Making lifestyle change for the greater wellness
Why is being sick the new normal..?
Healthy Life 101….. Making Lifestyle Change for greater Wellness
These days it is nearly impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine that doesn’t have at least one article on health, diet, or the benefits of exercise. If you don’t see articles then the advertisements section is bound to offer you a new product to improve your energy, sleep, or mood the latest new diet to help you lose those extra kilos. Given that our media topics are generated toward public interest, the proliferation of tips and advice on improving our health is a pretty clear sign that the health of this nation is fast becoming an issue for concern.
Why is being Sick the new normal?
Statistically, Australia is now ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developing world, increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure diabetes. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 35% of Australians are overweight and 28% are obese. Even more concerning is the fact that these days almost one quarter of Australian children are obese. It doesn’t stop there – the mental health of the Australian population is also on the decline with depression and anxiety rates ever increasing. A 2007 study revealed that 45% of people aged between 16-85 had experienced anxiety, mood disorder or substance use disorders at some point in
their lifetime. These figures are reflected worldwide, with other developed countries demonstrating similar problems. It’s time to be seriously reflecting on some big questions about what is causing this epidemic of poor health and chronic disease, and more importantly, what can we do to change the situation? Growing evidence suggests that diet and lifestyle factors highly influence our health. Our food and activity choices are beginning to mean the difference between wellness and failure to thrive.
So why is the food we eat causing so many problems, and where exactly are we going wrong in our daily lives?
My own journey with poor health a number of years ago led me to reflect on similar questions, and although today I am generally a picture of health and balance both inside and out, I wasn’t always this way. Despite having what I thought of as a healthy diet and lifestyle, there was clearly something amiss. I was sick, but I had no idea why. Chronic childhood eczema and dermatitis, systemic candida, digestive complaints, anxiety and depression, food sensitivities and allergic reactions ruled years of my life. My late teens and early adulthood were marred by eating restrictions, mood disorders and emotional imbalance – I wasn’t having fun, socialising was difficult and my energy was low. Conventional medical advice continually failed to offer a remedy, so my inclination toward natural medicine and my drive to be well led me on a road less travelled to find answers. I began a journey of understanding the intricacies of the human body, and the complexity of its functions in my quest for health. I took courses, read books, searched the internet, took a variety of ‘miracle’ supplements, and spent LOTS of money seeking remedies of one description or another. Like many people suffering from health problems, I went through a confusing maze with lots of pitfalls on the way to eventually navigate my way back to wellness. I discovered that there is a lot more to health than eating enough fruits and vegetables! In fact, I discovered that many contributors to my health problems were avoidable, and with that knowledge I had the opportunity to make the changes I needed in order to regain my health. I could now avoid the mistakes I had unwittingly made, as well as rectify the mistakes my parents made with my childhood health. I came to understand that despite any genetic dispositions I could still do a lot to improve my health, including altering the way my genes function, and that the reason we live in a world full of people is because there are times when we all need support to achieve our goals, whatever they might be. Having made that journey, I can now stand on the other side and share with you some invaluable advice about how to find your own optimal health.
The Right Food…it’s not just about what you eat
The human body is an amazing system of totally interrelated parts. It’s designed to work as nature intended, and with the correct composition of appropriate nourishment and activity, it generally functions effectively without much intervention. Most of the chronic health problems we experience are simply a result of improper management and lack of respect that anything we do to one part consequently affects the other parts. Over years, misuse of the body eventually leads to malfunction.
Simple things we repeatedly do day in and day out, really can make or break our health. The age old advice ‘eat healthy food’ and ‘get plenty of exercise’ still applies but these days we need a bit more information than in the past to make it work. Look carefully at what you are eating – these days what is promoted as health food often contains more processed sugar than you might expect! Sugar is one of the major problems for our societies health, and a major contributor to obesity. It feeds pathogens in the body, compromises our immune system and disrupts appetite regulation. It is now consumed in quantities far greater than nature ever intended thanks to modern industrialisation. Because food is not our only form of nourishment we often over consume sugar not only for its taste, but as a comfort to sweeten the bitterness of life. Many of us live with less than satisfying circumstances and have a tendency to compensate with food for where these aspects of life are lacking. The quality of our relationships, home environment, job satisfaction, financial situation and creative expression feed us on many levels, and our habitual ways of thinking influence how we feel about the world around us. Lifestyle factors such as these really do play a big part in our health picture.
The Problem with Food these days
At the same time as lifestyle factors influencing your health, ‘You are what you eat’ is truer than ever as food becomes more and more highly processed. It’s a scary fact that the majority of packaged and supermarket foods have not only less nutritional value than ever before but also contain ingredients that can seriously compromise our health. Refined and artificial sweeteners, genetically modified ingredients, and additives we can’t even pronounce are commonly on the ingredients list. Most of us are not qualified to understand the chemical composition of processed foods represented as numbers on the side of a package. It’s time to realise that the home cooked lasagne your grandmother made when you were a child is clearly not the same as the frozen alternative from your local supermarket. A simple rule of thumb can be if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it! It’s much safer choice to defer to eating whole foods, that is, foods in their natural form or with as little processing as possible.
Having mentioned food choices as one of the potential problems, it makes sense to look more closely into why what we consume can manifest such chronic health problems. An important piece to this puzzle is in understanding the Digestive System function itself. Genetics are not the only thing we inherit from our parents. We tend to take on the eating habits of our family as well as their basic understanding of health, and from our mother we inherit our initial gut flora.
Gut Function and Your Health
For many of us, if our mother was not fully healthy, as was the case for me, we begin life already on the back foot. Recent studies show that at birth our intestines house a similar microbial make up to that of our mother. The health of these many thousands of microbes lining the walls of our digestive tract is intrinsically linked to our overall health. Our gut function plays a big role in how the rest of our body systems perform, including influencing our immune function, behaviour, mood, and even our hormonal balance. Many problems start from inappropriate nourishment in infancy. For example, if like me you grew up in the generation that promoted bottle feeding, we were formula fed or given solid foods too early. In these cases, we missed out on the most fundamental nutrition that nature provides as well as the energetic nourishment of the close and intimate connection with the mother. Plus, we are also at much greater risk of damage to the finely tuned workings of our gut.
Breast Milk is the perfect food for a human baby to develop into a healthy adult. Initially, it provides the perfect quantity of high density nourishment required by the tiny stomach of the infant, complete with the correct mix of fats, proteins and sugars to support the intensive growth and development during these early stages of life. As well as containing important antibodies and essential fatty acids, feeding an infant with breast milk allows the digestive system to develop properly. Formula fed babies face the risk of developing entero-colitis, respiratory infection, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and double the risk of childhood obesity. Unknowingly this damage to the digestive function is carried on into our adult lives potentially becoming a hidden cause of many common ailments.
Unfortunately, the risks to your digestive function don’t stop at infancy. At any stage of life factors such as the use of strong anti-biotics, anti-viral or anti-fungal medication, the birth control pill for women, a diet high in sugary and processed foods, prolonged periods of overeating, and even extended periods of stress, can severely compromise the proper function of body by disrupting the fine balance of our intestinal microbes.
Upsetting the gut flora can, if left un-remedied, result in an onslaught of discomforts including digestive complaints, allergies, low energy, constipation, irritable bowel, compromised immunity, hormonal imbalance, eating disorders and metabolic dysfunction, poor memory and brain fog, anxiety, depression and mood disorders. The gut is the centre of the body, it is also central to our good health. Simply put, we get most of the energy that our body needs from the complex functions and intricate workings of our gastro intestinal tract. Through my own experience I have developed a great respect for its complexity and the absolute simplicity of how it best functions.
Change your Life, Change your Habits
Feeling sick is boring, being well is fun. There is an irrefutable link between the fast paced, high performance way we live now with our meals coming out of plastic packages and microwave ovens, to the increase in chronic disease and poor health. The natural, slow and steady, land based lifestyle and diet of our recent past where food was local and natural, home cooked, traditionally prepared, and eaten peacefully in the company of family and community has a lot to teach us about how to be well. Eating is something we do everyday so why not make the types of food we eat and the way we eat them serve us rather than causing harm? As well as being realistic and affordable as preventative measures, food and lifestyle choices really can make a difference to your health, and the health of those that you care for.
It’s not always easy to change the patterns of a lifetime – I know finding the right support in addition to the right information really helped me to make the lasting changes I needed to reclaim my health. As well as being someone who personally values the natural highs that a life of health and wellbeing can offer, I am also a Health Coach. I work with individuals and groups sharing my skills and knowledge of how to be well naturally in practical and do-able ways through diet and lifestyle choices.
If the information in this article inspires you to find out more about optimising your own health, you can contact me via email at
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or look me up at Whole Health Solutions
“Whole foods and diet are my life time passion.
I trained as a Health Coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program. During my training, I studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. My teachers included Dr. field of mind-body medicine; Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center; Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard University; Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating; and many other leading researchers and Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine; Dr. Deepak Chopra, leader in the nutrition authorities.
In 2010 I had the privilege to formalise my Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to healing in an intensive training with Paul Pitchford, renowned author of the epic text ‘Healing with Wholefoods’. My education has equipped me with extensive knowledge in holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Drawing on these skills and my knowledge of different dietary theories, I work with clients to help them make lifestyle changes that produce real and lasting results. As a lover of natural learning I believe we learn best when inspired. For me, all my natural and formal learning has been around the health of the body in one form or another. My understanding of making health work for you is to help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.”