How to accelerate your optimal health journey

10.06.16 |

The big picture

For years, I have talked about how the health industry’s obsession with diet and exercise is misplaced. In isolation, diet and exercise don’t work. Yes, you will probably lose weight in the short term, but the research tells us that you are likely to gain that weight back (and potentially a bit extra).

If you ignore the big picture, that big picture is likely to drag your health back to where it started.

The core problem with this approach to creating health is that it does not address your mind and your behaviors. Without behavior support and lasting behavior change, very few people can stick to a diet or an exercise program when times get tough.

That’s why the Habits of Health System and my colleagues at Take Shape For Life are always talking about habits as well as the triggers and behaviors that drive them. The foods you eat and the exercises you do matter—and they always will—but so do a great number of other choices.

If you ignore the big picture, that big picture is likely to drag your health back to where it started.

For example, I shared an NPR article with the Optimal Wellbeing Community yesterday. It summarized a study published in Molecular Psychiatry that found that stress, which boosts inflammation, can eventually override the benefits of a healthy diet.

This was an admittedly small study, so more extensive research needs to be done, but the findings support what we’ve known about Habits of Health for some time: Habits of Health are interwoven in such a way that improvements or problems in one area of health will ripple into other areas of health.

In this study for instance, the reductions in inflammation that study participants gained by eating healthier foods was overridden by the negative effects of stress. If you stop your health transformation at your diet, the poor health choices you are making elsewhere will undermine your progress.

But there’s good news, and this is really exciting: You can harness this interconnectedness to amplify the power of your choices and accelerate your health journey.

Some examples

Here are some examples:

  • If emotional eating is a challenge, learning to Stop. Challenge. Choose. or to pause for 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation when you feel overwhelmed can reduce stress and lead to better eating choices.
  • If you often feel too tired to exercise after a day at work, consider drinking more water throughout the day and turning off your cellphone an hour before your bedtime so that you get more restful sleep.
  • If feeling lonely and disconnected from the community saps your motivation, join a recreational league in your area to meet new people and to get more exercise.

All the Habits of Health have benefits like these that ripple into other Habits of Health, increasing your returns and accelerating your momentum. If you find yourself struggling to excel in one area, step back and think critically about where the real source of your challenge lies. It might actually be another Habit of Disease leaking into your current focus area.

And of course, I’m here to help if you have questions, and don’t forget to talk to your health coach as well!