Why You Need to Focus on the 4 Foundations of Health

Being healthy is not only to the absence of disease, but the ability to recover and bounce back from illness and other problem.  Health can be defined as physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and as a resource for living a full life (from WHO).

How many of us can recover and bounce back from illnesses? And how many of us are living a Full Life?  Are we healthy?

I’ve started asking all my patients with chronic diseases: how are you doing or feeling with food, exercise, sleep, and stress?  9 out of 10 patients say that they are not doing well on at least one our the four areas.

Many people assume that with prescription medications, one can continue with poor lifestyle choices and these medications will keep things “normal”. But without a healthy lifestyle, health will continue to deteriorate even with medications. This is the reason we keep seeing patients with increased dosage or going on additional medication to keep their health markers (such as blood pressure and blood sugar) in check.

Eat healthy. Move frequently. Sleep well.  Is health really that simple?

Probably not. There are other factors in our genetics and environment at play. But, honouring your body and make sure you practice the 4 foundations of health can pave the way to a healthier you. Even if you have chronic disease(s).  It’s never too late to start making changes.

Eat Well

You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. Even if you are in a good shape now, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can eat whatever you like. Eat real food, and try to avoid anything with a “nutritional” label. If food requires a label, likely it is not all that great for you. And if you must eat something packaged, please read the label carefully!

 

Movement

Most of us think of exercise as working up a huge sweat – running at least 10k, lifting heavy weights in the gym, or huffing and puffing in a spin class.  But exercise in moderation has been shown to be the most beneficial to your health. Do your best to invest in 30 minutes a day on your favorite exercise.

If you have an office job, don’t allow yourself to sit for hours at a time. Get up  and walk around the building, get some fresh air.  Moving will help you to keep a clear head and be even more productive!

Also remember that every little bit counts! House chores, sweeping the deck, gardening, and walking to places are all forms of movement.  I actually enjoy sweeping the patio on sunny days. This creates a clean space for me without mechanical noise, and it also gives my body a good workout!

De-stress

Many of us immerse ourselves in stress hormones 24/7. This really is not healthy at all. How do we get away from such intense way of life?

But does it really have to be this way? I confess this was me when I was younger. But all this do more, sleep less, exercise when convenient, and eat just to stop the hunger mentality didn’t get me anywhere. In fact, the poor choices cause me to suffer from brain fog, poor health, and likely held me back in life.

After studying mindfulness meditation, I’ve come to see that life is as stressful as you want to make it. Yes we will continue to face stress in our lives, but it’s how we view and respond to the stress that will either benefit or harm us.

Sleep

Ah, remember how it feels to have a solid 7-8 hours of sleep? Waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed?  Oh yes, we should feel this way every morning!

Sleep impacts quality of life, immune system, memory, productivity level, just to name a few important aspects. Yet, 43 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women in the 18 to 64 age group reported having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep “sometimes/most of the time/all of the time” (Stats Canada).

To get a good night’s sleep, consider removing all electronic devices from your bedroom and stop using them 2 hours before going to sleep. Modern technology have us attached to our smart phones 24/7. This only distracts you from your much needed sleep.  Also, find ways to unwind 2 hours before going to sleep, and make this a habit.

A word of caution: do not rely on sleeping pills to help you to get to sleep. Your quality of sleep will not be the same, and the use sleeping pills is habit forming. Also, studies have proven that sleeping pills are not good for your brain health!  If you are already using sleeping pills on a regular basis, please consult your health care professional and discuss how you can wean off it.

Of course, if you also pay attention to eating well, move more, and de-stressing, you will also sleep better.

Without a solid foundation, an ailing body will not be able to rebound, and a healthy body will surely deteriorate. Honour your body by giving these four foundations more attention.

Eat healthy. Move frequently. De-stress. Sleep well.

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