Have you ever tried searching one of those “The best diets” lists? What new hype do you need to follow? What kind of exercise or food is popular today or will be tomorrow? Is it Crossfit, OrangeTheory workouts, maca root and Bulletproof coffee? Do you need to do earthing, oil pulling, diffusing, or such? Naturopaths, aromatherapists, acupuncturists and holistic doctors? Do you have enough time to follow all the recent trends? How to find your own definition of optimal health?
Optimal health – what is it?
There is not a single definition of optimal health that is right or wrong. Generally, there are so many factors to consider when it comes to one’s health: demographics (age, gender, etc.), genetics (do you have a history of chronic disease or such, activity levels, perception of health (for someone it can be eating a salad once a week, for others it will be eating healthy 100% of the time). I love it how Livestrong website says that “ [Optimal health] reflects an overall satisfaction with one’s life”. I have invited a few very special guests and nutrition experts to join me in this discussion about optimal health. Let’s look at what Leanne Vogel, a Keto-expert, nutrition educator, and best-selling author, says about finding optimal health:
Make sure you drink enough water. Always have it at your desk, always have a bottle with you. You can even set alarms to remind yourself to drink water. Other than that, people saying “do this one thing” to make you healthier is not fair.”
Whew! Can you agree? That would make a great start for someone’s optimal health journey.
How I found my definition of optimal health
In the past, I really struggled with sugar addiction and became pretty unhealthy in addition to being a vegetarian for 10 years. I discovered Paleo and…started eating a lot of fruit. After a few months, I learned more about sugar substitutes, and about fueling my body with the foods we were meant to eat (at least, focusing on those most of the time) – vegetables, meats, and healthy fats. Of course, I also learned that I can’t really eat like a caveman and avoid touching anything processed. I found healthier ways and small brands I can support and indulge with. I’ve learned how to become adapted to Keto and use it for weight loss if needed, and how to power up your body with the right foods for lifting weights.
See what I am talking about? Sounds like too much work, huh? (That’s why you hire a coach 😉 )
I came to my own optimal health by jumping through hoops and learning. 10 years ago, I considered myself pretty healthy and I could walk for miles (but was a chain smoker and could not get up to the 4th floor without feeling like I was about to call an ambulance)… Right now I see myself as a strong, energetic healthy being enjoying a variety of nutritious foods, lots of movement, being able to adapt my weight lifting to real life activities and optimize my health despite my genes (which, by the way, aren’t great, to begin with!).
What about you? Where did you start your health journey and thoughts of optimal health?
My friend and fellow coach, Michael Rutherford says:
“I firmly believe the most important approach to nutrition is how you feed your mind. I’m not talking about nutrients for your brain, heck I’m not even talking food! Before you begin any of that, you need to find health and strength in your mind. Just as our gut can be a second brain, you can think of the brain as a second gut. Your thoughts, focus, and mental energy is the nutrition for your brain. What does your mental diet look like? Are you feeding it lots of healing, powerful foods that help build you up? Or are you feeding negative thoughts and energy, causing disruption in the health of your mental state?
Your mental state dictates how you digest your actual foods. A feeling of gratitude allows your body to enter into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest), which gives your digestive track the proper signals to do its job! With my clients I always help to first build the nutrition of their brain before really addressing their diet. I’ve personally seen and felt tremendous changes with this approach!”
(Make sure to check Michael’s website here: TheSuper-HumanProject.com – Unleashing Human Potential Through Integrative Health)
Subjective/objective opinions on optimal health
Yes, yes, I realize that the entire topic is subjective. There ARE, indeed, some objective health markers that will speak for themselves. Are your triglycerides high? Is your HDL to LDL ratio low? Do you have high blood pressure? Can you be on your feet all day? Do you have a history of chronic inflammation or disease? More questions to ponder:
- How often do you get sick?
- Have you struggled with losing weight?
- How are your energy levels?
- Are you happy?
- Struggling with excessive cravings?
- Do you have any digestive issues?
- Having any fertility issues?
- Is your skin looking good?
As a result, there are going to be so many varieties of “optimal” here, based on the person, health history, family history, athleticism, etc. How can you reach your own optimal health by creating personal health goals along with great health markers?
Progress over perfection, mind over matter
It’s a one-day at a time process, in my opinion. I had a blood pressure of 145/80 at age of 23. I am a decade older now, and working on lowering my numbers from current 115/70. Do you want to be athletic? Desiring to lift heavy objects? Do you want to be flexible and do yoga? How about willing to prevent diabetes that runs in your family? Those are things to ponder. Also, how do you want to eat? What is “nourishing” for you?
One of my favorite nutrition coaches, Laura Puglisi Rupsis says about her clients:
When coaching clients through this lifestyle change my focus is on keeping thing simple. This type of change is simple but not easy. Focus on the basics. I like to use a “crowding out” approach rather than an elimination approach. Prioritizing protein and fat first. Once you’ve added those to your plate then add your veggies. Eat ALL that first and in as many variations as you like.”
Then if you’re still hungry enjoy some fruit or nuts. If you’re really feeling frisky have some dark chocolate or a glass of wine. If you are out and about with friends and everyone goes out for tacos and the pull to enjoy a taco is just too much, then eat some tacos! Don’t stress about it. Don’t let it turn into a bender. Just pick up where you left off. If you feel less than awesome then next day then you can make the decision for yourself if the indulgence was worth it. Sometimes the answer will be yes and other times no. Leave it behind and get back to feeling awesome by crowding out the crap”.
Paleo, primal, keto, sugar-free, gluten-free and holistic living – which one is for you?
So, what are the most important components of health for you? For me, they got narrowed down over the years to a lifestyle that I enjoy daily. They include eating plenty of vegetables and meats, moving often, being able to show your strength, sleeping hard, and taking care of my emotional and mental state daily. I am a true believer in overall wellness that starts with food. You can go pursue your wildest dream life, career, and relationships dreams once you have fixed your relationship with food and self. Too deep? #notsorry
Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons states that
“There is no “one” best diet – what’s optimal depends on the person and changes with time. That said, nutrient-dense, real food is a solid foundation. This doesn’t have to be complicated: think meat, fish, eggs, healthy fats, lots of veggies, and modest amounts of fruit, nuts and seeds. For some, high-quality, full-fat dairy is an excellent addition too”.
I also love how she approaches eating patterns:
“ A key piece is finding an eating pattern that nourishes you – but is alsoabundant, simple and *easy*. Another piece is recognizing that this process goes way beyond what’s on our plate. It’s connected to our identity, social
context and beliefs. I encourage my clients to bring tons of compassionate curiosity to this work – just showing up in an honest, mindful way is huge”.
Want to learn more from her? Check her out here – Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, DOM, AP, LAc (CO, FL, MD).
Where does your optimal health come from?
Moreover, when you establish a good base for your health to optimize your genes, begin nourishing your body with the best ingredients for your health, you will also restart your eating patterns and treat food differently. Ultimately, this was one of the most significant changes in my life. I treat food with love because food helps me live healthfully, thrive, and stay strong. Food helps me LGN (Mark Sisson’s term), or Look Good Naked, and food heals me when I am sick. Because I often say – it all starts in your head – all the disease, maladies, weight gain, hormones, etc. Surely, you might need medical or holistic help to address those issues, but most of them need a mindset readjustment first.
- Loving yourself for who you are
- Knowing what’s good for your body and what’s poisonous
- Nourishing your body with the best ingredients
- Moving to feel energetic and happy
- Sleeping like a baby and playing like a dog
For many people, quitting sugar and poisonous foods proved to be the best way of living. You focus on vegetables, berries, some fruits and nuts, lean meats and healthy fats – your body (and mind!) don’t really need much more. Another wonderful coach, Dora Ferreira from Brazil says
I truly believe Paleo.Primal is the best nutrition approach for optimal health. I call it Paleo.Primal because it does not have to be one or another, as there are little differences in each such as amount and source of fat, consumption of dairy, coffee or chocolate.
I believe in personal nutrition and there is so much opportunity to tailor this lifestyle and make it possible to everyone. Paleo.Primal cleans out foods that cause inflammation and opens doors to more flavourful, nutritious and delicious foods. It’s easy, natural and fun! Paleo.Primal allows us to experiment and follow intuition in the kitchen and makes us not only feel good, but also look great, in a natural way.”
(You can find her here: Dora Ferreira – Fitdots Health Coaching – Explore life, naturally | Paleo • Primal
Personally, I think it’s like buying a dress for a specific event. You don’t walk into a department store asking for a “dress”. Most likely, you are asking for a dress for a woman (I know, I know), this size, that color, this event, that style etc. You might love Weight Watchers and hate Paleo. In fact, you may commit to Zumba for the rest of your life and avoid any weights. You may choose to sit all day at your computer or climb Mount Everest. There is no judgment when it comes to one’s health. You are your biggest critic and supporter. I hope you find your personal version – answer the questions from this blog post, try new things, and be open to learning!
Be authentic. Dare to be bold. Be the best version of you and thrive.
What is optimal health for YOU?