How Healthy is Your Healthy?
Health -- It is a broad, overarching noun used to define A LOT of different things, and in this blog post we are going to tackle them all! Just kidding. But really, if I were to ask you what your definition of health is, what would it be? Would it be the dictionary definition, "soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment," or something deeper, lasting, achievable, and more realistic?
We all know that "freedom from disease or ailment" is, for the most part, humanly impossible. We will all, at some point in our lives, face a disease or ailment that keeps us from picture-perfect health, and some much worse than others. Change is possible. Weight loss is possible. That debilitating autoimmune disease, the fatigue, the stress--these are all things we can work on. Your body was made for something better. But what you also need to work on is your definition of health.
Did your disease or ailment just do you a favor?
What if I will always have to live with impaired digestion for the rest of my life? What if medications and regular naps on the couch are the new norm, and I can't ever go back to the way things were? The way things were? If that was my definition of "perfect health," then my body definitely was not along for the ride. Eating horribly, thinking exercise could wait until I was older, excessive weight and fatigue was "normal" for a lot of people; was this the definition of health that I wanted back? I wasn't happy. I was irritable, confused, and never content. However, I didn't have horrible digestion issues! (yet!)
As you can see, my idea of healthy was anything but, and it didn't change until a complete shift in my diet and lifestyle because my body finally slapped me around and said enough is enough: I eat better, sleep better, have less stress, more energy, and a leaner physique than I could have even dreamt of back then. But I had to adhere to the lifestyle my body was craving (as is yours). So in my case, my idea of health has completely changed...for the better. Could it be that your body is telling you it's time to jump off the "normal" train of chronic workout fatigue, following the (sad) Standard American Diet, and living on constant high-stress alert for a completely different, healthier way of life?
Will it motivate or hinder you?
I hope whatever you are going through motivates you enough to make the sacrifices and say goodbye to the old way of living and eating. The truth is, even if you can think back to a time when you were healthy, going back to that might not be possible
(and maybe that's a good thing). What is possible is how you define your health today. I suspect you may find out a lot about your current habits if you do, and you may realize your body has been telling you for a while it's time for something different.
What about when perfect health isn't attainable?
This is a tough one, and one that I had to wrestle with. The Primal experiment I went through could have made no difference in the outcome of my symptoms. Chris Kresser, in a fantastic podcast, Will I Have to Follow This Diet Forever, touched on this very subject, and it reminded me of an article of his I read while I was going through this myself: what if I never get better, at least to the level that I expect? That's where Moshé Feldenkrais' definition of health as, “the ability to live your dreams,” proves so powerful.
The final piece of my healing puzzle came when I stopped obsessing about supplements and cures, and started living instead with intent, purpose, and more joy. Using diet as a foundation not just for the hope my symptoms might go away, but because I knew that it was the right thing to do for my health and my family's health. Through concentrating on living life beyond my symptoms, a lot of stress was lifted, and I do really believe that this played a huge role in the success of my complete turnaround (you'd be surprised how times a client goes away on vacation only to report that they were virtually symptom free...until they got back). When you make the decision to--as Chris points out so poignantly--"live your dreams regardless of your circumstances," you then give yourself permission to accept where you are, work towards what your ideal of health is, and lift the burden that you are meant to be something other than who you are right now.
Live and always strive for better health, with purpose and with confidence. Only then will you be sure that you have done everything you can to change yourself for the better, to get yourself out of whatever rut you are in. Diet, exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management--when all those ducks are in a row, healing can begin.