Hey Healthy Exertion Blog readers, recently I was engaging myself with practicing a food log, a very normal thing to do in the health world, and I encourage my clients to do often. This time I was doing it through the lens of Chinese medicine, which emphasizes sour, salty, sweet etc. and the correlation between mood and overall health. This all was in the context of my masters program in Contemplative Education, a set of skills I hope to bring into the health promotion field. Anyways, in this class we are asked to post our experiences and I did. Later a friend asked me a question online that I will post here. Before I knew it my response was a heart spilling with passion. After I read it I figured it was perfect for Exertions Blog. I hope you enjoy and find the motivation to make health relevant in your life too.
My friend's question:
"Sean, i was interested to read your experience of this exercise. I have tried to do such a log in the past and I can never seem to follow through on it. We have a practitioner of Chinese medicine at my workplace (mostly to see our clients, but available to staff if she's not busy), and I swear I must be her worst client! I pay so little attention to what I eat, what position I sleep in, and all of the other little details she asks that I usually can't answer 90% of her questions. I wonder what in particular made this exercise interesting enough for you to devote several days to it? And how might you make it interesting enough to a student/client like me?"
To answer this will take a bit of story.
Well, that is the question isn't it? "What makes it interesting enough?". It's amazing to see how one sentence sums up all the behavior change theories, workshops, explanations, etc. I have studied or used in relationship to this. Years of study, and more years of work, I don't think there is one answer. The answer is for sure not a quick one, nature and health isn't quick like humans. So, I guess what I have seen, with people and health, is that there is a profound shift when health is immediately in front of you, i.e. you get sick, or get diagnosed with something. So this really means we all have a tendency to look for short term reward (chocolate cake) versus long term gains (no chocolate cake = not adding inflammation, atherosclerosis, mood swings, instant pressure on your liver to convert blood glucose into fat, stress on your pancreas, inflammation of the joints etc.)....uggh suddenly I don't want chocolate cake ever again ha! That is the trick!
So, when I was overweight, and once I had high blood pressure, what did it for me was to keep it consistent. Not only did that make it easier to "control" my health, but one's body literally processes things differently when you transform the tissue to be engaged with food and movement. So it becomes easier and easier. I mentioned in a previous post, that it feels so good when your behavior switches from "O, I can't have that chocolate cake." To, "I don't want that chocolate cake." To get there is easier than it seems, but it just takes time.
Added to all this is that there has to be some Loving Kindness mixed in with the discipline. I have only seen clients fall when their motivation was rooted in that they were "inherently wrong". Which then leads to story lines. "I have a slow metabolism", "I can't loose weight" "My muscles can't be strong because I am a woman" "I am skinny so I don't need to relate with my eating" etc. What if we took the Dalai Lama's words and applied it to health? "Everyone possess the same potential." Too me, saying that towards healthy behavior, as an aspiration, is a recipe for a health-happy life. After what we think and do, is what we become.
So...what made this interesting for me was embracing that the mouth is one of the most sacred and intimate parts of our life and bodies, and I have little to no awareness on what I put into it??? Why does my tongue rule my appetite? I liked it because I have the relevance of seeing clients do it, and personal experience with the long-term reward, and I liked thinking about the Chinese part. Although I am not trained in Chinese medicine, my health promotion is very much "holistic". Another thing that helped was thinking, if one wants to be a positive influence in the world, one must be comfortable in their skin, and if being comfortable in one's skin requires that they take care of it, then one must find a way - which sometimes might mean monotonous food-logs.
And how to make this interesting for the client...for some it really solidifies when there is success. But how to work through the process before success? Observation. Take time to observe the world around you from a health lens, see how people behave and question what they do with their body, notice the cultural differences between health, where would you like to be in the future based on what you see other people doing. Is the person who has terrible health, who doesn't see it but everyone else does, who treats their body terribly, are they the person to become?
I will go out on a limb here and recommend something for you specifically. Imagine your Ancestors, true they had it easier in some ways when it comes to eating simply and healthy, however imagine their beauty and their aura of strength; imagine their wild horse streaming through the fields, her hair so shiny, the muscles so at ease as her legs push her forward. All of this comes from being kind to oneself, by being healthy. Having healthy behavior in current times is harder than it ever was before, but that just simply means more patience is required.
Lastly, what really does it for me, is to imagine how helpful I am being to the world by being healthy. I breath out, the tress breath it in, I cycle vitamins and minerals by loosing weight, maybe they will end up to those who need them. I walk, run, cycle, swim, and eat on this earth in a way that doesn't throw it off balance, I am sunlight that has energy. Chinese medicine has a great way of showing how energy causes things. For example too little energy flow in the body is cancerous, to much is towards, say, heart attack. What is your balance??
Whoa...quite a rant...I'll post it anyways. I hope it answers the question!
I had some nice comments so I thought to post them too!
This is brilliant- I hope all read it- and Sean- PLEASE continue to work in health education, you really have a gift and a unique take on it.
I am going to second; this is absolutely brilliant! I can feel your passion Sean!! I love the comment you made about your mouth being the most sacred and intimate parts of our life and body! I honestly have never thought about the mouth being so sacred! Amazing perspective!