"Locus of control” is the degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces, have control over the outcome of events in their lives. This term, and the idea behind it, was developed in 1954 by psychologist Julian B. Rotter. To put this in the vernacular, are we in charge, or are people and forces on the outside running our show?
Over the last hundred-plus years, healthcare – or more accurately, sick care – has manifested itself as an external force in control of individual health, not an internal force.
For the vast majority of people, we are healthy (as far as we know) until we aren’t (we get a bad cold, bronchial infection, or some chronic disease like type 2 diabetes) so we seek medical care from a trained physician. The doctor may be able to truly solve the issue, such as giving an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, or at least, make you feel more comfortable until the illness, like a virus, passes.
In essence, we’re on fire and our doctors are firefighters who need to put the fire out, usually with a pharmaceutical or invasive procedure – certainly an important and many times a lifesaving task. This has developed into total reliability on our doctors regarding how to handle our health.
Sometimes, it’s the government that is exerting control. Most countries have recommendations on how to eat a healthy diet. In America, they once had a food pyramid, which today is called My Plate. The problem is that these parameters for “healthy” eating and lifestyle are heavily influenced by those lobbying for related industries.
The dairy, egg, and meat industries; the National Beverage Association, and the National Restaurant Association, are but a few organizations exerting their influence on legislative bodies.
This in turn skews the final information disseminated to the public where health considerations easily can take a back seat. This started in a big way in 1977 when the US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs had to walk back most of its dietary recommendations when big food wielded its influence and bullied the committee into retracting most of its initial findings. The government cannot be relied on for proper information on staying healthy.
There are entire industries aimed at exerting control over how we perceive what is healthy and what isn’t. They are very good at controlling the narrative by forming the incorrect paradigms we have all made regarding our health.
I’m talking about big food and big pharm. They both know how to get us to believe that their products are all safe – tasty in the case of big food, and the cure-all in the case of big pharm. They took their lessons from big tobacco back in the 1960s and have done even better. Processed food products are addictive, so we can’t help but keep buying and eating them.
Many of the common pharmaceuticals we are told to take are not nearly as effective as they are made out to be. Yet, they are exerting much control over our health. Big food wants us to keep buying their unhealthy products and big pharm pretends to have the answers to those illnesses. Michael Moss’s book Hooked reveals that the processed food industries purposefully addict us to their products. What big food is doing to us is no accident.
Medical system isn't interested in preventing sickness
WE MUST be the locus of control for our health. The medical system has very little interest in preventative medicine; it’s not very profitable. That means we must prioritize the lifestyle habits that benefit us. We are doing a lot better in that area, but we have a very long way to go. A survey conducted a few months ago showed that in the United States, the number of people eating the “ideal diet” was 0.7% of the population.
Exercise is a little better, with just over 24% meeting weekly guidelines. On the sleep front, 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, and 1 in 3 adults (about 84 million people) do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health. The result is a society where more adults are sick than well.
One of the greatest tragedies we are now witnessing is the onset of chronic and autoimmune disease at much earlier stages of life. We are seeing the incidence of colon cancer 10 years earlier than we used to. Stroke and heart disease are occurring earlier. No one else can do what you can do, and your health is certainly in your best interest. Without our health, our ability to do what we need to do and want to do becomes greatly impeded.
We know beyond a doubt that the greatest influences on your health are what you eat, how well you sleep, controlling your stress, and getting some exercise. There isn’t a pill that will take the place of any of these lifestyle factors. But how do we get there?
Let’s be practical. Dr. Melinda Mann pointed out at the whole-food plant-based kosher conference in Jerusalem this year that we can’t let perfection be the enemy of good (success). Every change, large or small, makes a difference. Adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to our diet already brings better health.
Couple that with getting rid of ultra-processed food and greatly minimizing animal proteins, including eggs and dairy, and your health and wellness will improve. This can easily be done without deprivation. Can you walk 30 minutes daily? If not, try 15 or 20 minutes. Disconnect from your devices earlier in the evening and go to sleep earlier – it all makes a difference.
The Jewish New Year is only a few weeks away. We will wish each other a happy and healthy year to come. Consider what a healthy and vibrant year looks like as opposed to sickness and lethargy.
The studies and statistics show that about 80-85% of health is under your control. You’re in charge of your health. Yes, it can be hard at the beginning. But commit to the next three weeks. You will come into Rosh Hashanah feeling wonderful and vibrant.
You are the locus of control. And it is you who can “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”
The writer is a health and wellness coach and personal trainer with more than 25 years of professional experience. He is the director of The Wellness Clinic and can be reached at email@example.com.