Taking Charge Of Our Health

Monday, November 13, 2017

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." 

I can't tell you how many times I've heard or said that phrase in my life, but the concept is one I think we could all stand to be reminded of more often. Turning a bad situation into something better is something I think we forget we have the power to do — especially when it comes to our health.

Nothing frustrates me more than hearing people make comments like,

"I've had back pain my entire life. I'm used to it now."
"This [ache/pain/ailment] is just a part of getting older."
"I've dealt with this my entire life. It's just something I have to put up with it."

When did we get to the point where being unhealthy is completely normal, so much so that we don't even think of it as "unhealthy" but rather just something we live with? It doesn't have to be that way. We're not stuck with just the lemons.

The realization that my health is completely within my control and I have the power to make it better or worse has been one of the most profound and moving concepts to me. Our health is not some mysterious thing that we have no control over. Sure, it may throw a few lemons at us now and then, but we're the ones in control.

With that power comes great responsibility. It rids us of the "that's just the way it is" excuse and puts us in the driver's seat.

Last week, Mark and I went through the reintroduction phase of Whole30 which requires being very mindful of how our bodies react after reintroducing certain foods (grains, legumes, soy, sugar) back into our diet. I've become so much more aware of little things that I would've never noticed before, like that 3pm sluggish feeling. Turns out it's not actually an inevitable part of the day, but rather a direct result of what I eat for lunch! The bloat and minor stomach aches that make me toss and turn all night? I can avoid that by putting the right things into my body during the day.

It has also opened my eyes to much more than food. I'm more mindful of every aspect of my body now and how it's feeling. That small ache in my lower back? I can make it better by doing some gentle yoga. That feeling of overwhelm and anxiety? I can help relieve it by tucking my phone away for a few minutes, taking some deep breaths, or using Headspace. That dull headache? It's my body begging me to drink some more water, for crying out loud.

In It Starts With Food (yes, I'm referencing that book again!), Melissa Hartwig writes, "The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options." I believe those two options go much farther than food. Everything we do in the course of our day either points us in the direction of mental, physical, and spiritual health or away from it. It's left me with this hard, but honest truth: I am not allowed to feel awful and not doing anything about it — especially when it comes to the food I eat.

And before you start rolling your eyes, I totally get that all of this is much easier said than done. Sometimes it's easier to say "This is just the way it is" rather than make the tough changes. I know, because I'm human too. But I think it's important to at least be mindful of the fact that we're capable of fixing the problem (and not just by popping a pill to mask the symptoms or ignoring it). We can make real changes in our health if we choose to.

Mindfulness is a powerful thing.

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