Healthy eating and living, is there a quick fix?

How easy do you find incorporating and/or embedding healthy eating and living habits into your day to day life?

My experience suggests that for many of you it is challenging?

Why is this?

Long term success is complex change  

The concept of healthy eating and mindful-living sounds simple enough does it not?  Don’t we just go out and buy some healthy food and start exercising?  Is that not all there is to it?

I do not think it is this simple.

I believe if you want to achieve long term quality health you need to understand the concept of integrated health and to understand that health comprises a number of elements.  And importantly that is when these elements are in ‘reasonable’ balance that we have the best chance of achieving long term quality health.

Let me explain.

I believe health must be thought of as being integrated, as comprising a number of elements.

When you begin to think of health in these terms you are able to develop an understanding of how each element inter-connects and inter-relates to determine your ‘whole’ health.

Once you understand this, you:

  • Can identify if and when imbalance arises in one or more parts of your ‘whole’ health.
  • Can understand how imbalance in one element can create imbalance in other areas.
  • Are in a better position to understand the strategies you need to keep all elements in ‘reasonable’ balance.

7 fundamental elements of integrated health

You can dice and slice the elements of integrated or ‘whole’ health a number of ways however I believe it has 7 fundamental elements:

  1. Healthy eating and drinking – which includes preparing healthy food, awareness of how your body responds to food and limiting intake of harmful substances
  2. Regular physical activity (incidental and organized) – which supports healthy body composition and time outdoors in the sunshine
  3. Strong interpersonal connection – from a social, family and community perspective
  4. A clear sense of purpose – meaning in life, your view of work/life balance and a sense of formal or informal spiritual connection that enables you to keep a positive outlook
  5. Appropriate rest and relaxation – ability to take time out, to play, reflect and maintain healthy boundaries that allow us to de-stress and recharge
  6. An outlet for creative expression – variety in life, your own form of creative expression that enables a regular spring clean of mind, body and environment
  7. Consistent and ongoing mental stimulation that keeps your mind engaged, stimulated and sharp

I believe these elements are like a basket of eggs.

The aim is to keep the basket in balance, to keep each element in its own state of ‘reasonable’ balance so as imbalance in one or more elements does not domino and create imbalance in other elements.

The body is a good example of this.  The body has 11 major systems which are inter-related and inter-connected.  The body seeks to maintain homeostasis (balance) between these systems.  If imbalance arises in one or more systems, the body triggers a set of changes to bring the body systems back into balance.  It is when the body systems cannot be returned to balance that symptoms arise and it is when the symptoms are left unresolved that over time they can progress to health conditions and/or disease.

Each of the elements of holistic health has the potential to create imbalance in one or more of our body’s systems, which means each element of holistic health has the potential to undermine our ‘whole’ health.

Let’s take the category of appropriate rest and relaxation and let’s use the example of stress.  From a physiological perspective we know unresolved long term stress can undermine several body systems and compromise digestion, immunity, sleep, blood pressure, concentration, memory and mood.  If you are trying to improve your health, you need optimal digestion and absorption, you need sleep to repair and maintain body systems, you need a healthy immune system and I could go on.  In summary, rest and relaxation as a category is an important element of ‘whole’ health.

Improving your health, is not just about healthy eating, it is includes investing in strategies that maintain balance in the 7 elements of holistic health.

Review your ‘whole’ health to find the imbalances

Unfortunately I believe that when many of us seek to improve our health we focus our efforts on just one element of our health. As a result we often face unexpected challenges and difficulties due to a lack of acknowledgement or understanding of the impact of imbalance in other elements.

I encourage you to review your ‘whole’ health.  To identify where imbalance exists and determine how it will impact other areas of your health you are trying to improve.  Once you know where imbalance exists I encourage you to develop strategies to manage and redress the areas of imbalance.

I cannot tell you that changing your health habits will not bring challenges, it will.  However I believe if you are prepared for the challenges you will be better able to deal with them.

True change is a journey and a commitment

Last but not least I encourage you to remember that changing your health like many things in life is a journey.

As a child we need to learn to talk and walk, as a teenager we need to learn to study to pass our exams or obtain a degree and as an adult we need to learn the ins-and-outs of a new job or a career.

Developing healthier eating and living habits is the same.  We need invest in knowledge, skills and tools, we need to invest in effort and commitment over time and when we do we can make healthier eating and living a long term habit that forms part of our day-to-day life.

Wishing you long term quality health.

Take care

ciao Jan