Health Toolkit Part Five: The Last One
Health is different for every person. I view being “healthy” as the ability to engage in and enjoy my life. While being “unhealthy” is when a disease, disorder, and/or behavior prevents me from engaging and enjoying my life. These are broad, flexible definitions and that is intentional.
An individual’s health can be impacted and improved by many different practices and circumstances. Over these last few posts, I haven’t even begun to touch on everything influencing health.
One critical factor I have yet to discuss is the impact of human connection. Ample research shows the importance of belonging and support, and the devastating effects on health when it is absent. To be healthy, we need to feel connected to other people.
Research is continually being done to better understand the factors that benefit and damage our health and wellbeing. When building a health toolkit, there are SO SO many options to try and explore. While this might feel overwhelming, I choose to see it as helpful.
We do not need to try and do all the things. Rather, we have the freedom and flexibility to find what works for us.
I want to end this discussion of health toolkits with a final example.
Imagine someone has occasional stomach cramps that can become very intense and painful. First, it would be important for this individual to seek medical attention. There may be a GI (gastrointestinal) issue that needs medical treatment like gallstones or gastric ulcers. However, after diagnostic imaging and lab work, it is also likely that there will be no obvious problem for a doctor to treat.
This is where the health toolkit comes in. Reflecting on a few questions will help guide which practices will be beneficial and hopefully provide some relief from this issue.
How is the individual handling stress? Do they have access to adequate resources? Would seeing a counselor help process issues and develop coping strategies? Maybe a massage would be relaxing and beneficial?
Does the individual have supportive relationships? Do they feel like they have love and connection?
Is the individual moving regularly? Would physical therapy enable better movement? Maybe a visit to the chiropractor? Are they allowing their body to rest and recover?
Is the individual eating enough food or are they restricting? Are they eating a variety of different foods? Are they listening to the body’s hunger, fullness, and pleasure signals?
It is very trendy right now to blame just about every ache, pain, and problem on food sensitivities. While food allergies are a real thing and very serious, I would hesitate to jump to this conclusion immediately. From my experience, any diet that is too restrictive will only cause hardship in the future.
While I was engaging in disordered eating behaviors, I often had intense stomach cramps. With the help of a counselor, I stopped restricting and overexercising, I started eating more consistently, I found new strategies to manage my stress, and I began to rebuild my broken relationships with my loved ones.
This was the start of my health toolkit and as I practiced these strategies, my intense cramps disappeared.
Health is nuanced and complicated. As I have discussed over the past months, a simple easy solution or one version of healthy does not exist. However, building a health toolkit offers an equally nuanced and complex strategy to manage health.
By viewing health as a multi-faceted process, rather than a problem to be solved, we can implement many complementary practices. If something works, great! If it doesn’t help, we have the freedom and flexibility to move on and try something new.
Hopefully, building a robust health toolkit can empower you to engage in and enjoy your life.
Thanks for reading.
Post Note: While health may enable us to live our best lives, health is not the purpose of our lives. “Healthism” is a dangerous belief that is increasing in our culture. This way of thinking is a preoccupation with personal health and is a problematic association of health with morality and worth. Recently, I have been listening to ‘The Fat Doctor Podcast’ and their series on healthism. I have learned a ton. I highly recommend listening and following them on Instagram @thefatdoctoruk.