There’s a Great Scene in one of my favorite old movies, A Thousand Clowns, where Jason Robards’s iconoclastic character, Murray (a disillusioned, unemployed-by-choice TV writer), is admonished to “get back to reality.” He says, mock-serious: “I’ll only go as a tourist.”
That’s how I often feel when confronted with what passes for reality in our culture. Being asked to settle for the way things are just doesn’t sit well with me.
That’s a big part of what inspired me to create Experience Life, of course. I wasn’t satisfied with the quality or consciousness of the conventional health magazines I was reading, and I believed it was possible to create something better.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve been told by a great many pragmatists that I have unrealistic expectations, that I’m overly optimistic, that I should dial back my hopes and dreams about what’s possible.
I do consider that advice from time to time. But then I look at how far we’ve come over the past decade and a half, and I think, “Nah, I’ll just keep on pushing for the seemingly impossible.”
Because here’s what I’m seeing: In many of the places where Experience Life was once a lone voice in the woods, there are now lively crowds gathering. Where once some of our expert sources were considered oddball outliers, they are now well regarded as among the world’s best.
Early reporting we did a decade ago (suggesting that natural fats and dietary cholesterol were not the heart-disease culprits they’d been made out to be) is now being echoed in Time magazine. It has even been incorporated into the new USDA recommendations. (In case you missed it, the 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines no longer specify a limit on total dietary fat, and no longer consider dietary cholesterol a “nutrient of concern.” Some experts hope to see remaining prohibitions against saturated fats eased next.)
Arguments we’ve long made against calorie-based approaches to weight loss are now being advanced by respected scientific experts like David Ludwig, MD, PhD. (If you haven’t seen our feature article based on his new New York Times best-selling book, Always Hungry?, you can find it at “Hungry No More“.)
Ten years ago we were writing about a virtually unheard-of healthcare approach called “functional medicine.” Now Mark Hyman, MD, the progressive medical expert we were going to for advice back in 2003, serves as the director of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. Last time I checked, they were scheduled several months out and had a waiting list of close to 1,500 patients from around the world.
Today, our once-unique whole-person, whole-life approach to healthy living has been similarly embraced by the mainstream. Positive psychology, mindfulness, social health, and envi-ron–mental sustainability (domains that were visible only at the fringes of health coverage back when we started Experience Life in 2001) are now areas of central interest.
And the once-almost-inconceivable commitment Experience Life made to avoid sensational “bikini body” and “drop a size” cover blurbs is now being embraced by a leading competitor: Women’s Health recently announced that it will avoid using such “negative” and “shaming” terms on its covers in the future.
The fact that a leading health magazine is willing to acknowledge that such language is damaging is encouraging to me, and yet it is also heartbreaking. Because those terms have been hollering at us from the newsstands for decades now. Which means we have a lot of past damage to undo. And clearly, we still have a lot of future work to tackle.
Every day, I see things I’d like to change. I see plenty in our current reality that makes me mad, sad, mystified, inclined to visit only as a tourist. But that’s OK.
To paraphrase that old tune made popular by Billie Holiday: The difficult we will do right now. The impossible will take a little while.
This “Get Real” issue of Experience Life is a great place to start.