Health is a huge topic to tackle. There are endless resources, many conflicting, on how to achieve optimal health. It can be overwhelming as you’re gearing up to improve your health this next year. The primary motivation for many is wanting to look better, closely followed by wanting to feel better.
Maybe you spent this year walking around exhausted, stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed by life. Attempting to improve your health was just one more thing to worry about and so you didn’t. If you’re a mom, you often put much more energy into making sure your family is healthy than making sure you are healthy. You focus on making sure they get all their fruits, veggies, and vitamins and minerals daily. They get a well rounded meal before they hop on the bus to school, meanwhile you’re standing nearby throwing back your third cup of coffee and gobbling up left over pie for breakfast as you make their wholesome lunch. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of this.
What if there was a doable plan for next year that will improve your health. It involves no cold turkey diets, no couch to 5k’s, and no Crossfit. It wont be easy, but it will be doable.
I believe there are 5 Pillars to Health or five areas to focus on:
4. Stress Control
5. Nerve and Spine Function
You are what you eat. You’ve heard this, right? Well it’s true. The foods, medications, and toxins you put into your body are absorbed by the blood stream, becoming a part of who you are at the cellular level. If you are chronically exhausted and blaming your kids’ crazy schedule, check your diet first. You may be eating foods directly contributing to your energy levels in a negative way. For example, we’ve heard relentlessly about how oatmeal is a well rounded healthy breakfast, but you might be surprised to learn it makes a better dinner than breakfast
“Grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production much like whole-grain bread,” says Cynthia Pasquella, CCN, CHLC, CWC. “They raise your blood sugar naturally and make you feel sleepy. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep.”
And that get-you-going cup of coffee might not be getting you going at all.
Here’s a list of foods that can make you sleepy and you might want to avoid at breakfast: cheese, whole grains, honey, processed meats (sausage/bacon), humus, bananas, potatoes, rice, sugar, and processed foods in general.
Lastly, we recommend keeping a food journal to figure out which foods are having a negative impact on your health.
Start small and go from there. Short-term goals are more manageable and less daunting that long term goals. Instead of committing to running a half marathon by April, commit to moving a little each day and building momentum over time. If you are sedentary nearly every day then any movement is progress. Track your progress daily and set goals for the following week, upping the progress each time. The example we provided might help get you started.
Ask a friend to join you. We are less likely to quit if we think our friends will label us a quitter.
When people today hear the word supplements they automatically visualize protein powders and post workout shakes. This couldn’t be further from what we are talking about here. To supplement means to add “something to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole”. The truth is very few of us are able to get all the nutrients our bodies require through diet alone, especially with our pantries stocked full of processed foods!. Remember, not all supplements are created equal.
Here’s a mountain most of us hate climbing. The first three topics we can control, but stress often seems out of our control. Leaving “stress control” to be somewhat of an oxymoron. Here’s the good news! If you can get the above topics under control you’re already on your way to tackling your stress. What does stress control have to do with diet and supplementation? Well, a lot! If you’re loading your body with high glycemic foods like chips, pretzels, breads, etc.. and starving your body of vital nutrients then you are stressing your body. Those constant dips and spikes in blood sugar can send your nervous system on a roller coaster ride, making it nearly impossible to keep a level head throughout the day.
Nerve and Spine Function
Here’s the bad news. You can be doing all of the above to the best of your ability and something is still not clicking, you still aren’t making progress. Let’s get back to that example of chronic exhaustion. You’ve done everything right. You’ve cleaned up your diet, combated stress with exercise, and have been regularly taking the appropriate supplements, BUT you are still exhausted. Why is that? To put it in the simplest of terms – you’re nervous system is broken. The nervous system is the communication system within the body that regulates every function. Messages travel back and forth between the brain and the body in order to achieve a certain outcome.
The light switch analogy is one of my favorites and helps me better understand the nervous system. When you flip a light switch you expect a light to come on. You expect just the right amount of electricity to be sent through wires hidden in the walls. You expect the switch to fire the message, you expect the message to travel to the light fixture, and you expect the light fixture to receive the message and illuminate the room. You don’t expect nothing to happen, and you don’t expect to hear a pop and see the flash of a burnt bulb.
In order for you to receive just the expected outcome, every part of the light system has to be working properly. The same goes for your body. If your body is unable to send the appropriate messages at the appropriate times and have those messages be fully received and translated your nervous system is broken. Often, the breakdown occurs from a vertebrae squashing or pinching a nerve in the spinal cord. It takes very little movement and therefore very little pressure for a nerve to be compromised.