For decades, proactive health in the United States meant simply going to your doctor for your annual check-up, getting your flu shot and popping a multivitamin every morning.
It might also include some form of testing, better nutrition and exercise, but for years those people were labeled “health nuts” or “die hards” – leaving the rest of us to continuously put at the top of our New Year’s resolutions a wish to “get healthy this year.”
By its very nature, our healthcare system is designed to be reactive – instead of focusing on healing, the system focuses solely on managing the symptoms and making people feel better in the here and now.
But over the last few years, there has emerged a growing understanding of the importance of proactive health and with the advancement of technology, many of us are starting to rethink what it means to take better care of our bodies and our minds.
Add the growing rise of healthcare costs and a an out-of-control pandemic, we can now see how fragile our current paradigm really is – which is why there is has been a growing shift to prioritize our health in brand new ways.
In fact, if you google the top health trends for 2021, it’s likely that you’ll discover one of the top trends for this year is being proactive and prioritizing things like nutrition, mindfulness, exercise and supplements.
This is the year that healthy living is finally getting its center stage.
But – what does it all really mean?
What does it mean to be proactive about your health?
The truth is that many of my clients come to my office and tell me that they “know what they need to do and just aren’t doing it”. Only half the time is that actually true because we are all so inundated with diet myths, fad diets and quick fix options it can be confusing knowing what might be right for you.
When I ask my clients what foods they’ve given up over the last decade (or more) chances are that they’ll list out culprits such as gluten, carbohydrates, meat, dairy and more in an effort to be more proactive – only to feel less energy and gain the weight they were hoping to lose.
It can be frustrating.
So, as is true to my nickname the Rebel Nutritionist I’m here to break some of those myths and provide you with some healthy strategies that you can begin to employ right now.
Let’s start out what it really means to be proactive.
Being proactive about our health means taking action before any symptoms manifest.
Rather than waiting until you get a cold, for example, it means staying away from junk food and sugar, eating foods rich in vitamins and nutrients, limiting alcohol and perhaps supplementing your diet with high-grade Vitamin C and Zinc.
It can also mean that you do things to reduce stress in your life such as adding exercise, yoga or meditation that have been shown to improve the body’s ability to fight off illness and disease. It may mean ensuring that you get enough sleep.
It might also mean that you take a closer look at your genomic make-up so that you can know what foods will put your particular genes in the best environment for optimal health!
The truth is that proactive health is an approach and a way of living that asks us to put first our vision for where we want to be and then take actions when it comes to our nutrition, physical activity and mental and emotional states of mind to think ahead.
It’s not just about seeing your doctor, but exploring other holistic approaches such as acupuncture, functional nutrition, life coaching and more.
People are now recognizing that healthy living isn’t a punishment, but a gift.
Which is what I’ve long seen. For me, nutrition and holistic approaches allowed me to take better control of my own health after cancer and has done so for hundreds of my clients who feel empowered to know how to care for themselves – perhaps in ways they’ve never been cared for before.
So, here are a few things you can start to do when it comes to living healthier and being your best self.
And I’ll be honest some of these things aren’t easy. And they’re not traditional. Because I’ll be honest – what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked, so I’m going to tell you what I do when someone comes to me wanting to get healthy.
Step One: Keep a Food Log
Most everyone I talk to grumbles when they hear this first step. No one wants to keep a food log because in truth – no one really wants to know what they are eating. It allows us to keep up the story we tell ourselves that “mostly, we’re eating healthy foods.”
Being proactive begins with awareness.
You have to know what you’ve been consuming to understand where some of what you’re eating might not be supporting your body in ways that you think.
So, if you’ve never tried this, I invite you to do this for a week. Write down every single thing you consume. Everything you drink. Everything you eat.
This will give you a good idea of what some of your trigger or go to foods are and where you may be using to supplant an emotional need (chocolate cake anyone??).
Step Two: Identify the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Want to Be
Starting with your food log, you can begin to identify areas where you aren’t aligned with your vision for how you want to eat. If you’re grabbing a bag of chips during every lunch, that might not be aligned with the choices you promised yourself to make.
Or perhaps you promise yourself to enjoy some physical activity 4x per week for 30 minutes, but you discover you barely get even one 30 minute exercise per week.
Or perhaps you decided that you’re going to meditate every day . . .three years ago and you STILL haven’t sat down once.
These are the discrepancies that exist for you.
You’ll want to identify them, not to judge yourself, but to allow yourself to see the places where opportunities for better health exist!
It will also give you an opportunity to toss out any foods that you know are your go-to foods when you’re feeling sad, down or otherwise turn to food as emotional support.
Step Three: Consider a Nutrition Consultation
When it comes to knowing what to eat, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach.
There is no best diet for someone over 40. There is no best diet for a pear-shaped body. No matter what you read online.
And for sure, there are no pills that will help you lose 10 lbs in a week (and still be healthy).
I have people who come to my office who have been suffering with some form of mild chronic issues such as acid reflux, gastrointestinal problems, hormonal imbalance, diabetes and more . . . for YEARS. And they swear they’ve tried every recommendation on the internet and from their doctor – both natural and medicinal – and nothing changes.
Well, because they’ve only tried to quiet the symptoms and have never gotten to the root cause.
There is this misconception that going to a registered dietitian or health coach means you’ll get one of those crazy bland diet doctors give at the hospital. The ones labeled diebetic diet or heart healthy diet (did you know they still recommend margarine on some of those diets??).
It’s absolutely not true. What we do is look at your personal health history, lifestyle and current symptoms and we create a nutrition plan that you can and WILL do going forward – including simple ways to eat better that actually taste good.
And while this may sound like a plug for my services, the truth is that whether it’s me or someone else – this is the number one gift you can give yourself is simply understanding what you should eat for your particular body.
The investment is priceless.
Step Four: Move Your Body, Calm Your Mind
It doesn’t take much to get the benefits of movement.
Moving your body each and every day can be fun. It doesn’t mean you have to devote hours to going to the gym or riding the Peloton (although that can be pretty fun from what I know) – but it does mean taking the time to do something that will get your heart pumping and support your body in building strength.
One thing I often suggest is that like any appointment, meeting or date – schedule time on your calendar just for you. Whether it’s a walk with your dog, lifting weights or some other activity – putting down the details of what you’re doing and when will improve your odds of getting it done.
As I recently shared with you on my Rebel Nutritionist YouTube channel, fitness wasn’t something I knew from my family – I had to learn it. I had find the things I liked to do. Things like yoga or lifting weights or running outdoors.
And I encourage you to do the same. Try different things and see how you feel. Really measure the joy after you work out because that feeling will keep you coming back and help reduce the stress – which means being more proactive about your health!
Last but not least . . .
Give yourself some room to make mistakes with whatever you try. If one day you find yourself binging on cookies after eating well all week – resist the temptation to say you were bad or that you made a mistake. This isn’t about perfection, but about an overall approach of caring for yourself in a way that really matters.
In good health,
Got some ways that you love to proactively care for your health. Share them with me in the comments. I’d love to hear!