Quick: when I say “well-balanced diet,” what comes to mind?
Amidst images of fruits, vegetables, and Cheerios, I imagine another top association is the USDA’s food pyramid. Even though they retired the model in 2011 (replacing it with their current My Plate diagram), the food pyramid still holds a fixed place in our national consciousness when it comes to nutrition and healthy-eating.
While we all know that nutrition is important, many of us have had our fill of nutritional advice. One such person is Laura McKibbin, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with a background in wellness promotion. She’s written, “We are constantly bombarded with information emphasizing healthy eating and exercise as the primary determinants of good health. While these can be important factors for good health, when we focus too much on them, we tend to forget the many other factors that probably have an even more profound effect on health.”
To make this point visually, McKibbon has produced a “Food for Thought” pyramid, challenging us to give a second thought to what really affects and enhances our health.
It’s not USDA-approved, but I love the tongue-in-cheek nature of this pyramid, teasing us for our (often counter-productive) hyper-consciousness about our health while highlighting the fact that some highly significant health factors, like our genetics, are outside of our control. And she’s certainly drawn upon a variety of sources!
What comes to mind when you see McKibbin’s pyramid? If you designed your own health and wellness pyramid, what would the different levels contain?
— Tommy Grimm
That’s neat. And very true what we cannot control.
Social Support and Spirituality are what stood out to me. As a young clergy in a rural area, it can be hard finding peers and friends outside the church. There just aren’t as many opportunities for that. Or finding ways to be fed spiritually outside of the church I serve.
I appreciate how interdisciplinary the pyramid is, along with the variety of sources McKibbin cites. They pyramid draws attention to a foundation that is largely outside of one’s control, at least for early development. That’s pretty interesting!
There seems to be a tug-of-war between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ and which has the larger influence over health, particularly physiological health and length of life. In the article “A Cup of Life: Medical Science and Genomic Disappointments” (link below), Dr. David Katz speaks to the tension between ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ and suggests that lifestyle factors have a stronger scientific foundation at this point in time (even to the extent of citing one study that showed lifestyle factors influencing genes). I believe he would suggest a pyramid with a larger proportion dedicated to diet and physical activity.
I love this pyramid and have it hanging in my therapy office. I see primarily teens and families, and this is a great teaching reference. I specifically like that it communicates a need for balance and acceptance. Our genetics are out of our control, though we have the ability to achieve optimum functioning by managing the rest of the areas on the pyramid.