My journey towards health is just beginning. Yet, I’ve been dieting and exercising since high school (2004), content to gain 20lbs one year just to become obsessed with losing it the next. And although I looked to the latest health theories for guidance, my lifestyle was anything but healthy. It wasn’t until 2011 when I started suffering from unexplained symptoms, which led to anxiety and panic attacks, that I started wondering what healthy really means and why poor health is so common.
Like many others whose questions are left unanswered by medical experts, I started addressing my health with diet. Not with calories, as I had done in the past, but with quality. I wanted real food. I knew my body needed it. I read as much as I could about using food as medicine and, through trial and error, I’ve learned a lot. I am generally healthier, more educated and I have improved a number of my symptoms. But mostly, through the years spent trying to process all of the information available on health and nutrition, I’ve realized how out of touch I am with my own body, mind and soul. And the amount of information out there on health and wellness tells me I'm not alone.
We're only human. Anytime we fall short or make mistakes, we fall back on our humanness. Several months ago a friend of mine, discouraged with the excuse, said, "We were created to be human. What we are is broken. We are working towards being human again."
Similarly, in talking to people about health and food and exposure to toxins a common response is, "Well, we survived." Meaning we survived the chemicals, sugar, drugs, GMOs, and the like. The 'we survived' notion may be appropriate for those who were born in the 60's and did in fact survive childhood without the use of a car seat. However, if we're talking about having survived an era of over processed, chemically fortified foods and drugs, we're speaking too soon (unless you're over 80). Food and lifestyle related illness is the number one killer in the world (WHO).
Not to mention, we weren't created to merely survive. We were created to thrive. God created everything humans need for health and vitality. Yet, thinking about the ten people closest to me, not one of them feels consistently healthy and energetic, myself included. And all too often, instead of working towards restoration and wholeness, we accept brokenness. We accept sickness. We suffice to survive; as if poor quality of life is the cost we pay for being alive at all (Dr. Christiane Northrup).
Why is health so difficult to achieve?
There is a profound disconnect between humans and our humanness. We are broken. I don't know anyone who looks at the world with all the pain and suffering and thinks, 'This just seems right.' Given the culture we have created, our God-given instincts are increasingly difficult to tap into and our health is often reduced to a checklist. Health as a human, however, is not a matter of food and weight, calories in and calories out. Instead, health as a human ought to be synonymous with wholeness. And the heart of wholeness is relationship - relationship with our Creator, relationship with other people, relationship with Earth, the dust from which we were formed, and relationship with our own bodies, minds, and souls. If any one piece of the picture isn't in place, then dissatisfaction, anxiety, illness, depression, addiction and the like often follow. True health, rooted in relationship, proves extremely difficult to achieve in a culture that values work over family and views science and spirituality as contradictory. Objectivity is prized. Emotions are not. And, along with the fact that we exist at all, we want health to be objective. Eat this, not that. But the reality is we are all physiologically unique. There is no one-size-fits-all health theory.
No one has all the answers. We only have our experiences to reference. So, the more opportunities we give ourselves to experience relationship and stretch our understanding of the world, the more likely we are to find ourselves on a path to becoming human again. The more likely we are to meet (not in the end, but today) our Creator. If, however, we are bent on being objective (as science touts), on being successful (as culture defines), on being right (as many religions claim), on being skeptical (instead of curious and mindful), on being comfortable (instead of challenged), we may find ourselves feeling empty, irritable, defensive, etc.
The Bigger Picture
It’s really difficult to understand health as a piece of wholeness when we are so far removed from our basic relational needs as humans. If there's an area of life I prefer to not have to challenge myself in, it’s relationships. Relationships require vulnerability and a whole lot of effort. I’m much more inclined to stay busy with projects and tasks, and feel productive. But therein exists the disconnect.
The journey towards achieving health begins with self-reflection and acknowledging what it is you believe about your value as a human. If you aren’t sure what you believe about yourself, start with your actions. Actions can unequivocally be traced back to specific underlying beliefs. And, as I’ll talk about in my next post, many of our beliefs have been inherited, not chosen. So, the first step in working towards health and wholeness is acknowledging the belief system from which you function, and deciding if that is in fact what you believe.
This blog series, Health and Wholeness, serves as a platform to work through a thoughtful health perspective. Each month I’ll comment on some aspect of health and wholeness in hopes to encourage self-reflection, discussion, and action. I hope you’ll join in the conversation and I hope we can support each other, as we are all on this journey together.