Your Health is Your Responsibility. Take charge!

by Aurimas Juodka

You start feeling a bit sick. You try to power through it. When you can’t continue, you decide to see your doctor. Your doctor prescribes you medication without asking you too many questions, the doctor most likely does not enquire about your diet, (can’t blame them, they’re too busy). The medication is going to suppress the symptom but definitely not address the underlying issue. Your prescription is going make you feel better for a matter of time and then you will probably get sick again in the near future. It will start happening more frequently, more unexpectedly. You will leave the doctor’s office with an even longer list of pharmaceuticals that will bring you back to his office to ask for more.

Taking a pill is just too easy, why question your lifestyle choices and find out what could have made you sick in the first place? Have you ever thought about asking yourself that question? Most likely not. Neither did I for a long time! I have now reached the conclusion that conventional medicine is great for acute illnesses, broken bones and car accidents. It can be absolutely amazing and life saving! However, it does not function properly long term. When treating symptoms, deeply rooted, underlying issues remain untouched. We go to our doctor because we think that they have the answers to everything, we think that the pill that they prescribed us is going to fix all of our problems. Are you aware that a given doctor receives little to no education on nutrition and lifestyle counselling? According to the article published by the American Society for Nutrition, among 900+ cardiologists, 90% stated that they did not receive adequate training in nutrition and counselling.

Meanwhile, the numbers of chronic diseases are rising, people are feeling less productive and more stressed. That means the only thing – we must take charge of our own health. Not by putting ourselves into the hands of, “specialists” who are not competent and all they care about is getting you out of their office as quickly as possible. We must take charge of our own health by finding integrative/preventative medicine doctors, holistic nutritionists, lifestyle counsellors, and coaches. The first step in taking charge of your health is to empower yourself and implement lifestyle changes!

First of all, you might ask yourself, “What in the world is, “integrative medicine?” I have your answer. Integrative medicine goes beyond regular healthcare. The World Health Organisation defines health as, “A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Integrative medicine addresses exactly that. It goes beyond treating diseases and factors in all the markers that influence our health. Integrative medicine still addresses acute and chronic illnesses, but in addition to that, it promotes general health and disease prevention. Health is not a single dimensional entity and should not be addressed as such. Health encompasses way more than getting in your daily exercise or eating better.

Personally, I define health using these 4 pillars: 

Movement

Not all of us are fitness fanatics, so find something that doesn’t feel like a chore, movement is all about happiness! I suggest including a couple of things in to your movement routine.

1. Lift weights, at least once a week. There are so many health benefits to lifting, such as increased bone density, improved overall strength, and balance.

2. HIIT it harder! Short on time? Need a good sweat?

Try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT); TABATA, 40/20, 30/30 intervals (work/rest ratio). Try incorporating HIIT into your workout routine at least once a week.

3. Try some sort of activity that you haven’t done before and that appeals to you. I’m constantly trying to learn new skills (wake boarding, rock climbing, handstands etc). It builds new brain pathways and makes you use muscles that you never even knew existed.

4. Walk. I know, sounds too simple, but we live such sedentary lifestyles these days and we need some natural movement. If you’re stuck at a desk job, make sure to stand up every 45 minutes or so and move around, stretch a little bit. Don’t fight for a parking spot right next to a building, take the furthest one possible when parking at work or going shopping. Simple habits yield amazing results! Being in the fitness industry myself and being an advocate for working out, I will advise that exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is not the only solution for better health.

Nutrition

amateurs who are trying to capitalise on the expense of your wellbeing. The mass confusion is what the food industry is thriving on! I base my beliefs on hard science rather than the latest diet fads, in conjunction with this, Michael Pollan has great general advice on nutrition: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Let’s break it down a little bit! The western diet is clearly not serving us well, making us sick and fat, we can’t deny that. The majority of chronic lifestyle diseases and general dips in performance can be fixed with good nutrition. How? Some simple tips:

1. Eat real food that is as close to its natural state as possible. It’s hard to overeat real food since it is nutrient dense and fills you up quicker. On the other hand, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners etc. (the list is endless) are calorie dense and do not provide you with any nutritional value, and are actually engineered to be addictive and cause cravings.

On top of that, they damage your gut lining and yield to a wide array of problems. It takes a little while (up to 2 weeks) to reshape your gut microbiome. Once you introduce new and healthy foods, your gut forms the environment around it and starts sending different hunger signals to your brain.

2. You probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat”, it is not quite accurate, you actually are what you eat ATE. It means that the animal products are mass-produced and come from low-quality sources, (Grain fed, antibiotic filled etc.) and those antibiotic and low quality residues ultimately end up in your body. The meat that you find in your regular supermarket is definitely not serving your wellbeing. If you choose to consume animal products, ensure their quality. Pastureraised eggs, grass-fed beef and wild caught salmon. Sounds expensive?

Well, it is still going to be cheaper than doctor’s visits and/or cancer (I know, sounds extreme). At the end of the day, you are the consumer and you have the power to demand high-quality products. Overall, I suggest that you start pushing meat to the side of your plate and consume it more as a side dish rather than the main course. Your mother was right, load up on veggies!

3. Shop on the outside perimeter of the supermarket or find a local farmer’s market. That’s where real, whole healthy foods are waiting for you with no colourful labels that are screaming, “Healthy choice” and other nonsense. Avoid packaged foods that have more than 5 ingredients.

4. Limit your food consumption window to 12 hours. You might say, “Oh, easy, I already do that”, but we don’t realise that the sugar, cream or milk that often ends up in our morning coffee or other mindless snacks kicks off our digestive system, with nothing to digest, causing extreme cravings later in the day.

Stress management

Some say that we live in the most stressful age. I would absolutely disagree because most of us are fed, clothed and have a roof over our heads. I believe that we are responsible for being responsive rather than being reactive to the things that happen around us. Everything that occurs in life happens for you, not to you. Every event that might be perceived as a failure might turn out to be an amazing opportunity. How to manage your stress levels?

1. Ensure good quality sleep. Limit your screen time before bed, relax and keep your bedroom dark. You can see more tips on a good night sleep on my blog: www.fitwithaj.org

2. Meditate. TM or transcendental meditation is one of the best practices out there, based on my own research and multiple top-level executives are swearing by it. If that is not something that appeals to you, find a practice that serves your needs and calms you down. Look into emotional tapping, breathing techniques or mindfulness practice.

3. Take a break. Sometimes we think that cramming in as many, “productive” hours as possible is going to make us better. Not true! Prioritise rest and see how your productivity increases.

Social engagement

Last, but not least. The community has always been an inseparable part of humanity, that’s why we should keep it that way. Surround yourself with people that serve you and support your goals. Get rid of those toxic relationships, it will make your life easier and definitely more positive! Do something that helps others. I like living my life based on the motto, “If it’s not bigger than yourself then it’s not big enough”. Give back to your family, to your community.

Give more and it will come back around.  We are lucky to live in the age of wellness revolution. Medical practices that seemed, “Voodoo” a couple of years back are making their way into the sunlight. As you are aware, conventional wisdom does not seem to help us much anymore, so it is time to empower yourself and make better lifestyle choices, which is going to shift your health and overall wellbeing in a positive direction.
Take charge!

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