sharing the fruits of your labor is a true source of enjoyment.
Homesteading is a term that has recently taken new life. It can be simply summed up as living like people used to. Think of all the things we could do around the house. There are tons of ways to get exercise and be healthy.
If we eat real food and do a little work the results can be staggering. Think of how much money you can save. A healthy diet and lifestyle can eliminate the need to pay for frequent doctor visits and medicines. And say goodbye to high electric bills, gym memberships and excessive spending at the grocery store.
If you have these homesteading skills, or remember how things used to be, pass them on! Get your families involved. Tell your children and grandchildren about how things used to be, about how our people have always lived. Kids, ask your parents and grandparents to tell stories about the family farm or traditions. Keep our culture and heritage alive… It may be what keeps us alive.