Putting Together the Pieces of the Puzzle of Health

What does health mean to you? Does it simply mean the absence of illness, or is it something more? To me health encompasses many facets that work together to create a feeling of physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. It’s like taking pieces of a puzzle that alone have meaning, but together paint a full picture.  Each piece is crucial and when one piece is lost, you’re losing out on the beauty of the finished product. Nutrition, hydration, rest, stress relief, spirituality and exercise all work together to bring health to our lives. Alone, they are each crucial, but together they are a powerhouse and the center of that puzzle, for me, is God. Without my relationship with Him, I lack peace in my life and that peace is more powerful than even any super food you have heard of. Why? Because when our bodies are stressed they release chemicals that can cause many health issues. So whatever your outlet is for finding peace, whether it is God, a walk in nature, time with a friend or a good book, seek it out daily.

In my training as a health coach, we address the four pillars of health known as L.E.A.N. which stands for Lifestyle (how we live), Exercise (how we move), Attitude (how we think) and Nutrition (how we eat). Let’s look at each pillar more in depth and see how we can paint a better picture of health for us and our families.

1) Lifestyle: Making health a priority in your life can include things like scheduling time for meal prep to keep your family eating well during your busy week, finding a workout buddy to make exercise more enjoyable, cleaning out your pantry of unhealthy foods, getting adequate sleep or creating a workout schedule. Some simple ways to ensure healthy meals includes having chopped veggies available for snacks, salad in a jar for lunch or frozen fruits and veggies for quick, healthy smoothies in the morning.  When you find your workout buddy, make sure to schedule your workouts as you would any other important event. When it’s time for bed, make sure to create a peaceful environment and cut off electronics at least an hour before bedtime to help your body wind down.

2) Exercise: Oftentimes we think in order to get fit we have to run a lot, lift a lot of weights or spend hours in the gym. While running and weight training are both excellent ways to get fit, the best exercise is simply the one that you will do! If you love to dance, dance! Love to swim? Swim! Busy moms and dads can get in spurts of exercise while playing with their children in the backyard or even indoors while making meals or doing chores! The goal is to stay active to keep our hearts healthy and work towards eliminating excess weight that may cause health issues down the road. With that being said, healthy and fit comes in all different shapes and sizes and weight is never a measure of your worth.  Remember to start low and go slow if you are starting a new fitness routine and always listen to your body. Ignoring signals of overexertion are not only counterproductive, but can be dangerous. Keep a water bottle available for hydration, as well.

3) Attitude: If you often find yourself making excuses for why you cannot make healthy changes, perhaps it is time to reframe the way you think. For instance, thinking that you can’t make time for healthy meals may seem like a “good excuse” with your busy schedule, but how well does sickness work into that schedule? What we eat has the potential to aid in sickness or in wellness. In fact, it has been said that the foods we eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. Another common excuse I hear is “I don’t like to exercise.” Here’s the thing, our bodies are meant to move and be active. The less active we are we may be setting ourselves up for needing more medicine down the road to combat the illnesses caused by a sedentary lifestyle. For instance, did you know that weight bearing exercise can decrease your risk of osteoporosis?  Changing how we look at a situation can greatly affect our health outcomes. One of the most powerful things we can do is stop making excuses and start making changes!

4) Nutrition:  Eating a diet that’s full of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and lean proteins is one of the best steps you can take to a healthier body. Try filling half of your plate with veggies and fruit at each meal. Eating raw foods helps you get those live enzymes that help your body thrive in addition to providing fiber that keeps your digestive tract healthy! Make sure to add in sufficient amounts of omega-3 foods that are good for heart and brain health. Some foods that contain healthy omega-3s are flax seeds, salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans. In addition to our food, we need to adequately hydrate our bodies by drinking at least half of our body weight in water daily. Add 1 cup extra per half hour of exercise to ensure you stay hydrated. Avoid sugary sports drinks with artificial colors and flavors and opt for coconut water, instead, to increase electrolytes. Remember, at the end of the day, your health is your responsibility and making one simple change at a time goes a long way!



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