I’ve been doing a bit of research around wellness and illness. How they are linked and how they are essentially one state of homeostasis.
The term has been defined by the Wisconsin-based National Wellness Institute as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.
Or Dicitionary.reference.com says this:
1. The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
2. An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasising treating diseases*
*I personally like this best
When was the last time you thought about the word health as something isolated from having an illness? The phrase ‘at least you have your health’ is referring directly to just-not-being-sick. Awesome.
So are you content with ‘just not being sick’. When you’re sick you stop doing stuff that you think is making you sick – drinking, over working/exercising, late nights and bad food choices. Then you sit still in often whinge reluctantancy and wait for sickness to go. Then you go back to your old routine without a thought to its hand in helping you get sick in the first place.
But what happens when you want to just ‘not’ be sick. Have you thought about what it might feel like to be well, overwhelming well…. In a state of total wellness?
What would it take for you to look at your state of health and focus on optimum vs. just not sick? I bet you’ve never even considered it that way hey? And how the hell do you even start.
We all get the exercise more and eat less health message. So is wellness only about weight? And if that’s our measuring stick; is super skinny the holy grail of wellness? Do our overweight citizens flunk wellness school and have to boot-camp it until they qualify for a better wellness grade?
I’m not so sure it’s that simple.
This post isn’t about 5 steps to ultimate wellness (although that’d bump me up the SEO’s) I just want to challenge your ideals around what wellness or being ‘well’ means to you. Is it just the absence of disease? Is it being able to get through your day without a physical or mental breakdown? Is it the ability to run a marathon? It is total zen; spiritual, mind and body connection?
The jury is out for me on the actual definition, but I do know there is a balance – a scale perhaps, at one end has illness and the other has total wellness with a pivot point in the middle, called the Wellness-Continuum. No one is static in this, we move up and down the line closing in on one end or another. The true trick (or skill) is know when you’re heading in a particular direction and act accordingly. Are you heading towards illness by burning the candles at both ends – and what does that mean for you? Are you the ‘best you’ve ever been’ fittest, strongest, brightest etc and what are the contributing factors around this? What are your telling signs because there is no one-size-fits-all on this. For example I have a friend who can stay up all night, party hard, drink and eat less than ideal foods and then get up the next morning for a 6am PT session. Me – I’m not so lucky. I know that I’ll pay for that late night over the next two – or three – days. But if I choose to do that, its ok, I manage it. Which is essentially what wellness means for me. Where are my limits and what are my signs for pushing the pendulum too far in the wrong direction. You can apply this to foods, diets and exercise – once you start knowing what works for you, what you react to, what makes you feel awesome, you can investigate it more. Feel like crap and all ‘puffy’ after a carb-blow out, take note. Feel awesome after a yoga class or do you get all buzzed up after a HIIT session or spin class? Perhaps you need a bit of both to rock your world.
You can’t flick a switch on this either, it’s a slow burn. But that’s totally ok cos we’ve got time, the body is very forgiving and excellent at healing. Lucky.
So run fast, do your downward dogs, drink your green smoothie or eat steak for breakfast, its all ok. See how you feel after each. Maybe the thought of green liquid make’s you want to gag? Does a paleo fry-up for breaky go against your beliefs? For me a early yoga class makes me cranky – so I do a evening session. Long distance running makes me hate myself – so I do interval training at the gym. Its all the freakn same to our body, it registers it all as movement or nutrients. Then its up to you to interpret how you feel after it. And trust me – a big night fueled with alcohol and greasy food actually makes everyone feel like crap, so why do we keep doing it?
We all have a inbuilt sensory mechanism that supplies us with feedback of our actions. I suggest have a inquisitive listen, it won’t lead you down the wrong path. It wants you to feel good, your best even.
So my #1 tip to get started on wellness is to listen. Shut up, sit down and listen to your body. What is it trying to tell you?
Let me know what makes you rock.
Your brain is to blame.
Well the truth is this: your brain is the reason your lazy. What I mean by this is that you can’t actually blame your body for being out of shape. It’s all in your head.
Good intentions translation: is your brain being so smart at allowing you to be lazy.
Good habits translation: is knowing that you’d rather sit on a couch when you get home but you put your exercise kit on and like Nike says ‘just do it’, even though you’d rather poke one, or two? eyes out.
Good understanding aka ‘nice try’ translation: is being 100% aware when your brain is saying ‘lets just press snooze’ and you know thats a slippery slope to an hour later and you’re still in bed. So you just get the freak up and go.
Knowing your ‘brain tricks’ is the key to changing behaviors. Whether they are relating to exercise, food, wellness, work, relationships, (drugs/alcohol?)
It happened to me last night (not the drugs or alcohol bit). I had every intention when I got home to get changed and go to the gym. The entire drive home I was psyching myself up with energizing music. As I was walking into my building I was mentally finding where I had left my runners from the day before and wondering if I can get one more wear out of my exercise pants before they really really need a wash. But as soon as I walked in the door my brain said this:
‘Wwwooohhhooo – you are home.
It’s a Friday.
You are home.
You made it though another week.
You are home….. (brain winning)
…..We are staying home.
I don’t know where your shoes are.
Take off your work shoes and put warm socks on.
You are home!!
Then I promptly turned on the TV and heater, txt my housemate about what we might like to order from the local Chinese joint. Found cheese and crackers…
Brain 1: Body 0
My brain is so smart at being lazy it’s scary. I swear it would like nothing more than for me to just sit on my arse all day. It basically does everything it can ‘think’ of to ensure that this is what happens. However, when I realized that my body was actually the most efficient and amazing instrument, EVER, I began to look at it all a bit differently. Which means I can no longer play the ‘hating on my body for how it looks’ card anymore. My brain has tricked me into thinking that its my body’s responsibility to get up off the couch and go to the gym, but in (biology) reality, my brain is the master control center that essential runs that show, its just cleverly hiding behind my physical self.
It’s my brain that tells my body to get into a room that has equipment so I can ‘workout’. And when I’m in this room, its my brain that tells my body which part of it needs to push, pull and lift. My body is following orders. Sure it can signal physical fatigue, pain and other sensory information, but it’s my brain that reads this and then chooses the next action.
The body just cannot compete with the tricky spin your brain can come up with. Your brain is S.M.A.R.T. at letting your body be L.A.Z.Y!
From this I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to actually out-smart my brains drive for me to be lazy. After all it doesn’t want us to be lazy to shame us, its version of lazy is there for preservation. Preservation of our fuel resource’s. Again it comes right back to cave man days of saving up our energy in case we have to chase our meal down, or run so we don’t become something else’s meal. Makes perfect sense to me. Our body will respond on demand to our brain. But if your brain is running the ‘lazy-boy show’ then you’ll never actually win.
However all is not lost. You can work with your brain. Re-program if you like. But this takes some work and talking out loud to, well, often just yourself. First step in this is to know when exercising works for you. Are you an early morning exerciser, midday, afterwork or after dinner? It doesn’t matter when you do it. You body works best and thus gets better results when you know what time works for you.
I’ll give you an example of what works for me:
I love to get up early and walk, before anything in my day starts. I like to walk and watch the sun come up. So I do it. Because my brain thinks this is fun, i.e. I get loads of enjoyment out of it = not-exercise-to-brain. But I also like to go to the gym for weights. I have no strength in the morning for weights, my body is still waking up and I find that I can’t really ‘resist’ (aka weight training) in the morning. So I don’t do that kind of exercise then, because then I would then it and never do it. I realize that I’m strongest just after work around 5pm. So I go then. But I also know that after-work time for me is dangerous because its when my ‘want to go home and sit on the couch’ mantra is the strongest. So here is where you need to play the mind games a bit. You need to find the joy factor in exercising, which sounds wanky i know. But for me it’s a feeling of being strong both physically and mentally, followed closely by the results I see in my physical body from this type of activity (vanity? who cares). It’s this double barrel approach that makes it happen. It takes some mental muscle to keep working towards achieving this internal motivation. Which is vastly different from other exercise goals like fitting into a size X dress or upcoming holiday where a bikin is your main get up. You need to see it like a maintenance project. Same as you would putting petrol in your car or buying groceries so you can eat. You just need to find the outcome that will drive you to keep wanting to do it. And to be skinny isn’t enough. For some it could be relaxation, stress release, health reason, wanting to be healthy for your family, mental health, managing illness. Whatever it is it needs to be strong enough to keep you wanting to do it. There will be changes in level of frequency and type, but just keep doing it. Your brain will ask less questions if it’s a regular thing.
So find out what it is that makes you happy when you’re moving. Then just keep doing that. Make time or find time. You are accountable for how you look, not your DNA, genetics, blah blah blah BS. Your brain chooses how and when you move, what you eat and when you do it. Outcome is yours.
Your body will work for you whenever you’re ready to use it.
‘Angsts about the body robs a woman in some large share of her creative life and attention to other things’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes*
In our desperation to fit into the ‘ideal norm’ we have limited our ability to dream. Too much of our time is caught up in thoughts that serve our ego rather than our higher potential. In specific how we perceive our physical body image
Have you noticed that the more you obsess about your body the more your thoughts are taken away from grand visions to a miniscule mindset? A lacking, a sense of limitedness or not (good) enough feelings?
Are you finding that most of the conversations you have with people (women) are more often than not focused around weight and diet in relation to our bodies? And is anyone else freakn bored to death of it?!
We sub-consciously and often in full consciousness, mentally ‘take down’ our fellow mates. Women do it to women and men do it to men, however the latter in a less quantitative amount then the former. But all this attacking serves no one. Especially ourselves. The more your thoughts are of picking ‘flaws’ in another, the more your own unhappiness with your physical identity is prevalent. Our thoughts about another are often just a mirror about ourselves. There is a woman where I work that does the ‘look up and down’ assessment, before you’ve even shared good morning niceties. She isn’t even aware she’s doing it. I used to find it offensive, but now I realize it’s born of her own insecurities about how she see’s herself. I imagine the constant comparison must take up so much of her mental energy.
Admittedly I used to be caught up in the body-image-attack. All I could see -and judge- in others was my own perceived body ‘flaws’. I would have feelings of envy towards others who I saw as perfect – in comparison to me. I would have feelings of sympathy if I saw someone who, I thought, shared my ‘flaw’. But in reality my feelings were based on my assumption of what I thought was perfect and NOTHING to do with the physical appearance of their bodies.
Our comparison with others needs to end. Its all fake stuff we’re making up in our head anyway. And what does it really matter if someone is shorter, taller, rounder, skinner, etc. than you are? I promise you, they are looking at you wishing they had something of yours, as they believe is better than theirs. Oh and to that point, don’t compliment someone if you don’t mean it. Because they can feel the insincerity behind it. So while the words may sound good, they don’t feel good. This, I believe, is the most damaging talk that women can do to each other. We are intuitive beings, some more than others, but we all can tell when a compliment is routed in honesty or fallacy. There is another lady at work who I think has really grasped this, or more accurately, let the judging go. I often hear her say to people ‘You look really well’. She doesn’t dish it out to everyone; it’s said from a genuine place of belief that the person she’s speaking to looks ‘well’. How awesome is that! A compliment that is open to interpretation. It feeds into our own individual belief of what ‘well’ means to us. Its not hitched on a measured physical note being size, height, weight, etc. This type of statement reinforces the receiver to believe that what and who they are in that moment, is pretty awesome. That kinda compliment can make someone’s day.
So remove your judging score cards and relax the comparisons, it serves neither and damages both. Besides, haven’t we got more creative things to pay attention to?
*Quote taken from the book The Women Who Run With The Wolves pg 202.
When your passion becomes redundant
In a previous post I wrote about getting the right qualification to enable me to work in the fitness industry. I eventually became that super freaky personal trainer you see in all gyms today and 10 years ago having a PT was kind of a big deal. You kinda had to be a Big Deal yourself to afford it. It was considered a luxury item, exclusive even. In the location where my gym was my clientele, stereotypically, consisted of male ‘executive’ types between 6am and 9am and after that it was the wives of these ‘executive’ men. But regardless of who I was training, I learnt two things;
- No matter how much money you have, you still gotta do the work. That means you actually can’t pay anyone to work-out for you. Which is also very different from paying someone to make sure you sweat.
- Doing what you love can sometimes rob you of your passion. Aka ‘when your passion becomes pointless’
The latter is what happened to me.
Most of you know by now that I am one of those people who actually like the gym. Not to be social though, I’m the girl who never train with anyone else and I ALWAYS have my ‘ears’ in. It’s purely my time to do my thing when it suits me and it makes me uneasy if someone asks me if I want to train with him or her. There a difference (albeit a small one) between this being considered ‘rude’ and what I consider ‘quality alone time’ – most people think that having QAT in public places is actually rude. In this circumstance, I don’t care.
But I when I slapped ‘work’ in the sentence ‘I’m going to the gym…(to work)’, I killed the romance. Almost overnight my place of QAT because my place of Monday morning dread… this creates 2 more problems;
1. When you’re a PT you are also a walking (and eating) advertisement for your business.
2. When you work IN a gym, the last thing you want to do is spend more (unnecessary) time there… think hanging out at your office for fun on a Sunday morning before you go for brunch.
The negative feedback loop began; The more I trained other people, the more time I was in the gym (the better my business was) = the less I wanted to spend time at the gym for myself = less training for me = not the pin up girl for PT. See my issue.
So I made the call. I knew I loved the gym, but I realized I loved it because of what I got out of it on a personal level; mental health, endorphin rush, being in a public place listening to Kylie Minogue without anyone paying out on me (you know who you are). The call in this case was decided what was most important to me in this situation; having a job OR finding the love I once had for this game.
So I quit.
Sometimes we think that the thing we LOVE is what we want to do, to make money from. You have all heard the saying ‘do something you love and never work a day in your life’. While I believe that saying I also believe that if the thing you do for work kills the reason why you began it, its not love anymore.
Move towards your passion, but remember to chase the feeling of why you love it, not what you think you can get from it.
Who knows, maybe if I had progressed to a different area of that industry that I’d arrive at a job that I not only loved but also brought me ‘alive’ then I might have made a different call…. But perhaps I told that job to stick it because it just didn’t feel right and I knew deep down that there was something better? But I’d have to take the leap first.
Who knows, perhaps I’m working slowly towards the ‘right thing’ now?
I believe we should chase down that thing that makes you feel alive, then you’ll actually live everyday of your life, rather than just the hours you’re at work.
I remember a friend said to me once that she didn’t want to start a fitness program because she knew that she’d have to do it for the rest of her life and frankly, she just wasn’t interested in that kind of commitment.
But what she was really talking about was the maintaining side of fitness, which is much harder to sell than a quick fix. It’s just not that sexy.
I truly believe that the hardest part to a health or fitness program is the bit that comes after you get to your chosen goal. Drumming up the motivation for getting your goals is easy. Whether your driven by being able to zip up those jeans you’ve been keeping through to something more serious like warding off a pending health condition, finding the mojo to achieve here is easy. Not to mention there are like a zillion programs around to help you ‘get there’. But I have yet to see one that says; ‘So you made it! But I lied about 12 weeks – if you want to keep this goal a day-to-day reality, then you’ve just signed up for life. Oh and good luck with that cos you’ve only paid for 12 weeks, now your own your own’. Ouch.
In reality there is no such thing as a 12-week program, it’s a lifetime thing. And until we can really embrace that we are going to find ourselves back at square one and folding away those jeans that are ‘too tight’ again.
So why is Maintenance is harder than Motivation?
It takes guts to look long-term commitment in the face and say, yep I’m going to do it. To be honest the thought of having to rock up at the gym week in and week out for-the-rest-of-my-life, is daunting to say the least. Knowing me I’d rather not sign up at all to avoid the inevitable fail. But if I look at my workout history I’m tracking fairly well. There have been times when I was more ‘lax’ about my fitness due to other ‘life’ stuff. But all in all I’ve just kept at it. I try not to plan to far ahead and if I miss a week or three, it’s not a big deal. Interestingly I never do fitness classes because they are SO planned and you have to commit to two things; arriving at the gym on time and also assuming that you’ll even be motivated, aka interested, in doing that class at the planned time on that planned day. Its not for me, but thousands of others love it – its their thing.
The key is to treat it like any other part of your life that you have unconsciously ‘committed’ to. Like putting petrol in your car when it needs it, health insurance (you’ll ideally be paying this for life in the hope you never actually have to use it) working career, family obligation, maintaining friendships, paying taxes and brushing your teeth (if only to avoid costly dental bills). You just do it cos it makes your life run better. Same with being fit. We do it cos it really does make your life run better, aside from the aesthetics which is mosts peoples driver.
So perhaps re-think this commitment to a thank-you. Every time you can zip up your jeans with ease or being able to climb the stairs without puffing (while everyone else is). Thank yourself for keeping up the commitment to maintaining what you’ve got, how much you’ve worked for this feeling. Because you actually cant buy that feeling, you have to just keep working at it. Be motivated by that instead.
What drives you to maintain?
I have a theory; perhaps it’s just an accumulation of info that I’ve gathered while treating some of my clients. But I have a general thought that there is a tipping point to our health.
When I talk to people and take down their health history to try and understand what’s causing their health condition, a tipping point often comes out. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask the direct question, they offer it up. Letting people talk and open up leads helps with the discovery to their individual health secrets that their body has been hiding and our minds forgetting. But whether its volunteered or prompted, there is always a moment of ‘I’ve just never been the same since this…’ Hello crux and welcome the beginning of your treatment.
This event they are explaining is often when we started noticing that things were different, things starting to go, well, weird for them. This is my absolute favorite moment in the entire session (that and when they tell me its improving). As Oprah would say is their ‘Uh Huh’ moment.
I was 22 when it happened to me. (Which as I’m typing I realize is a decade ago and I’m still having to manage it – by that I mean I’m aware of my limits and what happens when I push it too far). My moment, if I wanted to put a name on it was a classic case of over doing it, over exertion, burning the candle at both ends if you will. Here’s how;
I was in my final year of my first degree, which was all going really well. On top of my studies I was working around 30-35 hours a week in a few jobs; one a retail chain, one a café, one coaching gymnastics and lastly teaching horse riding at a local pony club every other Sunday. But me being the over-achieving Capricorn that I am, I decided that I wanted to get work in my chosen future industry while I was still studying. So I enrolled in a two-nights-a-week course to get my Cert IV in fitness, which would enable me to work in a gym, nothing super fancy, but a start. This was all very much do-able in most people’s opinion but once I added in my own (excessive) training schedule the balance tipped and I crashed. For a girl who almost never gets sick it completely wiped me out. I spent the next 6 days in bed, no work, no school, no training, when I look back at it now I should have gone to hospital. The days passed in a blur between unconsciousness and I sleep. I was so weak that I remember having to sit down on the shower floor because standing was to honestly too difficult. After about a week my appetite came back and I began to feel better. But the damage was done and ‘I’ve never been well since’.
The physical effects looked like this:
I’m a fairly petite girl as it is; 5’3”, weighing in on a collective average of 54ish kg these days. But back then I used to hover at around 48-49kg, because having a six pack was more important to me than ‘balance’, to be honest I thought balance was something that only applied to you if you had a ‘real’ job and family ie working mum, which at 23 I was not. So I paid the price. I ‘woke’ up after the week and my body was emaciated. I weighed 41kg. I was literally skin and bones. All my ribs stuck out, my joints ached, my face was sunken and my eyes dull. I was nothing more than a ‘skinny girl’, and for a gym junkie, this is no complement. My body had done the best it could to keep me alive and fight the virus that latched on to my weakened and very vulnerable immune system. (Muscles are essentially just bundles of stored protein -amino acids- that are used as building blocks for immune support when required, amongst other things). All my training and fitness wiped out in less than a week and my wellness and vitality gone. And I’ve honestly never been the same since. By that I don’t mean physically strong as the body is phenomenal at repair and rebuilding, but I mean I can’t ‘push’ like I used to. I can’t train at the same intensity and I don’t recover nearly as quickly. I used to train 6 days a week, high intensity cardio + 45 mins of heavy resistant weight training (split program). Now I can forget the high intensity cardio, I’m lucky if I can do 20 minutes any more than that and I’m exhausted for the next three days. I can only do weights 3 times a week, tops, and it’s no more than a 30-minute session. (Interestingly, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and I feel truly ‘healthy’).
But all of this is perfectly ok by me. I now have balance. Which has nothing to do with juggling work or family commitments. Its knowing where my limits are and working with them to get to and more importantly ‘maintain’ my best health. Our bodies are here to work with us, perhaps its time to stop pushing against that?
Question to ponder: Have you had a ‘I’ve never been well since..’ moment? It might not be a physical unraveling like mine, it could be that bug you picked up while travelling, a broken limb, something emotional like a birth (or death), a breakup or divorce, moving country etc. Remember, its all a big deal, no matter how small the event itself might seem, its stuff that has had an effect on you and things have just ‘never been the same since…’
The Reality of ‘Reality TV’ …It’s not so sexy
Who is a fan of these shows? Masterchef vs MKR etc. I used to be.
I once watched a lot of these shows, loved them. I mean who didn’t love seeing Julie win season one of Australian Masterchef? As heartfelt as some of these shows are or were, they are now more focused on competition and product placement dollars than creative cooking.
But have you also noticed that they just make you hungry? It would effect me every time, which in turn lead to mindless snaking, which lead to a few extra KJ; you know the ones that stick around long after they announce the winner. Long story short; watching food or cooking shows makes you hungry. (and now cranky; ‘where do they find these idiots?’ my mum said last night while watching MKR)
Due the extra interests in these shows we have seen the rise of the celebrity chef status. Who would have thought that todays sex symbol would be more a tubby apron wearing, six–pack of beer drinking man than the lean, tank top wearing, six-pack sculpting guy of my teens? How did that happen? However I’m not complaining and I’m sure many women will agree that we’d all prefer a guy that can (will?) cook us dinner over a guy that knows how to target transverse and oblique’s in one easy movement. And for the blokes that read this, well you have Nigella… That is all.
But they used to be more an honest-to-good style of TV, informative rather than exploitive. Back in the day when Peter Russell Clarke (you have to be Australian and over 30 to know who he is) used to have a 5-minute segment on ABC in the early evenings. It was a no frills cooking lesson akin to that of your home economics class in year 8. Then we had Gabrielle Gate on Good Mornings with Bert Newton, he was a Frenchy that migrated to Australia and became famous for his cooking and French accent way before Manu was appearing on Ready, Stead, Cook, let alone MKR. (RSC is a cooking show that airs in the middle of the day – which means it was either A) airing while I was still at Uni –a decade ago – or B) I have had a fair few ‘sick’ days, because I recall watching A LOT of it).
But now I’m bored with the current cooking shows. They are many peoples only exposure to food and cooking and personally I don’t think it’s doing anyone any favors, especially in regards to its impact on our health. What I’d love to see is a show that covers all bases from where in the country or world the food/produce came from, who the growers, catchers or inventors are, how its harvested and prepared for our consumption or how much happened to it before it landed in your trolley; packed, labeled and possibly stamped with the ‘Heart tick of approval’. (for the record I don’t buy or consume anything with a ‘tick’ on it, it often means a company has purchase ‘health’ rather than deliver on it – AND have you noticed that their products are ALWAYS in a packet… Oh and McD’s has it on their menu. Just sayin..)
So TV execs how about a show like that? Enough of shows with nasty siblings, friends or couples that just bitch about everything. I want to see real food produced by real people. Some of your reality shows go on about fish being sourced locally, well show us that bit. Why can’t we see the local Italian guy that been growing his olive farm for 50 years and still makes cold pressed oil like he did before quantity was valued above quality. Show the ‘real’ people who live in the town where their livelihood rests on their crop or catch, not the inside of the sponsored car you shuttle everyone around in….
If you want to capture a real sustainable audience, then get real people running their ‘real’ sustainable business. The reality of their work lives long after your cameras have switched off. It also gives us a glimpse of what it takes for our farmers to deliver their produce and products to the end consumer (me and you) giving us knowledge to make more informed purchasing choices. You really do essentially get what you pay for and armed with that info I’d happily pay the difference for a product that holds up in an ethical debate.
Am I the only one who would like to see this?
Comments….? Agree or disagree.