Diets don’t work. At least, as practiced by most, studies have shown they don’t have a lasting impact. Most people start a diet, or join a gym, for a specific near-term goal. If you’ve ever been a gym regular, you know the cycle and see all the new people coming in at specific times of the year to get in shape for spring break, summer vacations, swimsuit season, etc. Even those starting a diet with the idea of “getting healthy” don’t stay with it.
Well, a diet is not a part of the normal lifestyle for most people. It usually involves foods, times, and other delights that are not normal for them.
What makes a diet successful? When it becomes a part of normal life, not something extreme for a particular goal. In my own case, I went ketogenic a few years back, not as a diet, but as part of a conscious change of my entire lifestyle. It was not something just to meet a short term goal, but a decision to change what I ate, how I exercised, and other factors to both get in shape and to promote long-term health. As such, it has left me in far better shape than I was.
For most people, preparedness is a “diet” in that it is usually for a near-term, short time-frame event. As such, it is expensive, time consuming, and in many cases not terribly effective because there was no real planning. Think about all the people you see in the stores when a snowstorm (or similar) is predicted (especially in the South): people who normally don’t buy bread or milk are in there stocking up. My thought is that instead you should be buying meat, bourbon (or alcohol of your choice), and whatever you need to fire up your grill when the snow stops. Also, buy propane or whatever you need to cook inside if the power goes out.
It also doesn’t help that mainstream media portrays those who have preparedness as a lifestyle as illiterate rednecks preparing to stand off the government. Do such people exist? Yes. Are they representative of the larger preparedness community? No. Hell No. For all that I love the characters of Burt and Heather Gummer (portrayed by Michael Gross and Reba McEntire) in Tremors, and laugh my rear end off at them, it may be the kindest portrayal of “Preppers” out there. There are many others not so kind. This ignorant and bigoted portrayal is used to manipulate people into not preparing via social pressure.
So, you have two factors that keep most people from recognizing that making preparedness a part of your lifestyle saves you time, money, and more in dealing with everyday life, much less disasters. Want some quick examples?
Someone I know related the tale of being in a fair-sized building when the power went out and everyone was ordered to evacuate the building. The emergency lights apparently were not working, so people were having to go down the stairs in the dark. That is, they were until he pulled a bright tac light he routinely carried in a pocket and used it to illuminate a good bit of the stairwell.
Another person I knew suffered a blown coolant hose on the interstate. In the trunk, he had tape, hose clamps, and a collapsable water jug. A temporary patch of the hose was made using tape and clamps, and the water jug went down to a nearby creek and supplied the water to refill the system so that they could limp to the nearest exit where they could replace the hose and coolant.
I know at least two people who keep a trauma kit in their car, and have used it at wrecks they’ve either witnessed or come upon while traveling. One or both have literally saved lives as it takes time for medics to arrive, and if someone is bleeding out, time is one thing they don’t have to spare. Even if not saving lives, it improved the outcomes for those injured in the wreck.
A few months ago, the power went out to our neighborhood. Lights out, electric stove useless, water limited because the house was on a well. One very bright flashlight, a butane chef’s stove, and both bottled and jugged water allowed me to make coffee, cook breakfast, and bathe so that I stayed on my normal schedule.
What do all these things have in common? Lives, potentially expensive events, and even day-to-day problems were solved by people who have made preparedness a part of their lifestyle, not just something they do when disaster looms or is hitting. In the case of the person on the interstate, being prepared prevented damage to their vehicle, and the expense of being towed and having to have the repair made at a place not of their choice. It allowed me to have my coffee (top priority), eat, and not be late for or miss work.
Making preparedness a part of your lifestyle not only prepares you from disasters, it also insulates you from any number of annoyances and potentially expensive events in day-to-day life. Water leak? You have the tools and means to stop or slow, and to prevent water damage to your home. Electricity goes out? You have lights, means to cook and wash, and otherwise go about your business.
Most of the truly essential items for preparedness can and do double or even triple duty as they have day-to-day uses. For example, the chef’s stove I used provides an extra burner for holiday cooking, and I’ve used it to cook at special events and even for some of the wolves at Wolf Park. It is not something that just sits taking up space, it is used as a part of my normal life. Same for the flashlight, my pocket knife, and a number of other items. I’ve even converted my first aid/trauma pouch from Iraq into something I carry with me on the job given the amount of travel and the likelihood of coming upon a wreck. I’ll have more on this concept later, as it is important.
The more you integrate preparedness into your lifestyle, the more you are insulated from, or able to deal promptly, with the “downs” and emergencies of everyday life. It can reduce or eliminate the expenses associated with them, as well as saving you time, hassle, and stress.
Got a story about how being prepared worked for you in a non-disaster situation? Please share it in the comments, as the more the merrier. In fact, I may ask you for permission to use it in the book. The more such stories that can be shared, the better for fighting back against media stereotypes and showing people how preparedness can help them.
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