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What is a Wellness Plan?

Reflecting on wellness at the beach

One of the greatest tragedies of in the world of wellness is the general lack of personal insight. We are all guilty of this.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates. When we think about our lives, we are quick to draw conclusions about how we are doing, but there is tremendous bias in doing so. Most of us are not very objective, when it comes to self-examination. 

Per a recent poll performed by National Public Radio, when people were asked the question “How healthy would you consider your eating habits to be? About 75% of respondents ranked their diets as good, very good, or excellent.” This means that 75% of us believe that our diets are good[1]

Have we examined our lives? In 2010 the National Cancer Institute, released a report that found that 75% or 3 of 4 Americans don’t eat a single piece of fruit in each day, and nearly 9 of 10 or 90% of Americans don’t reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables.[2] 99% don’t reach the minimum for whole grains.[2]96% of Americans don’t reach the recommended minimum for leafy greens or beans.[2]

The report from the National Cancer Institute concluded, “In conclusion, nearly the entire US population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet crisis.” 

Ok, so back to our quote from Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We are completely out of touch with ourselves. This folks is the number one problem with health and wellness today. 

I was talking with a fellow entrepreneur about health and wellness recently. I asked, “How come people haven’t developed more wellness programs that help people get back on track?” His response, after having been in the industry for more than a decade, “It’s because people just don’t want to talk about it. People think they have all the answers already.” 

We are still debating whether it’s better to starve yourself by eating nothing but fat and protein as a “healthy” way to lose weight. Fruits and vegetables. As my friends in Chicago would say, “Fogetta aboud it!” 

We are failing miserably on our dietary recommendations. Now, if you are listening to this Podcast, then I’m not going to sit here and scold anyone. I have been equally as guilty, as everyone else at different times in my life, in terms of eating enough fruits and vegetables. 

Per the CDC, “Nearly 80% of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week.”[3]Recall the recommendations are for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.

An article from The Lancet finds about one in 10 deaths worldwide caused by people not getting enough physical activity or 5.3 million deaths worldwide, on par with smoking deaths.[4]

Let’s review where we are at 90% of Americans don’t meet dietary recommendations and 80% of Americans don’t meet physical activity guidelines.  

How are we doing on sleep? You guessed it, not great! “More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis,” per a study by the CDC.[5]

How about stress? Get ready folks…more bad news. “Nearly 79% of Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently during the day,”[6] per a Gallup Poll. “Only 17% say they rarely feel stressed.” 

90% don’t meet dietary recommendations, 80% don’t get enough physical activity, 33% don’t get enough sleep and 79% are stressed frequently. 

Here’s the final statistic, but I have to finish this point. We spend a ton of time at work in America, yet, according to Gallup Poll’s “State of the American Workforce,” “70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”[7] So, what…few people like their jobs. Who do you talk to about things you don’t like? According to the Duke Today from Duke University, “Americans’ circle of confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past two decades and the number of people who say they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled.”[8]

When things do get bad, we don’t talk about it!

Ok…so if you are still with me, I think we can all agree that things are really bad. Here’s the biggest problem…our refusal to admit that we have a problem. In the spirit of true American individualism, we think we have all the answers. We are subject to advertising and perceptions that may not be based on fact.  Attention folks, “The World is NOT flat.” We need to acknowledge this point, before there can be any improvements. 

If we can agree that we are not doing so hot, as a group, AND, more importantly, we may need some work individually, then I would like to propose a vision for how to fix it. 

Wellness Plans! For most of us, we are products of habits. We do what we do, because it’s what we know. It’s convenient. It’s timely. It’s easy. Transitioning to anything else, can be a very daunting topic. I’ve heard it said, “Doc, I can’t do it.” I can’t make a change, sometimes even a simple change, because it’s too hard. It’s easier to deny that there’s a problem and accept that habits we have created in our day to day life. We can expect nothing more than the standard American results of high rates of chronic disease from the standard American lifestyle. 

A wellness plan outlines a new pathway. One that is achievable. A good wellness plan, has to be multi-factorial. We can NOT just look at diet. I was talking with a friend recently about diet. She asked, “I heard that you are vegan.” I said, “No, I’m plant-based.” She said, “Like I said vegan.” “Love to hear that doc,” she said. “As you know, it’s all food. If everyone were vegan, we would all be better off.” Now, in some ways, she is right. We would be better off, but would it be enough? 

I say, No! What about stress? Sleep? Physical Activity? Close friendships? 

We are more than our diet. We are a complex being and most of our decisions about diet, I would argue, come from our spiritual and emotional vantage points. Recall from the Podcast on Self-Love, I talked about how if we don’t love ourselves, a spiritual concept, we will never treat ourselves with the best. 

How many of you, myself included, can say I could do it all myself? We can’t! None of us can. We need help.

A wellness plan is essentially the roadmap to our own self-improvement plan. It isn’t someone else’s improvement plan. It’s our own. It’s a process not a destination. We need to start by identifying our own personal goals. We can then outline a roadmap for how to get there. Each one of us has our own unique challenges. Some of us are good at some things, but need help with others. We can’t get to our goal, without close examination of our own lives. 

This starts with a comprehensive assessment. If anyone has been through any sort of process improvement process while at work, you know how detailed the process is. A good program will ask everyone in the organization, where opportunities exist, strengths, weaknesses, etc. When’s the last time you did that? Have you ever done it?

When you go to the doctor, how often is your lifestyle being closely evaluated. I’m not talk about screening questions. I’m talking about close evaluation. 

Personally, I have never seen it in all of healthcare. I’m not sure that, even if it occurred, that it would work. Once a year and then see you in a year…It’s just not the right model for this type of process. Process improvement necessitates a comprehensive evaluation, specific goals, a roadmap to getting there, lots of resources to help us on our way and frequent rechecks. 

How would that work in the current primary care setting? We need a new a model to pull off wellness improvement. We need to apply the strategies that work in quality improvement and process improvement models from engineering to lifestyle. We know that process improvement can work in other facets of life. It’s time to apply process improvement to ourselves. 

It starts with humility. We all need to acknowledge we have room to improve. Then, we need detailed evaluations to determine our opportunities for improvement. We need an expert to help us design a roadmap to getting there, based on scientific research. We can’t trust anyone. We must trust people that have delved into the research. Finally, we need to be vulnerable enough to be retested regularly. We will never finish. We will be on the journey forever. That’s what wellness is. It’s multi-dimensional and it’s a forever journey. It does start with goals, but as we are constantly re-evaluating, we find new goals and new opportunities.

In the end, we need a new model. We can’t expect different results, when we don’t make a new proposal. 

We all need a wellness plan, because we all need to be actively engaging in the wellness improvement. If we aren’t actively pursuing improvement every day, we are falling behind. 

Wellness should be a topic not just for work or when we’re on vacation. It’s a topic for each day. We can do it! We need to do it! Let’s do it together. 

Thanks for joining me. My goal today was to convince each and every one of you amazing people that we all need a wellness plan. I hope that you are actively pursuing one for yourselves, your family, and your workplaces. 

Learn more about the Well90 Program: 90 Days to Wellness

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[1]“75% of Americans Say They Eat Healthy-Despite Evidence to the Contrary.” Eating and Health. August 3, 2016. Allison Aubrey. Maria Godoy. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

[2]“Standard American Diet.” Nutrition Facts. August 8th, 2019. 

[3]“CDC: 80% of American Adults Don’t Get Recommended Exercise.” Ryan Jaslow. CBS News. May 3, 2013. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

[4]“Inactivity tied to 5.3 million deaths worldwide, similar to smoking.” Ryan Jaslow. CBS News. July 18th, 2012. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

[5]“1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.” CDC News Room. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

[6]“Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by Stress.” Lydia Saad. Well-Being. Gallup News. Gallup Poll. Accessed August 8, 2019. 

[7]“Report: 70% of Americans are “emotionally disconnected” at work.” Steven Rosenfeld. June 18th, 2013. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

[8]“Americans have fewer friends outside the family, Duke study shows.” Duke Staff Today. June 23, 2006. Accessed August 8th, 2019. 

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  1. What is a Wellness Plan? - Doctor of Living on August 8, 2019 at 3:14 pm

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