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Note From Carolyn:  It’s not too late to sign up for the 12-Week Meridian Summer Health Challenge! We’re at over 400 people!  When we reach 500, we’ll do a drawing for a $50 Visa Gift Card.  There are also weekly prizes throughout the Challenge which is set to run through the mid-September.  It’s fun and easy to adapt your own program and needs into our Challenge that includes a free workbook and regular contact from me.  CLICK HERE TO JOIN

Also! This is the big week many of you have been waiting for.
  This week is the only week of the year that you can purchase our herbal detox drink and get the best price bulk discount with our installment plan. Though called a “tea” it’s actually an infusion of life-giving, life-changing herbs and absolutely in line with the Word of Wisdom. CLICK HERE.

Happy Birthday, America! Bring on the parades, the flags, the fireworks, and the music! It would be a glorious tribute to the Lord and his gift of the Promised Land if we could also celebrate America’s health. Sadly, 242 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, this is not the case.

How do you measure a nation’s health?

While it includes many factors, the biggies are longevity, level of disease (both communicable and non-communicable), availability of food/water/health care, obesity, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, usage of tobacco and alcohol, physical activity, mental health and environmental pollution.

Which are the healthiest countries?   There are a number of lists out there. The Bloomberg Global Health Index 2018 reports the top five as Italy, Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia.

The USA doesn’t even crack the top 25, ranking 33 and 34 for the past two years.  Odd, isn’t it? Americans have access to the most advanced medicine and health care facilities, environmental regulations and the highest food safety standards, yet many Americans are overweight and ill (or soon to be.)

It gives one cause to wonder.  The Land of the Free is the home of countless Americans who want to be personally free of the extra pounds and serious health problems they experience and the country is plagued with the burden of rising health care costs caused by obesity-related diseases and conditions.

I think our Forefathers would be shocked with the situation and the statistics. I believe they would be equally shocked with how the world and America’s diet has changed, along with a lifestyle of ease that can be managed without getting up from the couch.  Though our Forefathers surely had health and medical challenges, they did not deal with the problems (both present and future) of a nation obsessed with overly processed, overly available non-nutritious foods. Daily exercise was built in as they often walked for a main source of transportation.  Much physical exercise also came through daily chores for the home and farms where most of the population lived.

So much has changed!  The good news for us as active members of the Church is that we celebrate a greater level of health than many Americans since we neither drink alcohol nor smoke tobacco. A UCLA study indicates that we Mormons are among the healthiest and longest-living people anywhere, having one of the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases–about half that of the general U.S. population, along with a life expectancy that is eight to 11 years longer than the general white population in the United States.

That’s a lot to be delighted about! On the downside, there are studies that document that members of the Church are heavier than the general population, with its related woes of obesity related diseases. A casual glance at any Ward gathering will also document that while we may not be drinking or smoking, we sure are eating often and know our way around desserts and sweets.

Indulging in the “don’ts” of the Word of Wisdom will keep us out of the temple, the “do’s” have no bearing on our worthiness. Perhaps if that were different, we would be managing better. That is not the Lord’s way, however and our daily eating and how we pursue weight management is a personal choice.

So how do the world’s healthiest populations swing it?

In a book published in 2015, “The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived The Longest” by Dan Buettner, known as “the longevity expert” is an eye-opener. As a Fellow of National Geographic, he has toured the world finding the healthiest, happiest locations to live.  He’s become passionate about sharing his findings on how to be healthy and happy.

Ikaria, Greece is his Number One with a traditional Mediterranean diet heavy in vegetables and much, much smaller amounts of dairy and meat products.  It is followed by Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Loma Linda, California and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

Europe and Asia are familiar to us as very health places. But why Loma Linda, California?  The answer is easy: It is home to the Seventh-day Adventists who are active, committed vegetarians. Wikipedia tells us that most restaurants in Loma Linda, including local fast-food franchises, feature vegetarian options.  The city has strict controls on the sale of alcohol, a ban on smoking and the church-owned grocery store does not sell meat. Continuing education from within their ranks at church meetings supports how they love to eat and live.  It is primarily fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with very little processed sugar, meat and dairy foods. Many of them have also excluded fish and eggs for a truly whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

Clearly, their diet is a conscious personal choice, religious choice and community choice. The results are easy to see!

The Fifth Freedom: The Right to Choose Health

Though the four universal freedoms declared by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the freedom of speech, the freedom to worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want, I like to think that another freedom is that of choosing health. Of course, there are many factors, genetic and otherwise, that are out of our control, but what we eat and drink? We’re free to choose those every day of the year!

This 4th of July, we can choose to celebrate not only our national freedom, but our personal freedom to be personally healthier. What are health practices from other nations doing that we can easily copy?

First and Foremost:  We can carry on with the Word of Wisdom! No alcohol or tobacco is huge for health! What more can we do?  While we may not live in Italy, Europe or Japan, we can look to their healthy choices of a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables, few processed foods, lots of walking and the wisdom to stress less and enjoy life more with family and friends.

For example, Sardinia, Italy,  It is home to a large population of centenarians. There’s a real sense of community in Sardinia. People are close-knit and the elderly often live with their families. The men are often shepherds, walking about 5 miles per day and the diet consists of whole grain flatbread, fava beans, tomatoes, greens, garlic, various fruits, olive oil and pecorino cheese from grass-fed sheep.

This is essentially what Jesus ate, a lot of whole grains, fish, fruit and vegetables and modest amounts (or none) of olive oil, red meat and wine.

Now Loma Linda California: No need to travel long-distance, just a big heads-up that health doesn’t have to be a rare commodity from another country! According to Wikipedia, Loma Linda (population 24,000) has the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the United States.  Some residents live 10 more healthy years than the average American by following a biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Much like Provo, Utah and BYU but on a much smaller scale, Loma Linda is the hometown for the Loma Linda University.  Due to the large number of Loma Linda residents who are active Seventh-day Adventists practicing vegetarianism, the whole town, (including restaurants and fast-food chains) is all about whole-food, plant-based eating.

Do you know any Seventh-day Adventists?  We do!  The non-denominational community monthly Vegetarian Supper Club that I often refer to in my articles is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventists in our town. We meet in the activity room of their building where we enjoy a delicious vegetarian pot-luck supper that we all contribute to.

There are numerous beautifully printed magazines available for free from the Seventh-day Adventists about health, healthy eating cooking and recipes that we are free to take.  Their magazines include some references to the Bible, but are primarily well-researched science and lifestyle articles featuring recipes and tips which very helpful.

It’s a fun, friendly night where people from all over the city gather to enjoy a great whole-food plant-based meal, share recipes and learn more about how to live a healthier life – vegetarian and whole-food, plant-based style.

It’s hard to ignore that nearly everyone in the room is at a much healthier weight than many gatherings here in Tennessee, where we are among the 10 most obese states in the United States.

Our next night will be “picnic foods.” The internet and public libraries are loaded with great recipes that we’re checking out for that and the 4th of July. Just google “whole-food, plant-based summer foods.  The link below to the Forks Over Knives summer recipe page even has a free summer cookbook, just for signing up for the their newsletter.


Happy Fourth of July!  Here’s to exercising the Fifth Freedom: our right to choose health!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine for 11 years,  providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999.  She has presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE