Tag Archives: Michael Arloski

Wellness or Well-Being?

Should Wellness be replaced by Well-Being?

By Michael Arloski

Fly into wellnessThe term “Well-being” may have come along at just the right time. Public speakers and marketers are re-branding “wellness” as “well-being” by saying that well-being is more complete, more holistic. Well-being, they say, incorporates the whole person, their environment, their financial picture, their career, etc. On the one hand it’s too bad that we have to invent a new term to refresh our memory of what wellness really is. On the other, with the way that corporations and organizations have allowed their wellness programs and products to deteriorate into overly simplistic efforts, based on single-measurable-variable pieces of research, well-being may be the kick in the pants that reminds us about “Whole-Person Wellness”.

Twenty to forty-year veterans of the wellness and health promotion field hear speakers appear to create false distinctions between the terms well-being and wellness. And yet, are they indeed false distinctions?

Has the term wellness been worn out? It has certainly been misused and abused. Here in Northern Colorado a wellness center is probably a medical marijuana dispensary. Google the word and the number one listing on that search engine is always the Wellness brand of dog and cat food.

What may be more disturbing though, is how we have come to look at wellness in ways that jettison its original holistic meaning. In an effort to be more scientific and evidence-based, we have embraced research efforts to show the effectiveness of our approaches to wellness and health promotion. While this research is important and has yielded much of great value, too much of it has been focused on what could be called the measurement of a single variable. As we’ve tried to apply the scientific method to this cause we’ve oversimplified our approach far too often. When we want to study the health behavior of human populations the challenge is daunting. 

It’s easy to control extraneous variables in a “Skinner Box”*. Any social scientist will tell you
skinner-boxthat people are a lot more complicated. The result has been too many health behavior studies measuring one aspect of activity, one blood lipid level, one blood sugar level. While those little building blocks all help to assemble the scientific foundation we need, too much is concluded from them. In our online digital world a simple study with twenty subjects, run one time, has its results proclaimed as headline news.

Following the medical world, where the threat of litigation for malpractice hovers over every practice like a vulture, we have sought to provide only programming that is evidence-based. That means, as Dee Edington stated at the 2013 American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference, “if you only do evidence-based [programs] you’ll never innovate!”  The temptation is to dumb-down our concept of wellness to just physical fitness and nutrition. The temptation is to be happy that we got someone to walk three times a week and call it good.

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

 

Dusting off the yellowed pages of my edition of Donald Ardell’s High Level Wellness: An Alternative To Doctors, Drugs and Disease (1977) I found my long-time friend Don referred to his colleague and fellow wellness pioneer, Jack Travis, as Jack and he defined wellness: “Travis believes that wellness begins when an individual sees himself or herself as a growing, changing person. High level wellness means giving care to the physical self, using the mind constructively, channeling stress energies positively, expressing emotions effectively, becoming creatively involved with other, and staying in touch with the environment.” Ardell posed five dimensions of wellness,
Bill Hetler six http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=Six_Dimensions), and Travis, including a number of psychological dimensions, built a model with twelve  dimensions. (http://www.wellpeople.com/Wellness_Dimensions.aspx)

Travis wellness wheel
Clearly Wellness has always been meant to be a holistic concept as I stated in 1994 in my article “The Ten Tenets of Wellness” (published in Wellness Management, the newsletter of The  National Wellness Association, which also can be found in Chapter Two in Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd ed.

Indeed we’ve seen it all before. The term “Mindfulness” has been skillfully re-packaged by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others. Studying today’s version of mindfulness someone like me is transported back to about 1968 when I was in college and reading books like Bernard Gunther’s Sense Relaxation Below Your MindOf course everything we’re talking about here is based on practices that go back thousands of years in the traditions of meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and more. 

Yoga Pose

While in my doctoral program in the 1970’s, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn deeply about biofeedback and how to apply it in working with stress-related disorders. I specialized in that for many years as a psychologist and served as the President of The Ohio Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Health. The beauty of the research done by biofeedback pioneers Elmer and Alice Greene (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Biofeedback-Elmer-Freen/dp/0940267144 and http://www.consciousnessandbiofeedback.org) was to use recently developed technology to study the consciousness practices of Indian Yogis, monks, and others. By examining their subject’s brain waves and various physiological indicators they ended up validating the legitimacy of such practices. Thus we see that today’s mindfulness has its roots in research completed under other names as well.

Today’s dynamic “Positive Psychology” movement has invigorated the field of psychology and is providing the sound research evidence that is validating what the Humanistic Psychology folks have been saying since the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “Human Potential Movement” of the late 1960’s and the work of Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Rolo May and many others, emphasized looking at human behavior from a positive growth perspective instead of the usual clinical/pathological perspective. Saying that Martin Seligman founded the Positive Psychology Movement may be accurate in recent history, but he did so standing on the shoulders of these earlier giants. Our field of coaching also built its self on these same shoulders and from its inception always took on a positive psychology, strengths-based approach to working with people.

A Return To Whole-Person Wellness. Looking at wellness programs merely as cost-containment strategies has caused us to develop a tunnel vision ROI-only view. Some companies today are spending more money on their incentives to get people to take a health-risk assessment, etc. than they are spending on their wellness programs! When we view employees only as statistical units that drive up healthcare costs, we down-size  or dumb-size our thinking.

The well-being approach would have us view employees as whole people who can contribute to the mission and purpose of our company and do so through creative, higher performance that happens when they are well in this holistic sense. The term to shift to is VOI (Value On Investment).

More Than Just Corporate Health Promotion. When we step outside of the corporate world we see wellness, and now well-being, at work in our healthcare settings, communities, schools, places of worship, and among groups and individuals who want to live their best life possible. We are realizing the powerful effect that connection and community provides for our
Kids eating greenshealth and well-being. We are seeing how having safe green spaces to walk, play and exercise increase the health of communities. Part of our approach to wellness/well-being is to step outside of a myopic corporate perspective and remember that not everyone works for a company with the benefits of a wellness program. Being inclusive of under-served populations in both rural and urban areas, Native American/First Nations Reservations, and others means maintaining this big-picture view of what wellness/well-being means.

If Well-Being helps us remember to work with the whole person and view them from a holistic perspective – great! If the term refreshes programs and generates engagement – wonderful! Bring on Well-Being while we remember what it really is – Whole Person Wellness.

* A Skinner Box is an apparatus for studying instrumental conditioning in animals (typically rats or pigeons) in which the animal is isolated and provided with a lever or switch that it learns to use to obtain a reward, such as a food pellet, or to avoid a punishment, such as an electric shock.

Dr. Arloski is the author of the seminal work Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Edition, and Your Journey to a Healthier Life.

Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change

Your Journey to a Healthier Life Cover

 

Giving Our Lifestyle Power Away To Celebrities

Chicken Fried Steak
If you don’t know what this is, that’s a good thing! (Chicken-fried steak)

The rise of celebrity chefs and food programs has been phenomenal. True, there are some excellent shows that feature healthy cuisines, and more wellness-oriented content. However the alarming trend has been for more and more shows to do what television shows have learned works for ratings: to shock and to “give the public what they want.” I’m talking gluttony and foods that have been scientifically linked over and over again to the obesity and health crisis we see in America and ever-increasingly, worldwide.

Americans watch an average of Four Hours of Television Per Day. (http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html) This media-saturated culture allows television celebrities easy access to our awareness and affects our lifestyle decisions more than we think.

fried baconWe see food programs, often posing as travel shows, glorify over-eating to a degree that is all about shock value. We tune in to programs that seem to inevitably feature consuming the most disgusting substances the host can find. Far too many programs show the host seeking out and gorging on huge quantities of the fattiest red-meat items available. Or, we indulge in a convenient fantasy that “good old home cooking” with all the butter and gravy possible won’t really hurt us. Cholesterol, calories, salt and fat content be damned! Full speed ahead!

We WANT to believe that we can eat like those folks on television and get away with it. The identification with some of these television chefs has been astonishing. What we forget is that they often become more of a corporate “brand” than a person. They represent the tip of a business iceberg that at times becomes a juggernaut of capitalistic power. When that happens it’s not about your health, it’s about making money.

Paula Deen, the television chef who made millions pushing traditional Southern cooking with a style of over-indulgent exaggeration, became “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” recently when she announced that she has come down with Type Two Diabetes. While deserving of all the compassion we would give anyone who encounters this challenge in their life, Paula lost much of such potential support by only revealing her affliction three years after her diagnosis. In the meantime she had continued to push her “brand” and all of the diabetes-engendering recipes that went with it. She also never revealed her diabetes until she had a mult-million dollar contract in place to be a spokesperson for a diabetes drug company. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/paula-deen-diabetes-announcement-celebrity-chefs-support_n_1224454.html)

Man reading food labelWhen we give our power away to entertainers who may or may not have our health and best interests at heart, we lose. We often feel betrayed when some truth finally comes to the surface, whether it’s about them, or when we suffer consequences in our own health.

It’s really like reading labels. What is the real content of this product? I loved hearing Marion Nestle (no relation to the food company) (http://www.foodpolitics.com/) talk about nutrition and the food industry at The National Wellness Conference (http://www.nationalwellness.org/index.php?id_tier=90) one year. She made it clear that the big food companies are not evil, they’re not out to get us. They simply are out to make money and are really very neutral about our health. If we purchase junk, they will make and market more junk. If we purchase more healthy food, they will, as we have seen, make and market more healthy food. The same is true for TV.

I’m not out to change TV. I’m out to help people reclaim their own lives. Read the label, so to speak, on what you watch on television. Remember that your favorite celebrity may simply be putting on an infomercial and calling it a TV show. Watch consciously and be conscious of how much you watch. We can’t always trust the intention behind a show. It’s like finding a good looking website on nutrition and then digging deeper and finding out that it’s just a propaganda voice for a coalition of food industry vested interests. The charge of all of these shows is to entertain first and foremost. That’s why we find them fun and interesting. What’s wonderful is when they share recipes that are actually heart-healthy, cancer-preventing, and diabetes-preventing.

Salmon and vegetablesWe would love to feel like celebrities are our “friends”. We all want to be connected to others. We enjoy their entertainment and we sometimes aspire to be more like them, for better or for worse. Celebrities are real people and the few I’ve met personally, like John Denver and Dennis Weaver, were as sincere and genuine as it gets. However, let’s not make them lifestyle beacons for us or give them authority they don’t deserve. It’s like a time way back in the late 1960’s when I noticed a friend of mine hanging on every word of a rock band for philosophical and political guidance. No wonder The Moody Blues put out a tune at that time entitled “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock n’ Roll Band.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqOSzkqPhbA)

Wellness Self-Quiz:
1. Have you found television food shows that emphasize wellness and healthy eating? Please share.
2. Have you found yourself recently shifting your eating habits to include more (not less) red meat dishes, more fried foods, more higher-fat content items after seeing such trends on show you watch?
3. What is one thing you can do to be a more conscious consumer of food programs on television?

-Shared from Michael Arloski’s blog, Real Balance Wellness.

Books by Michael Arloski:
Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change
Your Journey to a Healthier Life

Wellness Coaching Reviews


Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle ChangeINSPIRING, INSTRUCTIVE, INDISPENSIBLE

“Inspiring because Dr. Arloski strengthens my belief that we can help people get past the obstacles that keep them from seeking a deep sense of wellness. And because he teaches us how to inspire positive change in others.

Instructive because the book shows us the psychological stages people pass through as they attempt, and hopefully succeed, at creating lasting lifestyle change; we just need to stay with them as they move along the path.

And indispensible because it’s the perfect handbook for health and wellness professionals to keep handy; to remind themselves to review the steps, to stay with the client where they are and to ride out the waves of change with patience, compassion and joy.”

-Suzanne Ballantyne


A book to come back to time and again

“If you are a Health and Wellness Coach you will want to have this invaluable book by your side. I’ve read just about every book there is on health and wellness coaching, I’ve even written one myself and this is still the best.

-Anne Marshall, Author of The Health Factor: Coach Yourself To Better Health