Our health is so important. And good health is within reach of everyone. But you need a clear vision of what success looks like over the long term and plan small, doable steps you can take to get there.
Andy took time to see what was important in his life.
Two years ago, Andy underwent major surgery for aorta dissection, complicated by a left-side stroke. He was also diagnosed with hypertension and prescribed various pills.
On examination, his BMI was normal at 22.7, pulse was 47 on beta-blockers, but his blood pressure was high at 168/85 despite his medication.
His waist-hip ratio was high at 0.97, indicative of excess body fat in the abdomen. His liver was enlarged.
With diminished sensation in both feet and mild left body weakness, he could walk, but only with a stick and his wife’s support.
At the Vitality Clinic, we diagnosed hypertension due to arterial atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaque deposition) precipitated by high inflammation and oxidative stress. He also had harmful bacteria in the gut (dysbiosis), impairing his detox pathways and a low vitamin D.
Andy committed to a healthier lifestyle and has made good progress over 12 months.
He introduced anti-inflammatory food and regular physical activity, increasing his walking from 1.2km to 3.2km daily. His neurological symptoms almost completely disappeared.
Andy admitted he struggled to find out if he could occasionally ignore health advice or stick to it religiously for more significant future benefit. He liked his little treats, such as chocolate cake or a glass of wine.
Together we built up his knowledge and his ambition. And gradually, he was able to focus more on the longer term – being able to play with his grandchildren and dance at his granddaughter’s wedding. This new focus made it easier for him to give up some short-term enjoyment.
The patient-doctor relationship
The old patient-doctor relationship saw the patient as the care recipient, being advised which pills to take. The holistic functional medicine approach empowers the patient to sit in the driver’s seat, gaining the knowledge to reclaim your health and stay healthy for the rest of your life.
Let’s see how this works with metabolic syndrome.
The syndrome occurs when our metabolism slows down. Feeling lethargic, we take in more food to give us energy. But what we eat (sugar and fat) is stored as fat, mainly around the middle. This results in central obesity, which often progresses to the other risk factors – hypertension, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL (the good guy cholesterol.)
Unlike traditional medicine – take a pill for each symptom – the holistic approach does not target each separately. It reaches beyond them to address the underlying cause(s).
For example, I met a bus driver who had been ingesting vast amounts of sweets, chocolate, and fizzy drinks. Because he drove a large vehicle with safety obligations for many passengers, he firmly believed that he needed a lot of energy to do his job.
Another patient kept physical activity to a minimum to avoid depreciation whilst increasing his food intake to nourish his body. These erroneous beliefs gave him metabolic syndrome.
YOUR health journey
You need to start by finding out where you are now (current health status) and what you would like to achieve, and then work out how you get there.
In other words, you need to define your SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related), your milestones, how you overcome obstacles, and what you need to do first.
Just saying you want to be healthy is not specific or measurable. But aiming to get your waist down to 32 inches, your weight down to 70kg, or your BMI to 22.5 is all. Alternatively, you may want to focus on an achievement – run 10km in less than an hour by the end of the year, for example.
Therefore, firstly review your whole health picture. Grab a pen and paper and list your habits and their effect – good or bad – on your health.
You will need to think hard and dig deep. You may need to make an initial list and come back to it a day or so later when supplementary ideas may occur.
But suppose you can use the list as a springboard to change bad habits for good. In that case, you can not only stop the metabolic syndrome risk factors but also prevent serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia or even cancer.
Are you ready to change your habit?
Maybe you are a “pre-contemplator,” someone who cannot see the problem. A “contemplator” is aware of the problem but has no idea how to resolve it. Someone at the “preparation” stage has a plan and is ready to act. Once they have acted, they reach “maintenance,” wanting to keep their gain. Finally, the “termination” stage is where there are no temptations and no danger of relapse.
Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “begin with the end in mind.” What would you like to look like? Feel like? Do you have a reference to what you would like to achieve – a photo of yourself in robust health, a time you ran in your prime?
Goal setting takes time and effort. You need to ensure that your goal is right – is it SMART? Is it a stretch? The four-minute mile was impossible until Roger Bannister did it in 1954; 46 days later, someone else did it, and then a third runner.
The goal may be right, but are you mentally and emotionally ready? Do you have the resources you need?
Keep firmly in mind that this is NOT just another weight loss program. We are working resolutely for positive health gain.
In financial terms, the disease is like a debt. Once you recover from the disease (clear your debt), you are back at zero. But this is not your aim. You want to have a nice, fat bank account, i.e. NOT a nice, fat body!
Aim to put yourself in positive health, transforming you, giving you vitality and ensuring a long and healthy life.
Your goals need to be personal, positive, and inspiring – and you need to fall in love with them!
Can you reach your destination?
To maintain your willpower for your journey, you must know why you want to get there. You may need several levels reasons. Your goals should also impress and inspire your loved ones. Align them with your purpose, beliefs and core values. Getting emotional about your reasons will fill your emotional tank for the journey.
Remove any negativity – doubt, guilt, shame, or anger; remove your ego. Stay positive with love, forgiveness, and gratitude. Feed your mind with positive affirmations, and keep your previous victories in mind. Negativity means scarcity, and positivity implies abundance.
Your brain has two centres – the performer and the critic. When you are about to undertake anything important, the critic will appear and drag up every reason for not doing it. Silence the critic and set loose the performer, who will work until the goal is achieved.
Simply, you need to swap bad habits for good. A habit is where knowledge (what to do), skills (how to do) and desire (want to do) overlap. To successfully change your habits, you must reach beyond your conscious mind (which controls only 10% of your mental power) to your subconscious mind (90%) so that it will work 24/7, finding effective ways to achieve your goals.
Listen to your inner dialogue: what does it say? Is it the real you? This dialogue makes the difference between whether you could or should achieve your goals. Is your inner dialogue critical, honest, protective, or self-harming? These are important issues, as Napoleon Hill said: “What you conceive and believe, you can achieve.”
Changing your awareness will help you to change your thinking, and you will be in control of your outcomes.
If your purpose also benefits your community, this will magnify your results further.
Of course, as you go along, you will need to monitor the new habit. Is anything stopping you from practising it? If so, analyse and remove these obstacles, and readjust your schedule.
Why do people do what they do?
People act in the way they do to satisfy their habits, or they are driven by addictive behaviour or are working at subconscious level (autopilot.) To stop unhealthy behaviour, you need to convert it into a conscious response.
We keep doing things because, at a subconscious level, they cause an “itch” in the brain, which is relieved by performing the habit. If you are aware of the impulse, you have much better control over your habits.
Long term goals
People are living longer and longer, so it would be sensible to set long-term goals. However, you can’t be what you can’t see.
Andy’s grandchildren were not yet born, so he initially found it hard to visualise the desire to play with them. But when he did this, he became much more willing to change.
Have a vision – and keep the habits that will get you there simple and doable. “Baby steps!” And keep your vision firmly in mind for the motivation to keep going.
Sharing your journey with others will increase your commitment and teach other people about good lifestyle habits.
Constantly reflect on your learning and adjust it until you make it happen. Embrace failure as part of your learning process. Allow time for these obstacles in your goal planning.
I have adopted a different learning style. I always look for the worst example of anything I want to learn. I explore why it did poorly. Then I focus on how to correct it to achieve better. This helps me to conceive original ideas. I love them because they’re mine, so I can work hard to realise them.
Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” So, my friends, you can achieve any goal you set your mind to. Create your vision – what are you trying to achieve? How will it impact your life?
This “big picture” will give you the motivation to start.
The “baby steps” will provide the process to keep you moving forward.
Please share your thoughts and ask any questions on this subject – in the Comment section below is always best so that I can respond most quickly – and please do subscribe to the newsletter so that you don’t miss further vital information. Thank you!
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