Diet and lifestyle habits are the foundations of our health

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Health is the most important thing in our lives. It allows us to be the best versions of ourselves in every aspect of our lives. When we feel physically and mentally robust, we feel like we can tackle anything, and we have the energy to live our best lives.

On the other hand, when we are sick, run down and chronically ill with health issues, our quality of life is significantly impaired. Chronic diseases that are severely affecting our quality of life are steadily on the rise and research is starting to show that the underlying causes and exacerbating factors behind these chronic diseases are inconsistencies around our diet and lifestyle habits, which are all within our control.

These poor diet and lifestyle habits that drive disease, revolve around the 4 pillars of health, diet, sleep, exercise/daily movement and mental/emotional wellbeing.

Diet

  • Poor dietary choices (i.e. lack of nutrient-dense wholefoods and increased processed foods).

Sleep

  • Lack of sleep and lack of good quality sleep.

Exercise and movement

  • Lack of exercise, daily movement and being overly sedentary on a day to day basis (e.g. working a desk job and sitting a lot during the day).

Emotional wellbeing

  • Chronic stress (physical and emotional) and decreased mental health.

Lack of:

  • Connection to nature and animals.
  • Sense of community.
  • Quality and authentic personal relationships.
  • Social connection.
  • Faith and spirituality.
  • Silent reflection.
  • Engagement in hobbies.
  • Ability to find your flow state.
  • Sense of purpose – what are you willing to fail and suffer for?
  • Movement, play, laughter, music, dance and fun.
  • Leaning into discomfort and adversity.
  • Lifelong learning.
  • Hope and things to look forward to.
  • Quality time with loved ones.
  • Good value system.
  • Altruistic behaviours.
  • Ordinary things in our lives that we fail to be grateful for. 
  • Gratitude and actively practicing it.
  • Leaning into joy.
  • Vulnerability.
  • Personal boundaries and walking away when it is not right – this is not failure. Personal boundaries and walking away when it is not right – this is not failure. People who have solid boundaries and can say NO, are often the kindest, most giving and empathetic people. This is because their boundaries come from a deep sense of self worth and they set boundaries to protect their own physical and mental health, so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Do not mistake boundaries for being selfish. People with strong boundaries rather have the discomfort of being honest, saying no, walking away and hurting someone’s feelings a bit,  than saying yes and being resentful in their mind. Resentment eats away at us.
  • Shame resilience.
  • Feeling and believing you are enough.
  • Authenticity.
  • Being comfortable with risk, uncertainty, emotional exposure and discomfort.
  • Understanding that on the other side of moments in our lives that bring us struggle, discomfort, failure, risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure, are usually our happiest, proudest and most fulfilling moments.
  • Prioritising time and being grateful for the ordinary things in our lives, like our friends, family, hobbies, pets and nature. Letting go of the pursuit of an “extraordinary life” that neglects these things, which people regret not spending enough time focussing on when they are on their deathbed.
  • Self compassion.
  • Failure resilience.
  • Creativity.
  • Solving good problems that are a result of pursuing/adhering to good values.
  • Calm and stillness.
  • Process driven goals based around good values.

Cultivating the above, allows for wholehearted living.

Sadly, our modern world, societal structures and societal norms make it quite hard to develop and maintain all of these components, which are vital to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Our society leads us to develop too much of what is written below, which affects our emotional well being.

Too much of:

  • Worrying about what people think.
  • Especially the critics who have never dared greatly and “entered the arena.” The people who criticise from the sidelines and have never jumped into the arena of life, which is rife with fear, uncertainty, emotional exposure and discomfort. They don’t have the courage and vulnerability to embrace these things.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Seeking the validation of others.
  • Numbing, victim mentality, entitlement and powerlessness.
  • Scarcity culture and fear of the dark.
  • Comparison.
  • Hiding shame and lack of vulnerability.
  • Unworthiness. Not feeling enough and worthy of love, connection and belonging. Therefore, believing that achieving something, acquiring something, being a certain way and hiding things about our true/authentic selves (i.e. lack of vulnerability and hiding shame) will lead to those feelings of “enough.”
  • End destination/outcome based goals that revolve around material and external things.
  • Anxiety as a lifestyle.
  • Exhaustion and business as a status symbol.
  • Productivity as self worth.
  • Self doubt and “supposed to.”
  • Needing to be “cool and always in control.”
  • Never showing “weakness” and vulnerability.
  • Suppressing and not speaking about shame.
  • Need for certainty.
  • Pursuing an extraordinary life and thinking it will bring happiness and fulfilment.
  • Poor value systems based around external things and end destinations.
  • Seeking instant gratification and fear of risk, uncertainty, discomfort, emotional exposure, failure and therefore courage.
  • Having an outcome orientated mindset.
  • Solving problems that results from bad values.

Alcohol and smoking

  • Increased alcohol intake, smoking and drug use (illicit and pharmaceutical).

The reason why inconsistencies around the 4 pillars of health (i.e. diet and lifestyle habits) play such a huge role in the development and exacerbation of chronic disease and chronic health issues, is because poor diet and lifestyle habits increase inflammation in the body, and most chronic diseases are driven by some form of inflammation.

Our diet and lifestyle play a really important role in regulating the inflammatory status of the body. Good diet and lifestyle habits decrease inflammation, therefore preventing disease and slowing its progression, whereas poor diet and lifestyle habits on the other hand, increase inflammation in the body, therefore causing and exacerbating chronic diseases. The mechanisms of action behind chronic diseases is no doubt complex, however when you take a step back and look at them as a whole, there is always an element of inflammation, as well as nutrient deficiencies involved in the symptomology. Diet and lifestyle habits influence both of these factors.

Genes also play a role in the development of disease and health issues. A person’s genetic predispositions (e.g. family history of health issues), will ultimately determine how their diet and lifestyle habits will manifest in the body. There is a famous saying that goes, “our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.” Which means that if we have a poor diet and lifestyle, which is pro-inflammatory, this will increase the risk of disease-causing genes to manifest. Whereas good diet and lifestyle habits that are anti-inflammatory, will decrease the risk of genetic predispositions manifesting. Genes make up less than 10% of our chronic disease risk. The other 90% is due to our environmental exposures, such as our diet and lifestyle habits.

Based on this, finding ways to implement consistent good habits around our diet and lifestyle are vital to treating, preventing and slowing the progression of chronic diseases and health issues. This is because by doing this, we are addressing the underlying causes of health issues, rather than suppressing symptoms with medications that don’t address the multi-faceted nature of disease. Furthermore, we know that medications used to treat symptoms of disease are much more effective in the backdrop of good diet and lifestyle habits that address the underlying drivers of disease. When we address the underlying causes it may also lead to reduced dosages of medications, as well as decreased side effects.

Furthermore, it is important to work on your diet and lifestyle habits all together because they all affect one another. This is because an inconsistency in one of them can have a flow on effect to causing disruptions in the others.

For example, if we don’t sleep well, we know this can affect our diet, stress levels, emotional wellbeing and exercise habits. When we are run down and fatigued, we are less likely to have the motivation to cook healthy meals and exercise. We are less likely to make good choices around our food and more likely to crave sugary food for an energy hit. And as we all know, when we are sleep deprived, stressful situations are more likely to affect our emotional well being, which can also lead to stress/emotional eating, increased alcohol consumption and even drug consumption.

Another example is when we have a poor diet, we decrease the nutrient intake of certain nutrients that help give us energy to exercise, that help produce chemicals in our brain to sleep and also regulate our mood. A crappy diet makes you feel crappy (affecting our emotional health) and increases inflammation in the body, which causes and exacerbates health issues.

Furthermore when we don’t exercise, it affects our mood as we don’t get an endorphin hit and it affects our sleep as well. Research also shows that people who exercise are more likely to make better choices around their food because they “feel healthy.”

One last example is when our emotional wellbeing is suffering, it affects our diet, sleep and exercise habits. It is well known that anxiety and depression can lead to increased “emotional eating” of the processed food to numb feelings, or even a lack of food intake.

Anxiety and depression also often lead to disrupted sleeping patterns and a lack of motivation to exercise, as well as increased drug and alcohol intake to “cope” with negative emotions. These poor diet and lifestyle habits then increase the risk of poor physical health, fatigue, disease and uncomfortable symptoms, leading to an overall decreased quality of life. This in turn negatively impacts emotional wellbeing in a vicious cycle.

Lastly, when we don’t feel well, we feel emotionally drained, our energy is low, we struggle to sleep and we seek out comfort food.

In conclusion, gaining consistency over our diet and lifestyle habits (i.e. the 4 pillars of health), decreases inflammation in the body and therefore improves our health and wellbeing so that we can live our best lives. When looking to change your diet and lifestyle, there is no point in making changes you can’t sustain. Therefore, working with a practitioner can really help coach you to make achievable, gradual and sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle that ultimately empowers you to take control of your own health. This decreases dependency on health practitioners and gives you the knowledge to look after your own well being. A good practitioner can also help steer you away from all the fads and misinformation of the internet.

Call Oak Health today or book an appointment online to find out how evidence based, practical and sustainable diet and lifestyle changes, as well as herbal and nutritional supplementation can be used to treat the underlying causes of your most concerning health issues and therefore improve your overall health and wellbeing.

You may also want to enquire about the 6 week treatment program for optimising your health and wellbeing.