Embrace health as a kind of wealth.
Heading into the festive season, we are bombarded with ideas for a ‘cracking’ Christmas feast which mostly seems to involve spending a lot of time, money and calories on a day’s good cheer. We thought that it might be timely to ponder Dr David Katz’s comment that the truly great hope for the future of food involves treating health more like wealth. The following is reproduced with his very kind (as ever) permission.
Dr David Katz
‘In the beginning food was money and money was food. Food was the first currency, and modern currency is spoken of in terms of food – we are “breadwinners,” we “make dough,” and we “bring home the bacon.” We respect how money will affect the quality of our lives, but overlook it with regard to food. We invest in wealth, but generally, not health. Our time horizon for money is distant; for food, it’s only as far away as our next donut. We measure the value of food as calories per dollar, an obsolete metric in an age of epidemic obesity and caloric excess.
None of this is all that hard to fix. Our culture could embrace health as a kind of wealth. A cultural commitment to investing in health could be the normal expectation for any responsible adult. Experts who provide guidance toward better choices – dietitians, health coaches, and other qualified experts – could be valued universally as we value financial planners and investment counselors. And financial rewards for choosing better nutrition, courtesy of those with skin in the game, could put a high polish on the already luminous prize.
Food is a product of culture. The inertia of culture makes it tougher to turn than the Titanic. But the looming collisions (diabetes, obesity etc) are cause to get the job done — and we can. The best way to predict the future … is to create it. Unlike genes, culture is a medium of our devising. We created it – and we can update it. And by so doing, we can create the more nourishing future of food we would all like to predict.
So here’s a thought for the festive season and new year – investing in health and treating it as something of great and universal cultural value – something we raise our kids to aspire to as they aspire to being rich – is a true, potential game-changer for the future of food, ourselves, and our planet.
About Dr David Katz
Known internationally for expertise in nutrition, weight management, and chronic disease prevention, Katz is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, President-Elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, founder and President of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation, and a blogger/medical review board member for The Huffington Post.