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Monday
Mar182013

Longevity and Vitality Series, Part 1: Focusing Your Aim

Recently, the group I work with (an extremely talented and passionate bunch) was discussing how there can be such a disparity between the healthiest, most vitality-filled people on the planet and the larger group of people who fit into the category considered “healthy” simply because they lack immediate symptoms of disease. As it is, he vast majority of people are free of known chronic diseases but are blindly headed down the path towards prescription-directed symptom management for more than half their time on earth. When did we develop so many statin, venlaflaxine, famotidine deficiencies? When did kids start getting diseases of old age? What’s wrong with our definition of “healthy” when so few people know what it is to physically thrive? What can we do to envision--let alone claim--a richer experience of wellness for ourselves? 

Envisioning Pickles and Paradigms

Part of our problem, I believe, is our perception of what it means to be healthy has been horribly misconstrued in the past forty years. Our paradigms have shifted.  When the health of our population is trending toward a point where it’s statistically ‘normal’ to have chronic diseases like obesity (a disorder of abnormal fat storage), diabetes, or heart disease, we view ourselves with a slanted sense of reality. If we’re simply better than ‘normal’, are we healthy? Do we retain our longevity? Do we live with vitality? When we operate from such skewed viewpoints, we’re selling ourselves short. There’s more--much more out there than we allow ourselves to imagine. 

Have you ever suspected there’s something “wrong” with you? Like, genuinely wrong with you? You just can’t see what it is in the mirror or on the scale or even through chatting with your doctor, but you can feel it? What if you had a way to finally point your finger at that something within your inner functioning--whatever it is that hasn’t been working, that has made you feel “off”? What if there was a concrete way to display all the subtleties that are so hard to describe in that fifteen minute annual physical?

Sure, it’s good to visit the doctor on a yearly basis to find out you’re not diseased or that you can just “stay on the same dose” and “everything looks good”, but do you really buy the canned answer “That’s just a normal part of aging” or “Everyone experiences that from time to time.” What do you come away with? Likewise, what do you gain between those yearly visits? Statistically, we’re more likely to gain weight, fat, wrinkles, and prescriptions than health. And that sense that something just isn’t working the way it should, that we don’t feel the way we should--it will likely grow with another year’s inattention. 

Let’s regroup: 

  •  We’re in a pickle.
  • We know we’re in a pickle.
  • We don’t know what the pickle is, however.
  • We don’t know how to get out of this pickle we can’t quite identify.

Pickles aside, no one wants to live in vagueness. It’s frustrating and disempowering. Let’s imagine the year between physicals a different way. What if, instead, you gained during this year incredible knowledge and skill that enabled you to feel, function, and look like a younger version of yourself next year? Can you imagine, instead of feeling another year’s subtle decline, you empowering yourself to master your health journey this year?

Exchanging Darts for Directions

Claiming health for oneself isn’t just about implementing some general nutrition and fitness formulas. Granted, these are a start and will get you in better health, but there’s more to it. It shouldn’t feel like shooting darts in the dark—especially for those who feel they need to make major changes right away. When we start our behavior changes without fully defining our plan of attack, we take blind aim. Which behaviors should we change first? Would our bodies agree with our impressions? What’s our starting point in each health dimension and interactions among the areas? How should we track our progress? Who should be our guiding experts and consultants? 

Engaging in a health and fitness program is no light matter. Sure, you should have fun and enjoy your ability to get away from stressors, move your body, and drop a little sweat on the floor. Nonetheless, it’s a commitment of time and resources. Doing it with a haphazard plan is just silly. No one I know is in the business of wasting time-or money. That’s why I recommend everyone start their journey with a thorough assessment to narrow the focus of what needs to be addressed. It’s about taking the time and attention to lay the groundwork for lasting success: maybe weight loss first but longevity AND vitality foremost.  

To create real vitality in our lives and enhance our longevity prospects, we need to understand our personal stories. Inherent to these stories are our family histories, our past choices, our current practices--but also our physiological snapshot. It all comes down to our bodies, after all, and they have much to tell us. Number don’t lie, after all. In fact, they reveal a nuanced story themselves that can enlighten and benefit us in ways we underestimate. Knowing the particular strengths, stresses and deficiencies of our bodies can truly point the way forward in our health journeys. The numbers give us a clear starting point and a focused, meaningful direction. 

In my experience, lab testing is, hands down, the best way to get started on a Healthier Way of Life. It’s only one part of the process, but it’s a pivotal, even critical, one. I’ve seen dozens of people start and fail lifestyle change programs. It’s not their fault. It’s not my fault--I swear. Without assessing, we’re in part just guessing. We might be looking in a better direction than we were before, but we’re not working from the whole picture. Besides, do you really want to settle for just “better”? Embarking on a serious health journey is one of those times when clarity matters. It can do wonders, in fact.

Consider this: you’re putting in your time, your money, your sweat, and your motivation. You give your hope and dedication to your health journey. Why not expect the best from it? If you’ll join me, I’ll attempt to help each one of you focus your aim toward thriving. We’ll set our sights on claiming the right to know what’s going on inside our bodies. We’ll talk about understanding how we can accomplish this and how proactive assessments, like the Longevity & Vitality lab panel, figure into this process. Most of all, we’ll focus on what goes into optimum health and real vitality--and how your choices today can put you on that path.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do to envision and cultivate your longevity & vitality? How do you personalize your journey now? How many times have you taken blind aim at “better health,” and what was the effect? What’s are the dimension of your health you still want/need to explore?

Written by Paul Kriegler, RD--Corporate Registered Dietician

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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