Before you read below, please join me for my next FREE Spreecast on Saturday, April 5. I’ll be continuing these on the first Saturday of every month. To get a taste of what you can expect, here’s a 3-minute clip from the previous Spreecast!
And now, on to the blog….
Why your Health is a Big, Big Picture…
I have seen a fair share of angry meditators, overweight marathoners, and unhealthy healthy-eaters. The fact is, what constitutes health for the modern human—a natural animal living in an unnatural world–is a big, big picture.
Almost immediately after becoming a practicing nutritionist I realized first that health went way beyond food, and next that it went way beyond exercise. In the beginning I did what nutritionists are trained to do—a consultation with the ‘plan’ that follows. I would explain my reasoning behind my plan and made a great effort to truly inform my clients on the subject of nutrition so that they would understand the basis for my recommendations. With the exception of those clients who had suffered a severe health crisis (heart issues, cancer, diabetes) and were clearly ready to follow my plan, most would not be able to follow the plan for any extended period of time, and even with those that did, their gains in health were simply not significant enough. Within a few months of starting my practice I decided to completely reformulate my approach to one that is truly effective long-term, and that incorporates all aspects of what I now see are part and parcel to the health of our species.
My new approach (which eventually became my book) came from the realization of a few things: first, that our bodies and minds are in a constant drive to achieve balance with the world. Second, that true physical health—a body in balance—cannot be achieved without a mental health, and vice versa. Third, chronic stress of any kind harms the body as well as the mind, no matter the source of the stress. While my clients would learn to eat well, they might be exercising too little or too much. They might be in a dysfunctional relationship, horrid job, taking care of an elderly parent, or suffering financially. Likewise, they might have a great job, but were eating nutrient deficient foods that were causing physical imbalance (weight gain, inflammation, fatigue, disease etc). I saw repeatedly that unmanageable stress takes a great toll on the body that often times cannot be overcome by just diet and exercise. I began working with my clients, and taking all their sources of stress into account. When appropriate I would (and still do) recommend to my clients other practitioners who can address what I am not trained to (addiction therapy, psychology, marriage counseling etc.). My work as a health coach/nutritionist provides a foundation of health from which all the other parts of their lives can benefit.
Another crucial reason that health is much more than just diet and exercise is that taking on too much too soon of either can add to your stress, and undo or minimize the benefits of both. Easing your way into a healthier and happier life with small enough steps that you do not add to your stress nor lead to burn-out is THE best way to create truly sustainable, long-term health and happiness. Taking on a food plan, diet, or cleanse (with the obligatory scheduling, measuring, weighing, counting) can be very stressful—the very stress that could ironically undo the benefits you are looking for. I have said many times that the health of any human is determined by what they do before the cleanse/diet and what they do after. NOT what they do during. I’ve seen plenty of people who consume enough nutrient dense food (what I call in my book ‘heavy-box foods’) to yield a healthy body, but are so all-consumed with what they can and can’t eat that they fall physically and mentally into imbalance. As a result I work with my clients to settle on how they would ideally like to live, and then help them figure out what they are ready to take on step-wise. For some clients this has been literally two minutes on a mini tramp each day– two more minutes of movement than they were doing, and more importantly, because they are able to sustain this act long-term, they become ‘someone who exercises every day’ without the subsequent burn-out of taking on too much too soon like gym memberships and personal trainers can be for many. Once the behavior is established I can then help them build from there. Health of the body and mind is about establishing what you do most of the time, not for some fixed period of 7 days, 21 days, or even 12 weeks. What you do most of the time includes not just how you eat and exercise, but how you approach your relationships, your work, your life in general.