Business of Well-being

Adapt and Adopt: Translating a Healthy Culture into a Corporate Culture of Health

Principles apply across condition. One principle for any business is that it is easier to adapt an existing successful business model than to reinvent the wheel and hope it turns out as well as the thing that already works. In other words, "find success, do that." For our weight and health, the same principle holds true.

There are entire cultures that (unlike us) have low weight, healthy hearts and longer lives. In other words, a successful dietary model exists already, with millions of people living their healthy lifestyle every day. If we do what they do, we would get their results.

However, instead of adapting and adopting their success like any good corporate strategy would advise, we have chosen to reinvent the wheel for over 40 years now with diets including the low carb, low fat, food combining, cave man, blood type, cabbage soup, and on and on. The list is embarrassingly long, and made doubly so by their persistent failure to make a dent in the problem.

Adapt and Adopt

The dietary habits of the Mediterranean region are of the healthiest on Earth. The people are healthier and thinner, with fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But-even better-they didn't get this way by following the diet d'jour but by living the lifestyle they've enjoyed for centuries.

Like any corporation, however, translating another's success to your own wildly variable circumstance is tricky. And the same thing holds true for the Mediterranean diet: we don't live there; our employees don't have 2 hours to eat their lunch; we don't have fresh markets on every corner or five weeks of mandatory vacation every year.

Yes, they are living a healthy lifestyle-but how do we make that work for us?

1) adopt the principles that make it successful, and

2) adapt those for our employees.

Principles for a Healthy Culture of Health

Principle #1: "Eat Food." This basic of the Mediterranean lifestyle avoids dietary minutia, and keeps participants from wringing their hands over the carbs in their baguettes, points are in their potatoes or calories when they take a walk. Micromanaging molecules - whether calories or carbs, points or proteins -is the very definition of a diet and is not practiced by any healthy culture. None of them.

Principle #2: If it ain't food, don't eat it. Communicating this principle in the break room, lunchroom, and on vending machines encourages employees to eat real food, not synthetics (that's sugar, not non-nutritive artificial sweeteners; olive oil, not hydrogenated oil; bread, not "wonder" bread; and vegetables, not supplements). Even in America, we can adopt the Mediterranean habit of choosing items that are real food, made with real ingredients.

Principle #3: Learn to (actually) love food again. We have be coached by our culture to think that if you love your food, you eat it big and you eat it fast (think "Man versus Food"). But no healthy culture thinks this way. For them, the love of food is less about the quantity eaten and more about the quality of the food.

Finally, a key principle to the Mediterranean lifestyle is to return to the family table. Americans used to practice this just as regularly as other cultures do now, but we have somehow forgotten it. And this is too bad, because the research is clear. When people eat at a table with people they enjoy, food quality increases as high-volume consumption decreases in the process, so you control calories and so control weight.

These principles are a win, win, win, especially because they are practiced by successful cultures. This lowers risk and increases the chances that you can create a healthy culture of health.

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