For a change of pace this summer, I’ve been working on the entertaining project of creating an online store which contains amusing nutrition merchandise. I came up with 13 designs with the help of a talented graphic designer named Samm. I was driving along a couple months ago and chuckled to myself when for no apparent reason, the slogan “I may be drinking the Kool-Aid, but at least it’s sugar free” entered my head. I thought this would be a funny phrase to have on a T-shirt.
I started thinking about my life as a person who generally likes to eat healthfully. For much of my life, my healthy behaviors have been viewed by most people I have encountered as either somewhat nerdy, square, or just boring. I’ve been urged to “live a little” and informed that “we’re all going to die of something” in people’s efforts to impress upon me just how uncomfortable they were with my eating habits. Never mind that it’s not generally considered polite to make fun of someone who is eating unhealthfully, many don’t hesitate to comment on the other side of the spectrum. ”Is that spinach you got there? Gross!” In many a break room I’ve dealt with staff examining my Tupperware containers as if trying to make sense of the soup, stew, or stir fry I had in my container, rivaled by their easily recognizable bag of fast food. Their eating habits were considered normal, while mine were considered strange.
I did however observe an interesting shift when our company a few years ago implemented an employee wellness program. The program offered monetary incentives to participate in certain wellness behaviors, such as exercise and eating well. Each site had a wellness leader, who would oversee health activities (a group walk on the lunch break or everyone joining a 5-K walk together).
What really struck me was the shift I saw in even voluntary behaviors. Whereas it had always been the norm to find boxes of donuts, cookies, and cakes in the break room, those things just sort of disappeared. When lunches were ordered for meetings, no longer were large amounts of pizza ordered; instead deli sandwiches with salad and fruit as an alternative to the cookie were ordered for all. And, no one complained. In fact, if something unhealthy was ordered or placed in the break room, people would actually turn their noses up at it and criticize its presence just as they used to criticize my lentil soup!
Well, I’m sad to say that under new management at that company (at which I’m no longer employed,) the employee wellness program went away (along with a lot of the previous employees) and with it, the healthy culture. But, it amazed me at how quickly a culture could change. And, even more amazingly, I have noticed this sort of change starting to occur in this country. More people than ever are making healthy habits a part of their normal lifestyle. Junk food is being passed up in favor of healthier snacks. Health food stores are popping up on more corners; labeling laws are being passed to cater to general health as well as subsets of health within our population, and restaurants are starting to seriously consider reducing the sodium and calorie contents of their menu items, or at least display the nutrition information on the menu. Awareness is increasing, and the culture is changing from one that scoffed at a healthy lifestyle to now starting to rebuke the unhealthy mentality and way of life.
The essence of my store is this: products that poke just a slight bit of good-natured fun at those who have not yet embraced a healthy lifestyle, while also displaying pride for those who have. There are designs that work for adults and kids alike. For men or women, on T-shirts or bumper stickers.
Please visit, enjoy, and spread the word. A healthier culture has become viral; you may as well jump aboard!