The “Good Enough” of Health Choices

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about the vast area of grey that exists in the world of being healthy and making healthy choices for yourself. Generally speaking, when people talk about things being healthy or not, they tend to consider things in an all or nothing fashion. But the truth is that nothing in life or in your health works in an all or nothing fashion.

When you do a search on the internet about your health, you are going to find some kind of generalized health recommendation regarding whatever topic it is that you’re looking up. If you look up sleep, you’ll find the recommendation to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you look up exercise, you’ll find the recommendation to get 150 minutes (30 minutes 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity each week.

There are some things that you need to keep in mind when you are looking at recommendations. These recommendations are based upon the average person, which is exactly no one. Everyone is going to need something a little different then the average person, because they aren’t average. It is also assumed that you don’t have any kind of medical diagnosis. This means that these recommendations don’t really apply to the majority of the people since about 60% of Americans have chronic illness. Many of these recommendations are based on outdated science. There are many political, economic and social factors that go into the national recommendations that are being made. This means that those recommendations are updated infrequently and are often biased.

This means that all those national recommendations should be a starting point and nothing more. If you are serious about changing your life style and health, you should invest some time into researching the changes that you are considering so that you can make an informed decision for yourself based upon your personal condition and needs. When ever possible, go to the original research rather then reading someone else’s interpretation of that research. Doing so will help reduce the amount of bias your need to filter out.

The truth about the human body is that it is very good at existing in variable environmental conditions. That the state that we evolved in. Because of this, we don’t need to do everything perfectly correctly all of the time in order to have healthy bodies and good health outcomes. This means that we can have things like potato chips and ice cream in our lives if we keep in moderation. This is the same for exercise. The research shows that exercising every day will benefit our bodies the most, but that doesn’t mean that there is no benefit to exercising only once a week if that’s all you can manage.

The thing is that the research shows that our health is a sliding scale. Reduction of risk factors reduces our risk. This is true of cigarettes, alcohol, processed foods and even for the amount of fat, sugar and salt consumed. This means that smoking 10 cigarettes is better than smoking 20 cigarettes every day. The reduction has very real health benefits and should be celebrated as a victory. Unfortunately, most people (even health care providers) will only see the full elimination of a risk factor as a health victory. This is silly. Any time that we can reduce our risks for developing disease, it should be considered a victory and a movement towards improving our health.

Doing the things that improve your health are also on that sliding scale. This includes getting adequate sleep, exercising, social interactions and meditation. These are all things that have been shown to improve our health outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be done every day to carry those health benefits. Attending a meditation class monthly is better then never meditating. Being social with your friends once a week is better then monthly. Exercising every other day is better then weekly. Again, people tend to view these benefits as all or nothing when they don’t actually function that way.

Discarding the all or nothing view of your health can go a long way to helping you feel better. Instead, look at your daily routine and see where you can add or remove things to improve upon your health. Can you fit in a half hour of physical activity this week? Great! That’s a health victory. Can you drink one less soda this week? Excellent! That’s a move towards a healthier you. Making numerous small health protective behavioral changes will add up over time to you having an over all better health outcome.

This approach also helps you see that you often have more control over your health then you thought. We can do nothing about having to work 40 hours a week and being tired when we come home from work. That’s part of the society and culture that we’re living in. When we imagine that the only way to improve our health is to magically find 30 minutes for exercise every day along with 8 hours for sleeping plus the hour for meditation and the time to cook that healthy meal… it is easy to understand why people feel they don’t have any options for becoming healthier. But what if becoming healthier instead meant we only needed 10 minutes for meditation today and 15 minutes for physical activity tomorrow? Suddenly, it becomes a lot more plausible.

Today, I encourage you to discard the all or nothing thinking about your health. I encourage you to embrace the grey areas in your life. Where can you find a few minutes to add a healthy activity? What can you eat a little bit less of? Maybe that means leaving one bite of that chocolate cake on your plate tonight. Or it could mean pacing in your bedroom while you are waiting for your videogame to load. There are a multitude of small investments that we can make every day that will add up to make a huge change in our lives.

Your health choices don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be good enough. The goal isn’t to make huge changes or to do a lot of one thing or to remove something completely from your life. Instead, the goal is to embrace the idea that our choices have a cumulative effect on our bodies and each time we make a choice that is a little healthier then we had previously been making we will move ourselves on the sliding scale towards a healthier outcome. Make enough of those little changes and you will find yourself in a state of good health.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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