WHAT ARE THE “POTATO CHIPS” IN YOUR LIFE?
This past summer, an article came out where a UK teenager went blind from consuming a diet of potato chips, french fries, and processed ham. Hard to believe? To summarize, this is what happened: Doctors discovered that after being on this diet for seven years, this teen (who was eating this way because of an eating disorder), had suffered from a nutritional deficiency. As a result, his nervous system became damaged, specifically the optic nerve, and as a consequence, he went blind.
The purpose of this write up is not to remind you to cut down on junk food and eat more veggies and fruits – although this article is still a good reminder to do that. The lesson to learn from this is that your health can change when you least expect it, and sometimes in an instant. It is therefore crucial for you to be aware of every single decision that you make which affects your health starting today. Everything you do affects your brain, nervous system, and body in an accumulative way and as time goes by, this will either lead to a good or poor quality of life.
As humans, we often get caught up in the ‘tsunami of life’. We are busy working, paying bills, and taking care of our families. As a result, we sometimes become complacent. However, when it comes to our health, we should be proactive. The cells and tissues in our bodies are constantly breaking down and degenerating. The human life span is consistently increasing, with the average life expectancy in Canada now around 83 years old. Living longer means we should be investing more in our health right now. Otherwise, as you age, you end up “chasing” good health rather than “maintaining” it.
There is a term we use in my profession, which is called “salutogenesis”. Salutogenesis is a medical paradigm which focuses on factors that support human health and well-being. In other words, it takes a proactive approach to health – exercising, eating well, meditating, yoga, etc. Unfortunately, much of our society is focused on the opposite approach: “pathogenesis” – or a “sick care” approach to health. For example, when we have a headache, we take a Tylenol. When we are in pain, we take Advil. When we can’t sleep, we take a sleeping pill. There are times when taking medications is absolutely warranted. But why not take measures to prevent these types of problems to begin with?
A salutogenic model does not come naturally to most people, mainly because we live in a day and age that makes it difficult for us to. We are all busy people. Many aren’t proactive with their health because the perception is “there is no time”. A lot of effort is required. A pathogenic model on the other hand, does not require any commitment until absolutely necessary. On top of that, human beings are conditioned to find a quick fix. Part of this is media driven, and part of this is the instant gratification mindset humans are accustomed to. It is easy to just wait until symptoms arise and just deal with it then.
The World Health Organization has the perfect definition of health – “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This is a something we should all be referencing to daily. I would even suggest posting this definition to your fridge on a sticky note, or put it into your daily calendar every day so you can remind yourself of it. It basically promotes a salutogenic lifestyle. Not a pathogenic one.
I will point out that one of the most important factors in living a healthy life, is that you first need to believe that you deserve good health. In fact, this applies in all areas of life. Without this fundamental belief, you will not be able to achieve what you desire as you will continuously sabotage yourself and make the wrong choices. Ask yourself a simple question: “Do I deserve good health?” If your immediate answer is not a “yes”, then you lack the deserving belief for good health and it needs to be addressed. Once you set the foundation with a deserving belief, the sky is the limit for you to achieve the health you want.
So I’ll leave you with this: What are the “potato chips” in your life? In other words, what are you doing, or not doing that is preventing you from living the life you want? Are you not exercising enough? Are you eating too much sugar or processed foods? Are you living in pain and are relying on medications and anti-inflammatories just to help you get by? Consider changing your health paradigm to a salutogenic one and take the steps now to prevent disease or illness later. Eat well, exercise, meditate, seek alternative forms of health care (not just drugs), socialize, travel, and make time for your hobbies and passions. These are all simple steps you can take to help nourish your mind, body, and soul. You have to make it a priority for yourself and keep reminding yourself that you deserve it. Don’t forget: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.