Health and Wellness: Not as Elusive as You Think!
A person’s health and level of wellness are determined by two things: your genetics and your environment. This seems pretty simple; however, since this is something that a lot of people are concerned about and confused by it is also very elusive. Let’s take the time now to make it very simple, easy to understand and therefore achievable.
We should tackle the genetic portion first. Both the health care industry and the general public blame your genes for many diseases and health problems. Is this valid? Does this make it just luck or out of your control that you may get lung cancer, develop fibromyalgia, or become hypertensive (high blood pressure)? Well if you search the medical literature, human physiology journals, Science or Nature there is no evidence. I repeat no evidence at all that a human being or any other living thing is programmed or destined to get sick. In fact, all scientific evidence points to the fact that we are designed to be healthy and programmed to stay well. Okay, so if you are confused and mouthing the words “but…” then stop for a moment and follow my logic.
Here are some great examples everyone has experienced:
Example 1: If you cut your finger, what does the human body do as soon as the cut occurs? Well, the body does a lot of things and I won’t go through all of the steps, but everyone would agree that right away it begins to heal. Your body begins to re-build and cover the wound. It also prepares a defense against infection by mounting a local immune response to prevent further insult that could affect your whole body. This is the natural innate process of adaptation, self-preservation, and survival.
Example 2: If you break a bone, what does the human body do right away? Right away, the human body heals itself—once again it adapts to the situation.
Example 3: What happens when you breathe in the flu virus? Right away without having to think about it, your body mounts an attack. Your immune system kicks in and, for some people, the whole attack goes unnoticed, while others “get” the flu. This means that your body has to kick in the second line of defense. Your body actually increases mucus, gets a fever and the chills, etc.; all of which are necessary components of healing from the flu. When this occurs, in most cases, you have the flu. Because your body knows what to do, your body gets you through it and you are well again (once again you adapt perfectly to the situation).
All of these examples show you that your body has an inborn ability to heal itself by returning you to homeostasis or balance. Balance is your natural state of being. Your body is programmed to recognize a signal from your environment (cut finger, broken bone, flu virus), switch on the right gene and voila your body adapts. This is the second part of health that is related to your environment. Now some things that happen in our environment can be out of control, such as being hit by a car, drowning in a flash flood, or dying in your sleep in a fire. But for the most part in our modern lives, our environment is under our control and each year we, as a society, get better and better at controlling our environment. We control the temperature by wearing clothing and heating our homes, we control our food supply by the convenience of the grocery store, and so on. It is safe to say that most modern people, especially those around here, have great control of their environment.
So why am I explaining all of this? Because a lot of people think they have a gene for cancer or heart disease, Crohn’s disease, or that they are predestined to suffer and die that way. What we know now and have for some time, as evidenced conclusively by all of the best scientific journals in the world, is that all of the things that we suffer and die from are considered diseases of lifestyle. This means that they occur because of our lifestyle, because of how we control our environment. Isn’t that interesting? However, we try to either ignore them or try to fight them, not by changing our lifestyle but by taking a drug. As a simple example, if I ate McDonald’s for every meal every day, it would be easy to see how I might develop heart disease or maybe get cancer. So it might be the case that I have a gene for heart disease or cancer susceptibility, but it is the McDonald’s that did it—the lifestyle choice caused the problem. We choose to sit all day at work, we also choose to get up and exercise. We choose to stop for fast food, or we choose to eat a free-range chicken salad. We choose to dwell over a bad hair day, or we choose to laugh it off. Yes, the control over our environment for the most part allows us to choose to be healthy and well or be unhealthy, get sick and die early.
This may sound too simple to be true, but health IS simple. We need to provide the right things for our bodies, and they, in return, will perform well for us. I mention constantly to my patients that you are what you repeatedly do. You are what you eat; if you eat junk you will receive a junky malfunctioning body. If you eat well, your body will have the right raw materials to heal, repair, and stay well. You are how you move; if you sit all day at work and don’t take breaks to move around, your body will deteriorate. If you take work breaks, walk briskly at lunch, work out vigorously every day, then your body will not break down—you will stay fit and you can be well. You are how you think; if all of your thoughts are of stress and negative, you will interrupt your healthy, normal brain chemistry and you will stay unwell. If you think about how to solve problems, learn to be positive and have healthy constructive thoughts, then guess what, you will be healthy and you will be well.
Your health is determined by how you eat, move, and think, and if you do those well, you will be well. Wellness is not elusive, but it does require change and it does require focus, determination and sometimes help. If you want that help, I can provide that for you, your trainer can provide that for you, but most of all YOU can provide that for you. You can choose to be healthy, you can change, and you can achieve your health and wellness goals.