I have two intentions for my article. The first is to tell you about how I coped with a job loss. The second is to encourage you to focus on making lifestyle changes that can improve your health and help ward off chronic illness.
|“As librarians, we know that having the right information at the right time is power.”|
After a long and happy career as a law librarian, my employer decided to close our library. I was always passionate about learning how to keep my family healthy. It was this passion that led to my entry into the field of health coaching. I now had the opportunity to explore the field more deeply and to learn how to change my life to achieve long-lasting health benefits and help others do the same. Dr. Linda P. Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, has suggested that we can “create new, unanticipated roles after retirement” to remain fully engaged in life. I believe we can take the same advice after a job loss. If I wanted to develop a head or mindset for wellness, I needed formal training. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition program in 2008 and completed my studies in 2009. My next step was to attend the Food Therapy program at the Natural Gourmet Institute, because I believed that diet has an impact on our health. My most recent studies were with Metagenics, a company that makes supplements and educates a range of health professionals, particularly those practicing integrative medicine and alternative health modalities. These schools train students to become health coaches, who act as the guide-on-the side to motivate clients to define and achieve optimal health and well being.
As librarians, we know that having the right information at the right time is power. This article will share with you three steps you can take to put yourself on the path to wellness:
- Prepare your health history.
- Understand and evaluate how well you’re meeting your primary and secondary food needs.
- Create an action plan so that you can head for wellness.
Your health history is a brief review of the medical issues you and your parents have faced. Awareness of your health history will help you focus on your main health concerns and provide a picture of your genetic makeup. In my case, for example, diabetes was rampant in both my parents’ families, and my mother had Type 2 diabetes. During my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The endocrinologist who discovered my ailment predicted that I would have adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes by the time I was fifty years old. I wanted to prove his prediction wrong, and by making the lifestyle changes I was learning about, I did.
Obesity, hypertension and depression were also problems faced by family members. Early on, I had to address these genetic challenges and developed a belief that life is one long period of adjustment. I gradually changed my diet to exclude processed foods, sugar, soda, white flour, most dairy products and artificial sweeteners. I now eat less meat and more fresh, local and seasonal vegetables, especially greens, and fruits. I practice portion control, and at each meal, I try to consume a small amount of proteins, because they fuel and sustain muscle and tissue strength and support cellular repair. My diet includes a variety of vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Most of my meals are cooked at home. I have kept my weight the same within a few pounds for over 20 years. Regular T’ai Chi Chih practice helps with stress reduction and maintaining bone health. Walking and visits to the gym provide more rigorous exercise.
At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned about primary and secondary food. Together, they represent an approach to nutrition and wellness that engages our mind, body and spirit with the whole of existence. Primary food embraces how we live, our career, relationships, spirituality and physical activity. Secondary food promotes eating high-quality, tasty whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruit. The programs I’ve studied combine classic nutrition with modern scientific theories; for example, how people get sick and what helps them get better. Comparative dietary systems, the immune system and the mind-body connection were also part of the curriculum. These courses as well as continuing education programs I regularly attend have helped me to develop a head for wellness and to apply my learning to the well being of my family, my clients and myself.
Each of us has a unique biological profile. To an extent, we can modify our genetic makeup by finding the fuel and lifestyle that are right for our bodies now. This may take some experimenting. We want to avoid eating excess amounts of food and processed food. Soda (both with sugar and with a sugar substitute) and excess alcohol consumption can damage our teeth, bones, arteries and our liver. In addition to the small amounts of animal and vegetable protein mentioned above, our diet should include complex carbohydrates (such as those in whole grains, beans, fruit, vegetables, starches and fibers) as our source of energy. Healthy fat helps break down carbohydrates into fuel and strengthens our cellular structure. Essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals can all be obtained by diet and, when necessary, augmented by high-quality supplements. Water is essential for hydration and removal of toxins. Stress management and adequate sleep are important contributors to our overall health. By cultivating sustained, supportive relationships, maintaining a spiritual practice and engaging in regular exercise, we reduce tension and other assaults from outside sources.
In summary, I’ve learned that we can make lifestyle changes to alter and improve the course of our health. We can achieve long-lasting balance, energy, weight loss and personal growth by clarifying our health needs and goals. You can begin the process by completing the health history form. Review it and create your unique document, which will help you understand some of your health concerns. Think about your main health challenge and identify one change you can make now to address it. In two or three weeks, revisit the health history and find two more changes you want to work on to promote wellness in your life. Take action now to feel and look better. Finally, be open to “new, unanticipated roles” that you might build upon in the future.
Please note: This health history form is used as an intake instrument by health coaches, but it can also serve your personal need to create an important, informative and evolving document.