Sunday, March 9, 2014

What Does It Mean to Be Healthy?

This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, my blog active from 2013-14.

My aim in creating Have Your Health with John was to first become healthy myself, while sharing knowledge gained along the way, and then to help others obtain their health - through simple steps.

I've felt stuck because I don't have a health plan; I'm not sure what I should try changing first. Where should I start?  But this blog post by James Clear about the power of imperfect starts gave me the push I needed to just begin. It doesn't need to be perfect and I don't have to have the optimal plan, or any plan at all for that matter. I just need to explore topics, make small changes, and write about it.

And so I'll begin with a basic question: What does it mean to be healthy?

For me, my main health goal right now is to have solid BMs. That would be a gigantic leap towards overcoming my IBS-D, though there are other areas in which I'd like to improve as well. But not everyone struggles with digestion, and good health is made up of many components.

These are the first areas that came to mind when thinking about what creates a healthy body.  Perhaps I'll come back to this list periodically to check-in; it can be a health progress report of sorts.

Components of Health

1. Food

Reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto this past January was absolutely crucial for my health journey. Why hadn't I read this book earlier?

Completely cutting out processed foods is a long-term goal, though my current consumption is really low, compared to that of other years in my life. I need to identify my remaining trigger foods that I haven't yet eliminated, and stop eating those I know about. (Like chocolate! Ack!)

I know John feels that wheat is detrimental to my health, but I need to read/learn about it (at least one full book) before I make any changes. The knowledge will give me motivation and reason to make the diet changes, should it be compelling for me. I do eat much less wheat here in Korea than I did when I lived in the states (bread and sandwiches aren't common here; rice is where it's at), but I'd like to learn about the benefits of cutting it all out.

2. Water

I definitely do not drink the recommended eight glasses, but I have consciously tried to drink more water at school. I have two water bottles that I fill every day. One stays on my desk at school, and the other I take home every day for my probiotic in the evening (I can't drink the tap water here, so that's why I fill up from the school's drinking fountains).

I also drink tea, usually at least a cup a day, if not more.  So right now I drink about two water bottles and a cup of tea per day. As the weather warms up I know I'll drink more; when I arrived last fall I would easily drink 2 liters of water each day because of the heat.

3. Sleep

My body needs at least eight good hours of sleep a night, so I'm sure to get them (and usually more). I know the importance of a good night's sleep based on how my body feels after a night without enough sleep. Thus it's a huge priority of mine to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

4. Exercise

I barely got any exercise over the winter; this category needs major improvement. Before coming to Korea I regularly played and practiced on an ultimate frisbee team, and would go for a run every now and then.

I'm currently trying to develop the habit of practicing yoga on Wednesdays, and when the weather warms up I'd like to run regularly and take advantage of the great hiking opportunities here.

5. Mental health

I know the power of thought and the importance of gratitude and positive thinking. The area I need to work on the most is worry. I worry too much, and I have an inkling that it could be negatively impacting my digestion to some extent.

I should reread Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, and I'd also like to read more about the mind-gut connection.

6. Supplements

I'd never questioned this aspect of health until recently, after reading a few of Michael Pollan's books. He thinks that you should aim to be the type of person who takes supplements (as in, consciously making healthy choices and living a healthy lifestyle), but to save yourself the money and not actually buy them. He feels they have little effect and aren't worth the cost.

Right now I take probiotics and glutamine every day. I also have Vitamin C chewable tablets that I take every couple of days (no set schedule). I bought some digestive enzymes the other month from iherb, but the taste was so bad I haven't had them again since. Any recommendations?

Before I add anything else to the mix, I want to do more reading about the effectiveness of supplements. I think getting required nutrients from whole foods is best, but can't supplements help?

What do you think about these six health components? Am I missing something important? Which category needs the most work right now in your health?
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