Cultural norms are the unwritten rules or expectations of behavior and thoughts based on shared beliefs within a specific cultural or social group. While many of these norms serve as valuable guidelines that shape our behavior, it is important to recognize that sometimes defying these norms can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Some examples of norms are holding the door to someone entering a building behind you, wearing head covering in religious settings, giving gifts for special occasions, or waiting in line at a counter. Many norms are often unspoken but offer social standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior during interactions among people. However, I believe sometimes we can defy cultural norms now to live a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, I like and abide by many cultural norms. However, it becomes challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle when we are surrounded by norms that encourage unhealthy choices. There are many alarming statistics that contribute to this idea. An additional number to support this thought is that more than 60 percent of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of activity, and approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults are not active at all. This is based on information from the CDC.
It seems that unhealthy choices become the norm. We are guided to this way of thinking because many of the messages we hear promote unhealthy lifestyles. Below are some of the cultural norms that I have concerns about. (Part of my information is based on research and some is based on anecdotal data.)
Fast food – when I am out and about, it surprises me the number of people who get their meals at fast food establishments. One statistic reports that 37% of Americans eat fast food every day. Did you know that poor quality of fuel to the body increases the aging process?
Fast food delivered to your door- one report says that 60% of Americans order takeout or delivery once a week.
Community infrastructure/planning- the community that I live in is set up as a driving community. When I leave my house to go to the library, gym, store, I drive there in my car. Conversely, there are many communities that promote walking. When they leave their home, they are on foot and walk to do errands and shopping. There are many benefits to Walk Friendly Communities, including health and safety.
Marketing and Advertising – my personal observation is that some advertising promotes unhealthy lifestyle choices such as sugary snacks, cereals, or drinks, highly processed foods, or a new drug with multiple side effects, etc.
What other ways do you see that Americans are influenced as a culture by unhealthy beliefs or norms? I often do the opposite of what is promoted. I want to live a long life where I am healthy, fit, and active. To do this, I believe sometimes we can defy cultural norms now to live a healthy lifestyle.