Can being too healthy hurt your health?
“A journey to real health.” That’s the subtitle for this humble little blog of mine. And let me tell you, it’s been a journey. Actually, no that’s not right. It is a journey. I imagine this journey will last until I die.
Like any real journey there are uphill battles, downhill thrills, and the even-steven day to day straight and level roads. There are times when you feel you are running full speed, watching mile marks fly by you as you zoom to a better place. And there are definitely those times when you feel out of breath and that you just need a break for a while.
This has been me for the past few months: Needing a break.
This “break” I’ve been seeking isn’t so much about giving up real food, ditching any sort of physical exercise, and sitting around eating junk all day. If health really is a journey, and you have a final destination in mind, why would you turn around and go back to the beginning? No, this “break” is more of a pause. A chance to see how far I’ve come, and more importantly make sure I’m heading down the right direction.
You see, recently I’ve felt that this passion for health–this zeal for “perfection”–has actually been hurting me. Ironic that the pursuit of health can actually be harmful to your health, right? But it’s true.
I mean, why does anyone want to be healthy?
Do we really care about a certain number on the scale? Does being able to do a million jillion squats make you a better person? Does being able to run a marathon seal the deal and get your name on the “most healthy” list for life?
I want to be healthy to live my life as fully as possible.
I want more energy. I want more vitality. I want to be able to do the things I want to do. I want to be free from the bondage of medication, pain, or disease.
This is what drives me to do what’s best for my body. Because I know that my body is a key component to being free.
But here’s the thing… recently I’ve struggled with some health issues. My insomnia has kicked back into high gear. I have allergies for the first time in my life. In general, I’m just fatigued. A lot.*
I spend a lot of time, energy, and money preparing good, wholesome food for my family. I do yoga daily. I know the human body better than the average Joe. I research like a crazy person. But lately, it seems that the harder I try, the more set backs I see.
In my quest to cover all my bases and have a more “integrated” approach to health, I’ve found myself sitting in a puddle of complexity, contradiction, and massive confusion. And I know I’m not alone. Anyone who’s really tried to dive into the realm of “health” finds that there are no easy answers. There are plenty of zealots claiming this or that to be the “one” thing we must do… but there is little that everyone agrees upon.
And it’s stressing me out.
Oops. Guess what? Stress is a major health hazard. (Oh nuts.)
Now don’t get me wrong. I value this journey, including all the confusion. In my opinion, if you haven’t been thoroughly confused about health you haven’t dug deep enough (not that I think everyone person needs to). And the good news is, that despite all the apparent contradictions (or maybe because of them), there are a rare few gems of truth that we do know about the body:
1. Every body is different. NO one diet, one food, one list of “shoulds” is perfect for everyone.
2. The body is complex. We actually know very little about how all the systems work together (or how our very complex food works with it).
3. Real food is really important. Really. No matter what dogma seems to be your “diet” of choice (Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, WAPF, etc), we all at least agree that real food will always beat out imitation processed food-like junk. (*The word “diet” for me has nothing to do with things like south beach, weight watchers, or the like. I’m talking about more life-style choices here.)
4. Health is more than what we put in our body. While nutrition plays a huge role in health, it’s not the only factor.
The last reason is my current “duh” and “ah-ha” place. Health is not about counting calories, fat grams, or even micro-nutrients. (For the record, I don’t do any of those things, and I hope you don’t either!) I know I’ve said it before, but it’s starting to sink in on a new level. Healthy living is about finding the ways that allow you to live with vitality and joy. And what I do with my body is just as important (maybe more?) than what I put in it.
And lest you think I’m just talking about exercise here, I’m actually describing something much, much bigger. Living a life of vitality, joy, and energy is nourished by our relationships. It’s nourished by our ability to be playful. It’s nourished by service, kindness, faith, laughter, reflection, conversation, meditation, and passion.
Of course nutrition and exercise matter. I don’t think I could give up the changes I’ve made over the past three years. They have brought a lot of goodness into my family’s life. But if you start stressing so much about all the little details, about all the rules, about all the things that make food and exercise a chore instead of a pleasure, then we’ve lost a little piece of our health in the process.
So if you are just starting this journey and the new discoveries are exhilirating and promising, keep on truckin’. If, however, you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed about what’s best… consider this simple advice:
Eat real food.
Live your life. Fully.
And enjoy it.
*For the record, I’m pretty certain that these issues are due to adrenal fatigued (based on both some tests as well as my text-book symptoms). And thankfully, I do feel like I’m on the road to amends. Can I get a hallelujah!
This post is part of Monday Mania.
(top featured image by GuideGunnar – Arctic Norway, Flickr)