Naturopathic Medicine adheres to a set of Principles and some mantras that have become standard thought process for many practitioners in this field. Given my background and training in exercise physiology, I often hear myself saying “Diet is King and Exercise his Queen”. Which is absolutely true when talking about fat loss efforts and meeting strength gain goals. This saying however is also universally applicable to almost every general health care question I get asked. Why? Because what you eat and how you move are foundational to optimal function of the body. This philosophy extends to include that the quality of the totality of one’s environment is also extremely important to one’s health and disease. It really is everything. Often when we see someone achieve measurable or perhaps extraordinary success and we ask, “How did you do it?” The reply is often not a single thing but a doing of “all the things”. Likewise, to achieve success in health, it is rarely any one thing that propels us to the pinnacle. The mirror of this is also true. For many, it is not one single thing that caused them to develop an adverse health condition or is keeping them from achieving resolution of an ailment. It is instead what Naturopathic Doctors call “Total Load”. This means that while just one or a few little compromises in one of the foundational environmental health influencers are often not so much that the body cannot compensate and maintain some homeostasis of wellness, that as you compromise more and more of these influencers they compound to overwhelm and even crush the body’s ability to thrive. I absolutely believe that there are sometimes single events that strongly shift our health and wellness, but for many situations it’s not that simple. What are the top 10 foundational elements that I ask every patient to make shifts in?
- Food and Water
- Sleep quality and quantity
- Air Quality
- Sunlight exposure
- Wi-Fi assault
- Chemical and Heavy Metal Burden
- Relationship health (close interpersonal, community and spiritual)
- Stress – primarily chronic unrelenting stresses but also overwhelming acute stress situations
I’ve loosely listed them in what is typically order of importance for building and maintain health, but in order to correct a dysfunction you may have to identify from anywhere on the list which is the most important for you to address first and then move through the list in an order that is tailored to your need and that is actually doable. One of the biggest things we see with the New Year resolutions that I believe causes ultimate failure is people deciding to do “all the things” all at once. This is not statistically proven to be the most successful way of making lasting lifestyle and habit changes. For example: Someone might decide that in the new year they are only going to eat organic/ non-GMO/ gluten-free/ dairy-free/ keto/ home-made/ local grown/ plant-based or whatever else they have decided is best for their health. While all of the food qualities on that list are potentially fantastic, if you have never consistently restricted your food intake to even a couple of those labels, the chances of doing all of them for very long is slim. It is hard work and requires planning. Try making those food changes with also going to bed early, getting to the gym x number of times a week, giving up your sugary drive thru coffee type drink, turning off your wi-fi and getting off your electronics and on and on….. it makes me exhausted just typing the list.
With a PhD in Psychology and currently teaching at Stanford University, in 2006 Carol Dweck released the summary of her life’s research in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. While it was designed to shape approaches in education, the concept has been rapidly embraced and expanded or tailored by everyone from the health and wellness space to large corporate board rooms and small businesses. So while it may be trendy, it is with good reason. The concept is not new. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” and Budda’s teaching on this subject is paraphrased into an often shared quote: “The mind is everything, for what you think you become.” Napoleon Hill, author of the 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Retraining the way one thinks is powerful and it allows you to start keeping the promises you make to yourself and living into who you identify as. It may sound trite to ask you to concretely define your identity around health and wellness choices, but many of us already do with little to no thought. “I am not a smoker” or “I don’t drink alcohol” or “I always were my seatbelt”, etc. So when you take the time to sit with the above list and acknowledge that there are specific things you need to be in order to be healthier those identifiers are easier to compile and adopt as mantras. What will happen is you catch yourself compromising and it’s uncomfortable simply because it’s contrary to who you identify yourself as. One way to start shifting ways of thinking is by listening to podcasts and Audible books that reinforce the ideas and behaviors that shape who you want to be. It may be helpful to find a life coach or counselor to guide you through more deep rooted reasons or to help identify obstacles you may not even be aware of.
Where ever you decide to start in your new year’s resolutions, prepare for failures – failures are simply clues to how to better succeed next time. Give yourself some grace and start again to shape our environment to support everything you want life to be. ~ Happy New Year!