Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Cera Hensley
I've had my share of health woes for 20-something. While I'm so fortunate to be in overall good health, I have some underlying conditions that I treat and manage daily, in addition to some circumstantial hiccups that I've dealt with along the way, including digestive issues, nerve problems in my neck, and bum knees from running. But the good news is that I've learned a lot about health as a whole and the best way to optimize your health. Here are some of my best learnings that you can apply to your own healthy living game plan.
1. It's Never Easy
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news! Whether you're battling chronic illness or simply fighting the occasional cold or injury, it's never easy. We're all going through it. I've learned that you need to advocate for yourself, because the doctors aren't going to pursue you, and sometimes they won't even give you all the information you need. Come into your appointments and treatments with questions. Talk more. Ask more. Ask for more. You'd be surprised at how little you receive without asking but how much is available to you if you simply speak up.
Also, the best thing you can do is not pity yourself (but it's OK if you do get bummed out!) and take control of your situation. Don't let health issues bog you down, because the more distressed you are, the harder time you'll have healing. Speaking of which . . .
2. Mental Health Is Paramount
Have you ever caught yourself feeling sick or even just breaking out, screaming to yourself "I DO ALL THE RIGHT THINGS!"? As it turns out, no matter how hard you work on your physical health, if the mental piece isn't well taken care of, nothing else will go well. I learned this the hard way when I was suffering from digestive issues due to stress and anxiety.
You can have all the pieces in place physically, but if you're not taking care of your mental health, it's all going to fall apart. It doesn't matter if you diet, exercise, drink tons of water, don't drink or smoke, etc., etc. — you won't achieve your optimal health until you get happy and calm.
3. Nothing Happens Overnight
Don't get frustrated if healing or feeling healthier takes longer than you anticipate. You can't just go to the doctor once a year and expect to get off scot-free; you can't go to acupuncture once and expect to be healed overnight; you can't eat one salad one day and transform your body.
"It's like going to the gym," said acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine doctor Dr. Magnolia Ng D.C, CCSP, L.Ac. "We do not exercise for one day and expect to be fit and healthy for the rest of our lives. . . . It's a lifestyle and habit we have to incorporate to prevent injuries and diseases in the future, to keep our mind and body in line. The same goes for acupuncture, chiropractic, as well as other forms of alternative medicine."
4. Food Is Medicine . . . but Medicine Is Also Medicine
As an advocate of combining modern science with holistic therapies, I'm a big believer in eating your way healthy. That said, there's only so much inflammation turmeric can fight, if you catch my drift. After I injured my neck this year, I went to a general practitioner for help, and while he suggested eating lots of magnesium in addition to turmeric tea and golden milk, he still prescribed a medicine, because while food can often help with healing, if you're in serious pain or suffering from an acute injury, chances are that drugs are going to be what you need.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
5. You're the CEO of Your Health
At the end of the day, the primary person looking out for your wellness is you. My personal trainer at DIAKADI, Liz Letchford, MS, ATC, PhD candidate, put it in the context of running a business. You're "the CEO of your health," so "you've got a responsibility to choose the right team of health professionals who will support your health goals." Makes sense, right? "This is not unlike a large corporation with many departments," she said. "You've got a sales team, a research and development team, a marketing team . . . each with different talents, yet everyone works toward the same goal and shares the same vision for the company. Why should you treat your body any different?"
"There are many different healthcare professionals who specialize in one tiny segment of a wide spectrum of health concerns," Liz said. "By taking advantage of seeing multiple specialists for a single health problem, you are able to better connect the different body systems and how they may be working together to support your overall health."
6. You Have to Create Your "Dream Team"
My dream team combines specialists from Eastern and Western practices, MDs, PTs, and more. You might need your doctors and your alternative medicine gurus, maybe a massage therapist (wouldn't that be luxe), a nutrition expert or dietitian, and someone to help you with functional movement. "The beauty of practicing so many different modalities in our clinic is that it provides the best care for each person to live and feel their best all around," said Dr. Ng (who administers acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic, nutrition advising, yoga, and more). Liz calls this "an effective strategy for healing from an injury or illness as well as maintaining optimum health."
This 360 approach can — and should, in my opinion — combine Eastern and Western medicine. "Being able to provide these multiple channels of therapy and treatment targets health both inside and out," said Dr. Ng. "Western medicine definitely has their place in this world, and in many cases, [the two] are used together for optimum results in managing certain conditions, but many forms of alternative medicine are used for the prevention of disease as well."
7. You Can't Rely on One Thing to "Fix" You
Despite what you may read — or wish for — there's no one thing to fix your health woes. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a pill to just boost your overall wellness daily? While some remedies are more powerful than others, I learned from Dr. Ng that "true wellness is a lifestyle." She reiterated the idea that "there is no one-pill fix to mask pain, disease, or symptoms."
So what does that mean in terms of lifestyle changes? "True wellness is a day-to-day conscious effort put into what we eat, what we think, and how we move and function in our daily lives," she told POPSUGAR. "Incorporating the energetic aspect of our being along with the physical, neuromuscular structure of our body into each treatment is what gives the full essence of holistic health."
What she noted about the body and brain connection is so important and one of the ways I healed my runner's knee. After months of physical therapy, acupuncture, and doctor visits with no relief from pain, I was worried that I'd have to give up distance running for good. I sought treatment from trainer Tommy Armenta, CHEK and P-DTR, at DIAKADI. He performed P-DTR (proprioceptive deep tendon reflex) — "an amazing, game-changing neuroscience technique that helps unlock dysfunction to create a strong connection between the brain and the body" — on my knee, and the pain vanished. If I had just stopped at physical therapy or a doctor's appointment, I never would've found this solution.