Seven Silly Mistakes People Make About Their Health
by Gary Tho
Health and wellness may be currently gaining everyone’s attention but there are more people with pain and chronic diseases than ever before. Over the last seven years in private chiropractic practice, I’ve been witness to thousands of people’s health concerns and health goals. I’ve learned that there are many misconceptions and myths about how to get and stay healthy. Here are seven silly (but important) mistakes about health that we can all learn from.
1. “I look good”
It’s easy to mistake how you look as a measure of how healthy you are. You can convince yourself that you can’t be doing too badly health-wise if you look okay. Women tend to associate being thin with being healthy and attractive. For guys, having big biceps, a broad chest and a six-pack is associated with being healthy and strong.
Training can condition our body to look a certain way, but it doesn’t equal health. Being healthy is much more than minimising calories or getting in a few gym sessions a week and drinking protein shakes. Getting essential nutrition and a variety of exercise is a crucial ingredient of everyone’s health, regardless of how they look.
2. “I Exercise”
When I’m at sporting events, I often hear people say “I run to eat” or “I’m exercising to burn off last night’s dinner” or to “offset the upcoming feast”. Many people also exercise a few times a week to help maintain their weight.
Exercise is one ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise can help to burn off more calories than being inactive, though it doesn’t automatically make you healthy. This is especially true if your diet contains sugar-laden, nutrient-poor foods.
3. “I’m getting old and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
I’ve heard hundreds of people exclaim “once you reach 40 it’s all downhill from there” or “this is due to old age”. Age has nothing to do with whether we are healthy or not. You don’t have to be ‘old’ to suffer from high blood pressure, chronic back pain, degenerative joint disease or diabetes. I know people in their 20’s and 30’s who are being diagnosed with these same health concerns.
Our health is always a reflection of choices made starting from the day we were born. Age only comes into the equation because it determines how many years of good or bad decisions we’ve made. Age represents the years we’ve had to accumulate good health, or create poor health.
If you are not happy with your current state of health, stop looking at age but instead observe the decisions you are making today for your future.
4. “Core strengthening cures back pain”
Back pain is not only caused by weakness or injury of muscles. There are many other factors like bones, joints, discs, nerves, ligaments, balance, alignment, movement and posture.
Exercising and strengthening muscles can only address one of the 10 factors. It could provide temporary relief of symptoms by reinforcing the area, though underneath, the other nine problems would still be present. Exercise might also aggravate your back pain. In addition, if you cease doing the strengthening exercises, your pain may well return.
Instead, you could first address the whole problem by making sure all the factors listed above are stable and working effectively. Subsequently, exercise and strengthening can support the healing process. Exercise is useful later on. It doesn’t fix the stress, strain or injury.
5. “A skinny latte thanks.”
Just because it’s a coffee with low fat milk or a diet coke, it doesn’t make it healthy. Many think healthy packaging equals healthy food. Just because it says ‘reduced’ or ‘low’ fat, it doesn’t mean the product has low calories or contains nutritional value. It often means it’s higher in sugar. Low fat products may be high in sugar, sodium, calories or other additives to provide more flavour.
Sugar is gaining notoriety as a big threat to health. Sugar hides in many foods. Salads are healthy, while dressings can have lots of sugar. Compared to pieces of fruit, fruit juice is generally higher in sugar content, has less nutritional value and no fibre. Unlike eating a piece of fruit, juice also doesn’t leave you feeling full. This allows you to consume even higher amounts of sugar and calories without noticing.
Instead of looking for catchy ‘healthy’ marketing slogans, read the labels and ingredients list. Also eliminate as much sugar from your diet as possible and consume food that’s high in fibre, protein and good fats.
6. “It’s not that bad.”
Do you think vomiting, diarrhoea, pimples, fever and pain are bad? Actually, these uncomfortable symptoms are healthy, necessary and beneficial to your health. You may even seek professional advice for them, except for pain. During my health talks, I hear people comment that their pain is “not that bad”, that they “can still work”, or “it’s normal, everyone gets headaches”.
Stress forces your body to react and distort in order to cope. It’s only when your body cannot cope anymore that pain arises. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to do something NOW. However, with your hectic schedule, you may neglect the warning signal. You may also switch the warning off with pain killers.
If you neglect this warning signal, your body may force you to listen. You may end up flat on your back, unable to get out of bed and forced to take medical leave and rest. In other words, heed the gentle warnings and avoid your body having to scream for attention. Don’t just take a pain killer and forget about pain. Do something about it before it does something to you.
7. “What can I do to prevent it from happening?”
In my practice, many people want to prevent future reoccurrence of their injury, whether it’s back pain or something else. They may ask what is the best sitting position, which pillow or supplement to buy, or what exercise is good for them. However, their good intentions only last for the duration of the pain. They only pay attention when they have the problem. This is reactive and does not make you healthy. Although they asked the right question(s), they did not make prevention a priority.
Prevention is being proactive. It means you need to look after your total health now, well before the symptoms surface. If you want to avoid the next episode of back or neck pain, the best time to do something is now – when you have no pain at all. Build your health by creating good habits and continuing them long after the pain goes away.
Remember, health isn’t something to strive for. It is a way of life. Health improves through a combination of better choices including our thoughts, food, movement, identity, social interactions and life enjoyment.
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