Monthly Archives: April 2015
Perhaps you are not aware of the studies conducted by Dr Francis Pottenger back in the 1930’s. Taking over his father’s Tuberculosis Research facility, Pottenger was distracted from his usual research by an unlikely discovery. This discovery lead him into a 10 year research program that revealed startling results.
Pottenger was conducting studies on cats, researching his father’s theory that Tuberculosis was caused by adrenal deficiencies. As part of the research it was important that the cats, as test subjects, consumed a consistent and balanced diet, according to relevant theories at the time regarding feline nutrition.
The cats were fed a diet of cooked meat scraps, organ meats, bone, raw mild and cod liver oil.
At a point where the cat population in his holding pen began to outgrow the food supply, additional food was brought in from a new source. These cats were fed raw meats instead of cooked meats. Over time, Pottenger noticed a marked difference in many health markers in these cats. This intrigued him so he decided to develop a completely separate study.
He separated the cats into groups and fed them differing diets from fresh raw meat and milk in one group, right through to a diet of cooked meat and sweetened condensed milk at the other end of the spectrum.
What prevailed was stunning. The cats consuming the raw diet, remained strong, were energetic and active, were interested in things and explored, gave birth to healthy off spring and showed general signs of strength and robust health.
The other cats in the study began to deteriorate. They were weaker, smaller and less active and energetic. Some even failed to land well on their feet when thrown a short distance. As the cats bred, the new generations began showing significant signs of weakness and deformity. Reproductive habits reduced, still births became common, changes in bone structure abounded, tooth and gum disease were almost normal and the cats were often anxious and reactive.
Pottenger’s study revealed was that as the species moved away from a natural diet toward a more processed diet, the health of the animal deteriorated and that deterioration was passed down to following generations.
I got interested in this yesterday as I was talking to an AFL Senior Coach. He is an interesting guy who likes to explore all facets of the preparation of his athletes. He said to me that he felt this generation of young footballers was not as robust as those in the past. He said that whilst they arrive at his club with talent, there is so much they lack and the work that goes into turning them into footballers is costly and time consuming.
He lamented that when he first started in the system, young blokes would arrive, already strong and tough, with incredible natural agility. They could kick with either leg, stood up easily to the intense physical contact of the game, and pretty much arrived at the club ready to go for it and play at the top level. And he said that it was a great deal more physical back then, in fact it was violent. And I agree with him.
He said he felt that it was because kids are so wrapped in cotton wool these days and don’t get outside and “ go for it” after school and on weekends. He said they sit at home because parents feel it is too dangerous to go outside without supervision. Schools have reduced physical education in place of maths and science and in general, the kids grow up without the battle hardening of an adventurous childhood and youth.
I am inclined to agree with him and his viewpoints warrant some investigation. But then I also remembered Pottenger and thought to myself that maybe we are already seeing the genetic developmental drop off resulting from a highly processed diet.
When I was a kid in the 60’s, we got to drink soft drink about once every fortnight, and it was one glass. Kids now, and for several decades, have been consuming it daily, in large quantities. As kids we lived on a farm and drank raw milk. For decades now kids have been drinking pasteurised milk, often with added flavours and sweeteners.
So much food is processed and now so much of the meat that people eat is far from the natural grass fed, free range flesh eaten years ago.
But I suppose we can never really know for sure. It will all just be observation. Cats have a shorter life cycle and over 10 years we can observe and simply assess many generations. With humans, it is a little more challenging.
The closest we can come to a real life human observation is the work done by Weston A. Price who observed the health decline of indigenous populations when they moved away from their traditional diets and lifestyles and began following a modern western way of living. His studies revealed significant and wholesale degradation of health and general wellbeing.
So perhaps our kids are not as robust as prior generations? But what do we do about it now?
I guess the belief that we are an aging population living longer than ever before takes our attention off such things. But, I am afraid that is not a fact, just a sales pitch designed to sell a whole lot of political and commercial agendas.
Perhaps the best way to describe Australians today is “Too rich, too comfortable, too fat, too lazy, over fed and under nourished and living in still trying to convince ourselves we are as tough as the Anzacs”.
And only one part of this causes me irritation. There are passionate, interested, courageous and dedicated parents out there striving to change things for their kids and the get attacked for their efforts. Maybe f we took time to get interested in what they are saying, many more could become inspired, could learn and could lend a hand in changing the status quo.
After all, who is going to fund the healthcare in the future?
Watch the Pottenger Cats Video….
Back in the 1970’s when Australian Football was just beginning to make the stretch into the modern age of professional sport, myself and many of my friends started to get really interested in the training required for a footballer.
At the time, most clubs had a “Fitness Advisor”. Most of these men were either former athletes or simply fitness fanatics who had no formal education in any human sciences. However, they were revered due to their athletic success or their capacity for the performance of extraordinary physical efforts.
And in most cases, the training was tough, punishing and gut wrenching. I am sure we missed out on witnessing the craft of many a fine athlete who simply could not tolerate the extreme demands of the training. It seemed there was a contest between the teams during the off season as to which one trained harder.
The reality was though, when we look back with 20-20 hindsight, that most teams where comprehensively over-trained. Injury rates were high.
When we began our push to get into the major clubs in the early 80’s and start to carve out careers as Sports Conditioning Specialists, there were many fixed mindsets we had to work with and slowly create a change. I remember once in an interview with Collingwood Football Club. I was asked what I would do about the club’s reputation for lacking speed. When I answered that I would ear the training to develop speed, the two interviewers looked at me with disdain and said, “Everybody knows speed is a god given thing and it cannot be improved!” I didn’t get that gig!
But all the while, the driving force was a fear of “not being fit enough”. There was little, if any focus on performance. I remember going into another club to take over the program and was told a certain player had to have a “brutal pre-season” or he was out because he just kept running out of gas during the third quarter. The coach looked at me and said I had to give this player extra training because he had great talent but was a disappointment. So I took the player out for coffee and had a chat. He was anxious because his career was on the line. He wanted to improve and had the work ethic to do it. None of it made sense to me so I took him out on the track to watch him run. Gaping flaws in his running technique revealed the problem. So over the next few months he did the work to correct his technique and became one of the clubs finest running players for the next 8 years.
How times have changed. It is all about performance. And the clubs, who were begrudgingly shelling out maybe $80 a week to us “Fitness Advisors” now have Conditioning Budgets in the millions.
So let’s roll this around to Corporate Health.
For years, the backbone of Corporate Health has been testing and seminars. The tests focus on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar. The seminars are typically about stress management, nutrition and exercise. They are again, traditionally filled with should and should nots. Health fairs are used to back up these messages and keep people informed. Sometimes a company will install a gym or provide yoga classes but these are notoriously poorly attended. Often they are used as a marketing tool to attract talent.
But like the old football clubs fearing not being fit enough, most of the health messages have had a fundamental aim at creating fear around morbidity through heart disease or the possibility of diabetes or cancer. Very little is about the exciting area of human performance.
I will argue that for change to take place, and for growth to occur, their needs to be inspiration. [tweet_box]When people are inspired, they unleash motivational forces that may have lay dormant for years.[/tweet_box] I argue that Workplace Health and Wellbeing Education should be about inspiring a person to go for something better, to grow and evolve; to enhance themselves.
This can be done by first awakening a viewpoint of what is possible and finding the inspiration in each individual to want to go for something better. This then needs to be followed by education that builds understanding. It then needs to be followed with tips, tools and strategies to unlock their potential.
As the program progresses and the person begins to explore these strategies and starts settling in on the things that are working for them, good health will naturally evolve and disease risk will diminish.
[tweet_box]I get a strong sense that people have “disease warning” fatigue and the message no longer goes in.[/tweet_box]
In this modern day, I believe that Corporate Health and Wellness Programs will be more effective and bring greater value if they are aimed at developing your people, inspiring them to go for goals and then providing the guidance, understanding, strategies and tools to improve their general health, increase their physical fitness and capacity for work and play, and to become more resilient against stress.
I do feel a program that identifies a person more as a “Corporate Athlete” than someone in danger of injury or disease, will be impacting, penetrating and effective.
Let’s stop talking Cholesterol and start talking Creating.