Dr. Garey Johnson: The 4 Pillars – Wellness education for kids, schools and parents – Pre-K through Highschool
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A brief introduction to ‘4 Pillars’ ©
An Interview with Dr. Garey Johnson
What is 4 Pillars?
‘4Pillars’ or ‘Four Pillars’ is the name I’ve given to a health and fitness model that emphasizes a balanced and holistic approach to well-being.
A ‘pillar’ is something that provides foundation and support to hold up, firm up, or make staunch some larger structure. In this context, that larger structure is your health and fitness.
The four pillars supporting your health and fitness are: Food, Exercise, Rest, and Attitude.
These four things – Food, Exercise, Rest, and Attitude need to be in balance with each other, and of the appropriate quantity and quality for you to get full benefit. I define full benefit as being complete or total health and fitness, (well-being) – for the long term.
Is 4 Pillars just for Kids?
This, of course, is not just a concept for kids. We all – no matter how old we are – need to understand the importance of balancing the ‘4 Pillars’ if we are to remain healthy throughout our lives.
How young should the kids be to listen to a presentation?
What I have found (through presentations at the grade-school and middle-school levels) is that – when coupled with a simple visual aid and fun presentation – this model can easily resonate with kids as young as 5, 6, or 7 years of age. The concept (pillars) is easy for them to grasp and tends to stay with them long term.
If we can help children that young to start to get the idea of balance in their lives and start to think about how their bodies work (in a holistic way), it could foster a lifetime of good habit formation.
How do families benefit from your talk?
As parents, we often try to get our children to ‘eat their veggies’ by pronouncing how good they are for them or by making them aware that the vegetable path is the only route to a sweet dessert. What I have found is that children really do care about their well-being and they will listen to a conversation that puts it all together for them in a way they can understand and find interesting (i.e. fun).
4PILLARS: Good Health Comes from Good Habits
We often hear people talk about the “force-of-habit”. Well, the force-of-habit is a real, powerful, and natural phenomenon which we can be take advantage of simply – by making good ones!
One of the most key aspects for succeeding in making good habits is to start developing them early in life. Indeed, one of the most important (and difficult) parental responsibilities, is that of helping our kids develop good habits.
If you don’t develop “good” habits growing up, you may find yourself saddled with a number of “bad” habits. Knowing how and when to change a habit, unfortunately, is one of life’s most difficult challenges and often, sadly, some people have to experience a great deal of pain before they even attempt making the change.
The human body is an amazing organism which can tolerate a great deal of abuse before showing clear signs of failure. You may be able to smoke cigarettes, heavily consume alcoholic beverages, have high stress, or engage in some other destructive behavior for many years – believing you are tolerating it well. At some point however, the accumulated effects of such habits overwhelms the body’s ability to function normally and you find yourself dealing with an affliction like cancer or other debilitating disorder.
At that point, we usually ‘get it’ and begin trying to change our offending habit. If we are lucky – and work really hard at it – we may be able to slow down or even stop the advance of the affliction (usually with the help of the medical profession). In most cases however, there is some amount of irreversible damage done and we have reduced our life-span and/or life-quality considerably.
4PILLARS puts focus on the concept of habit and endeavors to get children to understand its power and relate what habits mean for health and happiness in their daily lives.
What is FOOD?
Copyright 2010 by Dr. Garey A. Johnson; this article may not be reproduced or used without the author’s explicit permission
To paraphrase the New Webster’s Dictionary, ‘FOOD is any substance taken to provide energy, nourishment, and growth’. In terms of our total health, we can speak of three different types of food: food for physical; food for intellectual; or food for spiritual nutrition and growth.
For the moment, let’s focus only on the physical type.
In the 4PILLARS model, we put physical food in one of two categories – good food, or not-so-good food. The main difference between these two categories is the quality of the nutrition that gets delivered to our cells. Good food delivers clean, high quality calories and nutrients to our cells, allowing the cells to perform their functions with less waste or toxins to deal with. This makes for quality cellular functioning and reduces stress and disease potential at the cellular level.
We’re more likely to be getting ‘good food’ when we eat ‘close to the Sun’. Since all of our energy ultimately comes from the sun (of course, many of our nutrients come from the soil but guess where the soil came from – that’s right, it came from the Sun). I like to say eat close to the Sun, which basically means trying to minimize the number of processing steps between the Sun and your plate. The first processing step comes from plant life, which uses the sun’s energy along with nutrients from the soil, water, and carbon dioxide to produce more plant life. To eat close to the sun is not to say that only vegetarians are truly getting good food but it is to suggest that – generally speaking – our industrial food processing steps tend to degrade the quality of the nutrition we get from our food and, to make matters worse, adds substances that our cells have to use energy to dispose of.
One good way to think about it is to think of your cells as little miniature factories. Like all factories, your cells have inputs and outputs. If the inputs are completely usable and compatible with the cells functioning, the cell (factory) operates most efficiently and the outputs (for example force from muscle cells, or physical strength from bone cells, or proper replication from all cells) will be compatible with good health and fitness.
‘Not-so-good’ food tends to have numerous processing steps between the sun and your plate. The benefits of some of these steps allows for reduced spoilage (helping the food industry make money) while other steps help with transportation and delivery or add flavoring to excite certain taste buds (like sugar and salt). This is a clear cost / benefit situation. The benefit of many of these processing steps comes from ease of use, longer shelf-life, and eating pleasure from the taste-bud excitation (causing you to want to repeat the experience with your next meal). The cost comes from the stress that is put on our cells thereby increasing the likelihood of disease and reduced life-expectancy.