whole health!

Eating healthy is only one part of whole health.  In order to achieve optimal health and feel your best, you must consider ALL that applies to 'whole health'.  In addition to your food selection, think about the products you use as well: what you cook with, what you put on your body, etc.  All of these can affect your overall health in many ways.  

There are many considerations when trying to achieve whole health. How you take care of yourself will have a greater impact on your health and well-being tan medical care.  Evidence shows that each of these 6 areas are the pillars of whole health and contribute the greatest to overall health and well-being: Mental wellness, Nutrition, Physical wellness, Spiritual wellness, Environmental wellness and Financial wellness.

See below to learn more about each important factor of whole health:

nutrition

Of course as a registered dietitian I'd like to talk about nutrition first.  What we eat and/or drink can nourish and strengthen out body and mind, and has a significant impact on our mood, energy level, and physical health and performance.  Fueling our bodies with the right foods will help prevent obesity and chronic diseases as well as improve health conditions we already have.  Poor nutrition can contribute to stress, tiredness, and the risk of developing some illnesses and health problems, morbidity, and mortality.

4 Important things to consider regarding nutrition:

1. FOCUS ON QUALITY

 

The main goal is to consume whole foods, avoiding most processed foods.  Read food labels and start shopping healthier.  This may take some time to achieve and you might have to compromise along the way.  But starting somewhere and striving for progress, not perfection, is important. Every day you can do just a little bit better than yesterday.  It's sometimes difficult to limit our unhealthy foods but many times easier to ADD healthier foods so start there (fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc).  Examples of quality foods are given throughout this website but also found in my ebook (A Pocket Guide to Healthy Eating).

2. FOCUS ON QUANTITY

It's important to get enough of the 'healthy' foods and not too much of the 'unhealthy' foods. Both are equally important when trying to achieve optimal health and weight.  Examples are discussed throughout this website but also in the same ebook mentioned above. If you struggle with portion control like most of us, remember a few things: eat slowly (it takes ~20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full), follow the plate method, decrease your portions little by little, and make sure you're getting enough healthy foods. 

3. DEVELOP A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Typically, we view food as entertainment or fun or pleasure only.  It's important that we attempt to view food as nourishment and fuel for our body.  It serves a function to provide us the nutrients our bodies need to survive and work at its best.  Many times, we eat for reasons other than nourishment and that's when we can get in trouble with weight and health.  We eat out of boredom or stress or fun or other forms of emotional eating and that's when we tend to reach for unhealthy foods.  When we view food as a purpose instead of pleasure, we start to have a better respect or relationship with food, and it allows us to make healthier decisions.  It's also okay and acceptable to allow yourself pleasure foods occasionally and not feel guilty about it.  Savor it and enjoy every bite. 

4. DRINK ENOUGH WATER

Many people don't realize that water is a nutrient and it's one of the 6 critical nutrients that our bodies need to work at its best.  Water is good for many reasons.  According to webmd there are 6 big reasons to drink more water: 

1. Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature

2. Water Can Help Control Calories. 

3. Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity.

4. Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss.   "Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration. You can also help "lock" moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in. 

5. Water Helps Your Kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells.

6. Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don't get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration -- and the result is constipation

***Please don't use plastic containers or disposable water bottles. Get a reusable water bottle in attempts to help the environment. Always keep it on hand and aim for 64oz per day, although water needs differ for everyone.

mental wellness

This includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.  It's a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities to cope with the normal stresses of life.  Your mind directly affects the state of your body, in both positive and negative ways. When we're under stress, our heart rate and blood pressure can go up.  It's important to use our mind to change this and improve our health.  There are also certain hormones that are released when under chronic stress that can lead to weight gain.  Learn to use the connection between your body, brain, and mind.  Have an optimistic approach to life and enjoy life despite its occasional disappointments and frustrations.  Research shows that resilient, optimistic people tend to be more productive, more motivated and healthier.

3 things to help achieve better mental health:

1. RELAX AND RECHARGE

 

Relax - practice relaxation breathing, meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, mantram repetition, or Qi gong on a daily basis.  Any of these techniques can help with balance, pain, sleep, stress, anxiety, and medical conditions. 

Recharge - getting adequate sleep is critical to help support important physical and mental functions.  Inadequate sleep can affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Make sure you have good sleep hygiene and a wind down routine.  You can also try guided imagery, progressive relaxation, etc.  Aim for getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night.

Also, go on a vacation or find ways to escape from your normal routine in order to recharge.  Rest and recharging by taking a vacation or participating in leisure activities helps create a sense of calm and lowers stress.  Getting a good balance between activity and rest is important for optimal health. 

2. MANAGE STRESS

 

We know that stress reeks havoc on our health in many ways.  We can't prevent stress in our life, but we can work on managing it the best way possible.  Consider seeing a mental health professional as they can help you learn techniques on how to manage your stress better.  Or consider going to a stress management program in your area.  Other tips -write down 3 things you're grateful for every day, keep a stress diary, exercise or do any relaxation techniques mentioned above, eat healthy, talk with someone, take a break, make time for hobbies, find motivational quotes and people, get enough sleep, manage your time, slow down, avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

3. HAVE SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

 

This involves using effective communication skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a support system that includes family members and friends.  Positive social relationships are healthy.  It's good to talk to people who care about you and listen to you.  Science shows that investing in relationships is one of the best way to increase your happiness.  Do you surround yourself with positive, helpful people?

PHYSICAL WELLNESS

Physical wellness promotes proper care of your bodies for optimal health and functioning.  This is developed through the combination of beneficial physical activity/exercise such as building muscular strength, cardiovascular strength & endurance and flexibility.  Exercise can improve your mood and help you sleep better, and increase your sense of well-being.  Studies show that 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise can also reduce stress hormones and helps with depression. Exercise can help lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels. It can help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. It can also help you sleep better, reduce stress, control your weight, brighten your mood, sharpen your mental functioning and more.  Also, by increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain. And regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging. Get a minimum of 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week and 3-4 days of strength training per week.

7 tips on incorporating physical wellness:

1. Start by 'sitting less'.  Ask yourself "how many hours am I sitting each day?" then try to lesson that. You don't need to necessarily repl;ace sitting with exercise, just more more, sit less.

2. Than start making physical activity a regular part of the day.

3. Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly

4. Play music or find things that pump you up and get you in the mood.

5. Don't rely on motivation to exercise.  If we wait until we're motivated or 'feel like it' we may never do it.  Instead rely on your commitment.  It doesn't matter if you feel like it or not, you made a commitment, stick with it and do it anyway.  We can find many excuses or reasons to not exercise but one bad excuse leads to another and another and the next thing you know you aren't being active enough.

6. If you have physical limitations or pain in a specific area, ask your doctor what you ARE able to do.  You can always do something! Don't let this limitation completely stop you and put the rest of your body at risk

7. Don't connect exercise with weight loss.  Many times we might exercise just because we want to lose weight.  What happens if you plateau or don't lose the weight you want, then you stop exercising because that's the only reason you're doing it.  It's important that we exercise because of the health benefits, not because of our weight. 

ENVIRONMENTAL WELLNESS

This inspires us to live a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings, considering the impact it has on us as well.  Consider how the environment is affecting you and how are you affecting the environment.  This plays a role on your health.  You may have problems with safety, or things like clutter, noise, bad smells, poor lighting or water quality or you may use products that aren't necessarily good for you ro the environment.  Improve what you can.  It starts with paying attention to the influences of your environment on your life and health.  It's important to have a safe, comfortable, and healthy environment.

SPIRITUAL WELLNESS

This involves one's values, beliefs, and purpose, and can be achieved both physically & mentally.  It's generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose in human existence, leading one to strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world.  Acknowledge the good in yourself and others.  A sense of meaning and purpose and connection to things outside yourself.  When things are hard, you may turn to spiritual or religious faith for strength and comfort or you may turn to nautre. 

FINANCIAL WELLNESS

Money plays a critical role in our lives and not having enough of it impacts health. Financial wellness involves the process of learning how to successfully manage financial expenses.

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