What Do YOU Invest In? – Spring 2012

What Do YOU Invest In?

By Steve Tallent

When I hear the word “investment,” I usually think of money–future returns, growth rate, interest rate, return on investment. But I want to discuss a critical investment that is only partially of a monetary kind. Even if the last thing on your mind in our struggling economy is investments, let me assure you that you are already investing–heavily. But do you have a healthy portfolio? Will you get a good return? Are your investments merely a reaction to market pressure, or are they deliberate actions through which you wisely map out the future and take steps to get there?

You may be scratching your head, wondering what I’m talking about, and if you think investments aren’t “your thing”, please don’t tune me out yet. Because I’m talking about investing the resources we have in life itself–especially the health of you and your family. These investments aren’t as measurable as purely financial assets, and returns are difficult, if not impossible, to calculate, but they are just as real. To give you an example of a non-monetary investment we all make, consider the idea of an emotional investment. You’ve probably experienced “setting your heart” on a hope of something particular happening. If it doesn’t come about, you lose the emotional investment. Going out to dinner and a movie, even if it includes popcorn and ice cream, while perhaps as enjable as a day at the park, doesn’t salve the pain if you’ve spent the past month living for a trip to the zoo, imaging the fun things you would see and do. You’re doing something nice, but you’ve lost that emotional investment. And the sense of loss is very real. We each invest all the time, in lots of non-monetary ways. So it’s important to take stock of these investments to make sure we’re investing in the right things.

High Returns

Investments that matter–some even into eternity–include your relationships, self-improvement, and physical health. If I invest all of my time watching sports while ignoring my family, in 10 years I may be an expert armchair quarterback and know all the best plays, but I might be watching those sports alone. If you want a relationship with your kids in 20 years, invest time and money in fun activities now. Even if the kiddos are small and irritating and you wish they’d be big, take a deep breath, and get in there and make some memories. If they are older and driving you bonkers by pushing boundaries and making you long for years gone by when they were cute and compliant, change your attitude and invest positive time and energy in them.

While it’s wise to invest money so you have money in the future, it is even more crucial to invest money so you have health in the future. If you do the former without the latter, most of your financial returns will go to doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. One of the most common excuses I hear is that “we know we need better nutrition, but we are on a budget and can’t afford to eat healthy foods or vitamin supplements”. Whatever the current budget issues, it is far cheaper to invest in health on the front end, than to pay for medical care on the back end.

Each year as Steph and I have been on our health-ward journey, our food and supplement budget has increased. We decided to invest in good food, vitamins that we know we need, and alternative health treatments, and in just a few short years, we have yet to fully meet our goals of more energy, better mental focus, and “not getting sick”, we are addressing health concerns now that have been caused by our cavalier attitude towards exercise and nutrition in the past. We spend food money because we want to be healthy 70 year-olds that the grand-kids can’t wait to go hiking with, instead of the 60-somethings they don’t want to visit in the nursing home.

Even so, the net budget increase has not been as great as anticipated, due to other savings. We have fewer blah, sick days and enjoy more focus at work and home. There are fewer doctor visits and medications. Meanwhile, others who have chosen not to invest in health end up using their money for doctor’s visits, pharmaceuticals, and even surgery. We have been witness to deteriorating quality of life among friends and acquaintances. You just can’t enjoy yourself when you feel bad at all times.

Living Under Information Overload

Our present “information age” is a fascinating time to live. We can access just about any information, anywhere, with just a few clicks or a phone call. We can also waste our lives watching silly videos, reading inane topics, or playing mindless online games. So there is good and bad–just like most of life.

I relish doing serious research from the comfort of my home and take it for granted that the itches of my curious mind can be scratched in seconds. More importantly, when a dispute arises about a particular fact, I can, in just a few moments prove that I am right ♥ I love keeping up with people who don’t live near us, reconnecting with people from long ago, perusing pictures, and exchanging letters almost instantly. I just have to be careful that I don’t get sucked in. There are so many distractions available on my computer that I could literally wake up each day, turn on the computer, be there until bedtime constantly doing stuff, and not get a lick of work done. Discipline is required. But that’s a rabbit trail.

One great benefit of this instant information age is that we at Beeyoutiful have access to a lot of health information. We receive health, nutrition, and supplement related updates from a number of sources. We are kept abreast of a lot of new developments, new studies, and new legislation. We are also privy to countless personal stories related to health and nutrition. I’m amazed at the conditions and situations that seem to be the direct result of poor nutrition, many of which could be vastly improved with better nutrition. I’m shocked at mnay doctor’s views on nutrition–which can often be summarized as “it doesn’t matter what you eat.” I spoke with a pediatrician the other day who argued that better nutrition cannot keep you from getting sick. But then he allowed that it might keep a person from getting heart disease. Can you say, “Total disconnect?”

Keep the Change

Some of the folks we hear about truly want to do better. A few can leapfrog to improved health by altering a couple of lifestyle factors. For others, progress is slower, but as they change their health paradigm, overall family health does improve.

Of course, some folks are not really interested in changing at all. They seize every piece of advice that supports what they keep on doing and discount information that advocates change. Unfortunately, many doctors, form their positions of perceived authority, offer the buttressing these people need to remain confident they are doing ok.

People make claims like:

  • “My doctor says that multivitamins are a scam”
  • “My doctor said there is no benefit to eating organic.”
  • “My doctor claims that essential oils are hokum.”
  • “My doctor told me the health food industry is just a bunch of hippies on a trip.”
  • “My doctor said alternative medicine is all a bunch of New Age mysticism.”
  • “My doctor says diet won’t affect my fertility.”
  • “My doctor put me on a low-fat diet.”

Doctors are important. And some of them are huge nutrition advocates with great wisdom to dispense. But many more are misled by the junk science out there. Too many poorly designed studies reach flawed conclusions, and on top of that, most doctors don’t have any significant training in nutrition. Steph and I talked recently with an excellent doctor who drank up everything we told him about nutrition, because it was so new to him and it made complete sense, scientifically. He even asked if he could call us if he ever had questions. We were taken aback, but he explained that in the 14 years of formal training–including two fellowships–he’d been given less than 90 minutes of nutritional education, and that was more than 20 years ago.

This doctor’s situation may seem unfathomable to those of us interested in nutrition, given how aware we are of the link between what we eat and medical conditions. But the truth is, for the most part, doctors treat only symptoms. Their short hand reveals the paradigm: C/o = complains of; CC= Chief Complaint. Complain to a physician about an itchy spot on your arm, and you’ll likely get a prescription cream, along with a comment like, “Hopefully that’ll make it go away.” No thought is give to an underlying cause, like: Why did it pop up in the first place? Not to wonder would be like having nails regularly popping out of the floor and walls in your house. You wouldn’t think “Who cares…just hammer them back in. Individual nails popping up is not much of a concern and is easily remedied.” That misses the real problem of course. They aren’t supposed to be popping up in the first place! And the same is true of our bodies. There are some things that they the average doctor is very, very good at, but the whole health and nutrition just doesn’t seem to be among them.

Among the information coming to us are quite a number of stories of infertility issues. Some of these have been overcome by good nutrition. Some required more aggressive therapies. I’ll relate part of one story that I think serves as a good example for some fo the things I have been talking about. There was a young woman struggling with infertility. Many people offered her information about the connection between diet and fertility and especially recommended removing certain things from her diet. But she repeatedly countered with either, how certain suggestions just wouldn’t work for her (without trying) or that her doctor said that this or that in her diet would not affect fertility. She wept and mourned and asked God why she could not get pregnant, and lamented to her friends. Thankfully, circumstances eventually required that she get a new doctor who told her to clean up her diet, and go her some more aggressive therapies. Within a short time, she was pregnant and birthed a healthy baby.

Let’s examine the woman’s story as an investment scenario. She first invested her time, ernergy and money in junky foods. The return on the investment was the satisfaction of eating those items along with the heartbreak of infertility. We reap what we sow–can’t blame God for that. But changes in her investment paradigm resulted in different returns. Yes, there was sacrifcie. Yes, there was expense. But there was also immeasurable joy when a new baby entered the world.

We have also been witness to a number of stories of children being born with birth defects. These are heartbreaking, but the most tragic are the cases of spina bifida. Beautiful children, but not formed properly, sometimes suffering greatly. Just makes you want to cry. It is a well-established fact that spina bifida is completely preventable with folic acid. That’s why it is in all prenatals. The problem is that it is needed in the first 10-12 weeks of the pregnancy. After that the damage is done. Most people don’t know they are pregnant until weeks 4-6 into the pregnancy. Coupled with that is another problem — morning sickness. It may be difficult to get enough good nutrition, or vitamin supplements during those first crucial weeks. And it is important that the father also have folic acid in his diet before conception. For those reasons and because folic acid is stored in the body, most multivitamins contain the minimum daily amount though to prevent spina bifida, and we recommend that anybody that is of child bearing age take 400mg of folic acid per day. This is a small investment that can pay huge dividends.

Obviously, we all make mistakes and none of us can claim to always do what is best for ourselves or our families. But we need to be committed to doing the best we can. There seems to be some kind of a collective, if not individual, arrogance concerning health-care in the western world. Medicine can fix it. Maybe it is the success of antibiotics that has spawned this. It is a misplaced, and unfounded belief. Medicine can treat a lot of things. Rarely can medicine actually restore health. We talk with a lot of people who seem to think that they aren’t like other people, that their bodies and minds don’t have the same needs. They may even allow that good nutrition is important, but then boast about how much junk food they can eat and how they are still thin or fit or don’t get sick. It’s like they have a notion of invulnerability. But that sort of sloppy investment will catch up with them in time. True, we are all unique, with individual needs, but there is nothing new under the sun. Don’t fool yourself: Nutrition matters.

You Can Do Better

There seems to be a mindset developed by watching parents or grandparents and the progression of their lives. We develop a notion of what to expect from watching them. Perhaps they didn’t pay particular attention to nutrition, supplementation, or exercise and hey, they didn’t have X health problem until they were Y years old. But I say to you: Abandon that line of thinking. Modern health trends are not good. Issues that used to wait are not hitting more and more people at younger and younger ages: Cancer, obesity, thyroid, IBS, leaky gut, autoimmune, skeletal problems, gall stones, kidney stones, infertility, hernias, hypoglycemia, diabetes, behavioral disorders, food sensitivities, and even death.

Our dentist once told me about dental care: “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” The same principle applies to health in general. Invest well. Should you invest in a daily multivitamin? Probably. Aren’t they are waste of money because some of it is just passing through? Some are a total waste of money. Some are really, really good, but priced like gold. You can, though, get a reasonably priced, high quality one. We carry a few that we think fall into this category. And when you do get one, use it! That takes discipline, perhaps even planning. But if you invest in nutrients essential to health, and immune-building supplements, they will likely keep you from getting sick and keep you from walking into the germ factory at the doctor’s office if you do get sick. You can also learn how to treat at home–hot to make garlic poultices, for instance, or how to use charcoal and which essential oils to use. Learn to culture foods and use digestive enzymes. Even if all you can muster is a few baby steps, pledge to yourself to invest in your future.

Whole Life Policies

Invest in relationships. Invest in health. Invest in bettering yourself (read some good books!). It will not take long for you to start reaping the returns in a well-balance, productive life. In the long run, you will be ahead financially.

As I wrap this up, I want to speak just to men. (Since most of the people reading this are not men, it probably means that you, ladies, will have to read this to them.) Men need to realize the seriousness of this stuff and to be the CEO of the family investment group. We always talk about “taking care of it” later, but today is the day. Start these good investments. And then stick with them. It’s easy to run off to work and let somebody at home hold the line there with healthy food and discipline, while you cheat on the family diet at work and run home too tired to invest in the family. We’ve all done it. I know I have. Once we were intent on withholding High Fructose Corn Syrup from my daughter, and Steph was avoiding it, too. But I had to have my soda. And Noelle would inevitably ask for some. It felt wrong to tell her she couldn’t have it while I sat there sipping it down. But it also felt wrong to give it to her. So I began to indulge my habit only while I was out of the house.

The sweets in the back of the pantry that were just for mommy and daddy were also an insidious habit. Finally, I thought, “If it is bad for my daugther, isn’t it bad for me also?” I finally gave up on the excuse that “I’m an adult, and I know what I am doing. It doesn’t make me behave badly, and it might be unhealthy but not in a measurable way. Besides, I exercise to that minimizes the issues, and blah, blah.” In the end, I realized the best way to protect my daughter was to protect the entire family. So: no HFCS. None in the house. None at out-to-eats. And guess what. I’m better for it, and so is she. Guys, envision your future, and then invest in a way consistent with the future you want.

Changing over to a healthy investment strategy is much easier when the people around are all on the same page, singing the same song. Even if it means progress is slower, more of it sticks with you.

Making the effort doesn’t have to be a divisive issue, either. That will cause stress, which is bad for health. Study, learn, cajole, read to those around you, drop amazing or shocking tidbits of information–not opinion, but facts. Get on Beeyoutiful’s forums, or call us if you need ideas on how to get your family engaged. Sometimes a good documentary helps capture interest. It can speak volumes in a short time. But do it together. Sacrificial investments now will pay huge dividends later!

So how much do you have invested? Me? Not much. Nut much money, that is.