You don’t have to look far. Turn on late night TV or see one of your friends telling you what product you need to take in order to be healthy! The health and wellness industry is approaching 1 trillion dollars, globally. If you ask 10 health/fitness professionals “what does it mean to be healthy”, you’ll get 10 different answers. Personally, I feel it comes down to professionals avoiding the difficult conversations with people on the direction, and what needs to be done to improve their health. And, massive confusion on the part of the consumer due to clever marketing tactic. There’s a reason you never see a commercial for a blueberry….ain’t no money in that $hit!
I’m a believer in the biopsychosocial model of health. This means there are 3 main factors that make up your total health picture; your biology (genes), psychology (mind) and sociology (behavioral/developmental). Relying too much on any one of these would be an error, and the older (see wiser) I get, the more I see how much we overlook the mind’s role in overall health.
You can’t only measure health by percent body fat; there are plenty people around with low body fat dying.
You can’t only measure by using the Body Mass Index (BMI); that does not take body composition into account, only height and weight.
You can’t only measure health by blood pressure; there are just too many factors to consider. And every decade “they” lower the “normal” blood pressure readings. My conspiracy theory guess is that it’s done to sell more medication.
You can’t only measure health by cholesterol, triglycerides and other blood markers. Again, too many factors to consider. Not to mention the statin drugs given to millions of Americans each year to lower their risk of heart disease; however, some studies show a common side effect of such cholesterol lowering medications is heart failure. So, instead of dying from heart disease, it’s heart failure. Wonderful.
Your biology plays a role. Your genes are what you’re born with, yet we know that some genes can change as we age or due to several factors including chemical exposure, exercise, psychology (thoughts), etc. Some studies suggest that humans are born with cells that can create disease; cancer for example; and that different events can trigger the presentation of such disease. Currently, this is where I stand. However, every year there is more and more research about the body that may change my current state of mind. At the end of the day, blaming your health on poor genes is lazy and creates the victim mentality for the individual. In order to create the best environment for your gene expression, I would suggest limiting your exposure to toxins (hint: they are everywhere!), get proper nutrition, adequate exercise and practice being more grateful.
Next victim, social factors. Nature v. Nurture debate. Essentially asking what plays a greater role; the stuff you were born with inside of you, or your surroundings. Studies of twins separated at birth don’t answer the question clearly. While everyone wants things to be answered in “black and white”; that rarely is the correct answer. Lots of grey here.
My 2 cents when it comes to social factors and health? Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So, give that circle a long hard look and decide who needs to stay; and who you need to spend less time with. Cut the crap out. The negative people that always complain? Done! The ones that laugh at you for the healthy choices you make? We’ll be seeing less of you too!
And last of the 3 factors and your health; your mind. There are 2 kinds of stress, eustress and distress. Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. Eustress is good stress. Bad stress, or distress, is when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds, there is no longer any fun in the challenge, there seems to be no relief, no end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision making. Symptoms of distress include increase in blood pressure, rapid generalized tension. Behavioral symptoms include overeating, loss of appetite, drinking, smoking and other negative coping mechanisms.
Chronic distress kills you.
You can’t avoid stress. However, how you face stressors is what’s important to consider. I will tell you the two biggest factors I’ve found to help me are;
- Understanding what I can control versus what I cannot control. Acting accordingly.
- Being more grateful. Apparently kids change your perspective on life.
Trying to control what you cannot is stressful. Creating expectation for how you expect someone to behave = stressful! When things happen, before you react, step back. Having empathy and consider why this person reacted (or said something) differently than you expected. What’s their story? Understand that they are looking through life in a lens different than yours. After you’ve gone through that, it’s time to respond with the understanding that you cannot control what just happened or how someone will react to you, only how you respond to a given situation.
A few things to consider to improve psychological factors related to your health include;
-Avoid being a perfectionist.
-Be decisive with your thoughts
-Stop letting others make you feel guilty
Main takeaway in the role psychology of your health: You are in control of your thoughts.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, what constitutes “healthy” is a murky picture. Hopefully you’ve got a little clearer picture now.