One Step at a time towards better health
I have an honest question to ask you. Do you think it’s normal to be unhealthy?
The next question is, what is normal to you? I am a firm believer that we are the clay of the world that is around us. So if you have only experienced unhealthy, then I would assume that unhealthy would be normal to you.
We may have started off with the wrong question, but I find it very strange how nonchalantly people will express the illnesses they have as if they don’t have any control over the matter. In very few cases is it an uncontrolled circumstance of fate. Maybe the right question is: What kind of life do you admire?
I like the saying by Joe Rogan, “Be the hero of your own movie.” Meaning, be the person you admire the most. Do the things that they would do or what you perceive makes them successful. Those things start with their daily habits. It’s how they live their life, and you can’t say you can’t become that if you’ve never tried to live your life in that manner.
Throughout my personal and professional career, I have heard almost every story that refers to why someone can’t achieve a healthy lifestyle; why they can’t workout because of time; or give up the pasta, dairy, soda, cereal and other foods/habits that are associated with the most common illness in our country today. The illness that I am referring to is chronic disease. Six out of 10 Americans have at least one chronic disease … 60 percent of America. Out of 300 million people in our country, 180 million people are walking around with at least one, which according to the CDC includes: heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, chronic kidney disease or diabetes. If that astounding statistic alone didn’t knock you out of your seat, I am not sure what will.
The core contributors to chronic disease, according to the CDC are: tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and excessive use of alcohol. That list is 100 percent created by behavior problems. No item in that list has anything related to genetics. In other words, the core contributors to chronic disease are caused by the choices we make and the habits we establish over our life, however short they may be.
Over the course of the year we have addressed how to be physically active and what a well-rounded diet should look like on your plate. In 2020 it is still amazing that we still need to address smoking and how harmful it is to your health. Haven’t we seen the effects over the last half century, not only described in medical journals, but illustrated in real life when our uncle, a chronic smoker, has tubes hanging off his face and can’t walk anywhere without hauling around an oxygen tank? Maybe it’s a mindset of, “this will never happen to me.” Whatever it may be, the only advice I can give you is ask yourself why you are smoking or drinking. Is it leading you toward who you admire to be? Would you consider it to be healthy to have habits like that? It’s also never too late to become a healthier version of yourself. As the great Hippocrates once said, “Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that made him sick.”
In my observations, it seems like we, as Americans, like to layer things to try to cover them up. For example, the smoker starts a fitness regimen while still maintaining their smoking regimen. Although the addition of the fitness regimen will add some positive benefit, it will not overcome the unhealthy habit of smoking, because of the magnitude of the unhealthy habit. Layering won’t help this problem. Only the removal of the unhealthy habit with the addition of the healthy habits will solve this problem.
Let’s get back to some more hard factors of what is making 60 percent of us unhealthy. In 1989, an article was published by Dr. Norman M. Kaplan called “The Deadly Quartet.” The article was an analysis of what risk factors are causing the highest mortality. His findings connected upper body obesity to 1) diabetes, 2) high cholesterol, 3) high blood pressure and 4) glucose intolerance. Obesity was deeply embedded into the four conditions. Compared to the non obese, high blood pressure was three times more common,while high cholesterol and diabetes were two times more common. Also, if you have one of these four conditions, it was found that mortality was minimal in those who were 10 percent below the national average body weight.
Weight is an important factor to your health. More importantly, when we dive into the data of the article, we find that the body fat percentage of your weight is ultimately going to be a strong indicator for chronic disease. More specifically, where the majority of your body fat is located is a critical factor. Body fat in the upper body has been associated with higher risk factors to chronic disease and mortality, but that doesn’t exclude those who carry body fat more readily in their lower body.
When I am guiding a client through steps toward better health, I usually refrain from using the scale. Weight by itself is an obsession that isn’t related to health by itself. I am more interested in body fat percentage. Optimal body fat percent for active women is between 15-20 percent. Active men are a little lower between 10-15 percent.
How do you lower your body fat? Eat meals that consist of meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Consume levels that support your physical activities. Be more active throughout the day. Get your heart rate up over an extended period of time. Be sedentary less. Smoke and drink less. Start applying these principles, and you’ll be amazed about how far your health will improve. Before starting, you have to be willing to give up the things that made you unhealthy to start with, and you won’t be able to do it overnight. You didn’t wake up one morning like this. Think about how long it took you to get to this point. Take it one day at a time and keep moving toward a 1-percent-better-a-day type of mentality.