Optimal Health: What is It and Why do we Want It?
Me: I have no energy, I have this awful brain fog, I’m not sleeping well, I’m gaining weight, I ache all over, and I’m cranky all the time. What’s wrong with me, Doctor?
Doctor: You’re just getting older; it’s all a part of aging. There’s really nothing you can do, we all go through it. You just have to accept it.
Have you had this conversation with your doctor?
I really did. It left me feeling depressed and defeated, and, well, hopeless. However, I was never one to accept that kind of final sentence. I began talking: talking to family, friends, co-workers, and other women my age and older. What is your secret? What are your thoughts? What kind of vitamins do you take and what exercises do you do? I kept hearing the same thing again and again. There must be something we can do to feel vibrant and healthy, I mean; this is the 21st century after all. I began to see a glimmer of hope and my spirits lifted and my journey began to never accept “that’s just the way it is.” I decided to keep searching for answers, to advocate for a healthy me and never settle for anything less.
The term “Optimal Health” was not anything I had heard of 20 years ago but it’s become part of the lingo for those of us seeking it. It is the whole package: optimal health for mind, body, and spirit. This is what we strive for: to live fully, independently and healthy in those three things – mind, body and spirit.
When we are young, we don’t pay much attention to health. I ate fast food, I smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and nothing really bothered me. By my late- twenties, I started having panic attacks. (Thank God, I had a doctor who understood that.) At age 35, I started packing on the pounds. By the time I hit 45, I felt like I was 65. I worked out 5 or 6 days a week, I ate the “healthy American diet,” and I still felt lousy. By then, I was in the throes of perimenopause and newly diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (I lost a whole weekend taking some kind of crazy drug for the pain). I finally started searching for an “anti-aging” doctor in my area. Boy, did I get picked on for that one! People said things like, “we are all going to die, do you think an anti-aging doctor can prevent that?”
The thing was, I wanted answers as to why these things were happenings, not pills to mask the problems. I wanted desperately to feel healthy again. I read lots of books. I hunted all over the internet for ideas, I read blogs, I visited anti-aging websites like Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Eric Berg , and of course, Suzanne Somers, who, in my humble opinion, really opened the door for more discussion on bio-identical hormone replacement. I have a whole bookshelf of wonderful books on almost every diet out there, books on living life to the fullest, anti-aging, menopause, thyroid (yep, I’m hypo-thyroid too), and all kinds of exercise programs.
It really boils down to a few simple things. Are you ready for another list? Here is my personal Top Ten list for Optimal Health:
1.) Eat healthy: lean meats/fish, eggs, veggies galore, berries, nuts/seeds, healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, sugar free almond milk or coconut milk, healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil. Avoid any and all processed foods if you can. Many people have food century after all! I began to see allergies or sensitivities, so adjust as you need to. We do our best to avoid gluten, dairy, and corn due to sensitivities, we are not perfect but do the best we can (eating out is the hardest.)
2.) Meditate: find 10 – 15 minutes per day to sit quietly, just breathe and relax, release stress and worries. Meditation has proven so effective in many areas of healing yet we do not often hear it recommended as part of a health plan. My husband took a meditation class in college so we use the techniques he learned back then, which have not changed much in the past thousand years. It is a real feat to quiet the mind. Check out this great article in The Greater Good from the University of California at Berkeley.
3.) Exercise: I absolutely love Teresa Tapp’s T-Tapp program. It’s an amazing comprehensive compound muscle movement program that builds muscles and helps you lose inches. (Teresa has a new 5-year study with Sloan-Kettering that is just about ready to be released, can’t wait to read it!) I also love to walk. My husband likes to shoot hoops, he has a routine that he does, and he uses our various exercise equipment. We also like to ride bikes together.
4.) Sleep: simply put, you need 8 hours. Sometimes I need 8.5 hours…..everyone is different but the bottom line is this: you need 8 hours of sleep. Got it?
5.) Supplements: find a good doctor, anti-aging, integrative, or naturopath that can figure out what you need to help you get to your optimal health level.
6.) Bio-identical hormones: again, find someone who will work with you on this. My doctor uses a compounding pharmacy and my BIH are plant based and made just for me based on my blood test results. What a difference it made in my life! I no longer wanted to yell at everyone and I actually felt like a woman again.
7.) Social Life: we are social creatures. It’s not healthy to stay cooped up in your home. Get out there, find a group, visit your local library, volunteer at the hospital, do something for a few hours a week. Keep yourself connected.
8.) Mind: it’s so important to do something to make the brain actually have to work to solve a puzzle or read a book and not just change the channel with your remote! Reading a great book that takes me away to far off places is one of my favorite things to do….and I will admit that Middle Earth is my favorite place to visit!
9.) Fresh Air & Sunshine: ok, some of us live where the sun doesn’t shine as much as we would like, but the idea is to get up off the couch, get the blood flowing and get outside, breathe in the fresh air. Those of us who live in the north (I live in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York) need to add some Vitamin D to our daily supplements if we don’t get 10 or 15 minutes of sun every day.
10.) Spirituality: this is a subject that always gets a lot of comments. I believe that it is important to spend some time every day with your spiritual side, the beliefs that are important to you, even if you carve out a minute here and a minute there, connect with your higher being and give thanks and gratitude for all you have.
So, there you have it…my take on ten things to help you work towards optimal health. We all have busy lives so take one thing at a time and work it until it fits in your schedule. Then move on to the next thing. You all know the elephant rule, right? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Let me know how you feel about gaining optimal health!
Until next time, be well!
About the Author:
Tami Bluett conducts high-level recruitment and interviews for Resolution Research. Her past 30+ years experience leading the State of New York’s JOBS Program dealing with every type of person and entity imaginable has prepared her well for the job at hand.