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Hunting Elk and Foraging for Cowberries: The Secret to a Healthy Life

February 4, 2012

They have issues of Health magazine on the table at the break room at my workplace.  I’ve known for a while that, despite the title, it is not in fact a magazine about health, but a magazine about making women into calorie-obsessed, makeup-obsessed Barbie dolls.  What I did not know until today was that it’s also a comedy goldmine.

I submit to you, gentle reader, the following gem from Health magazine’s latest issue:

Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Women

This article, by somebody named Valerie Frankel, advises American women to live healthier by copying the “secrets” of women in France, Scandinavia, Japan, and the Mediterranean.  It opens as follows:

The secret to a long, healthy life in America? According to longevity researchers, it may be to act like you live somewhere else. It seems like every year another country’s lifestyle is touted as the new magic bullet to cure us of obesity, heart disease, and premature death: For an unclogged heart, herd goats and down olive oil like a Mediterranean. Avoid breast cancer and live to 100 by dining on tofu Japanese-style. Stay as happy as Norwegians by hunting elk and foraging for cowberries.

Yes.  Foraging for cowberries.

News flash, Health magazine!  Norway is not a hunter-gatherer society, it is a modern industrialized nation!  Most people in the Mediterranean region do not herd goats!  Many of them have lame office jobs, just like you!

What puzzled me most, though, was that this article somehow managed to avoid the most obvious reason why all these countries have less obesity, less stress, and generally better health than the U.S., namely:


Not to mention a stronger social welfare safety net and less economic cruelty in general.  I imagine that if I had free guaranteed healthcare not tied to my job, plus had five weeks guaranteed paid vacation like the French do, or lived in a country where over tw0-thirds of workers are unionized like Finland, Sweden or Denmark, I’d be healthier and happier!

(The Health magazine article mentions lower levels of depression in the Nordic countries compared to America, but seems baffled as to why.  They suggest it’s “possibly due to all those omega-3s.”)

I was wondering, as I read this article, if the author was really that stupid.  Does she really think that a country’s health statistics have nothing to do with government policy?  Or that people in Northern Europe spend most of their time hunting elks?

I’d like to think that she’s not stupid, that this article is really a joke on the management.  I picture some bright young woman with a graduate degree, severely regretting that she chose to major in English instead of going to law school, and mortified that this job was the best she could get, writing an excellent article about how American women have the deck stacked against them health-wise compared to women in countries with things like universal healthcare and quality state-funded nursery schools.  She calls it “Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Women”.  The editor says, “We can’t print that!  We’ll lose all our right-wing advertising sponsors!” and tells the writer to re-write the article from top to bottom.  The writer is pissed off, and purposely makes version 2.0 as over-the-top ridiculous as possible in order to get revenge.  The editor, not wanting to over-tax the brain by reading too much, skims through the article and publishes it.

The only damper on the joke is, there are probably plenty of readers out there uninformed enough to take this whole thing at face value.

Like any good comedian, though, Valerie Frankel saves her best joke for last.  Her article has a supplement entitled “7 Ways to Become Healthier Today”.  It ends with this marvelous tip:

Even the world’s healthiest people get stressed out sometimes. What they all have, Buettner says, are daily strategies to shed stress. Meditate, go for a run, make a dinner date with your best friend—and don’t worry about your inability to be a French woman or a Greek farmer.

Greek farmers.  The least stressed people in the world!

Suddenly I feel very glad to be an American.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 2:16 pm

    Many of those countries also have smaller, closer towns/villages and good public transportation, which means there’s a lot more walking. We don’t walk in America. Anywhere. Ever. At all. For any reason.


    • February 8, 2012 2:37 pm

      Weeellll….that’s not true of all of America. The area of Massachusetts I’m staying at right now has some very walkable towns, including the one I live in. Its public transportation system is not the greatest, but it’s enough to get me back and forth from my job in another town. And of course it’s Massachusetts, so the socialized medicine helps too 😉


  1. Hunting Elk and Foraging for Cowberries: The Secret to a Healthy … | Today Headlines

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