10/12/17

Making Health a Priority: Why 'weird' is what you want

By Kiley Owen, PA-C

"The big win is when you refuse to settle for average or mediocre." -Seth Godin

young girl doing yoga in warm sunlightThe other morning I was up early, in the living room, watching the intro to a yoga routine, when I heard my 7-year-old daughter come down the stairs. I paused the video, told her good morning and hugged on her for a bit, then turned the intro back on. She watched it with me. 

The instructor was talking about how "stepping on the mat" is a great way to:

  • Clear the clutter
  • Release what is no longer serving you
  • Tune in to your body
  • Practice presence
  • Stay connected to your truth. 

My daughter said, "Mom, that's weird.

I said, "I know. That's why I like it!" 

A Teaching Moment ... Or Not

It was a perfect opportunity for me to talk with her about the importance of:

  • Learning from others
  • Keeping an open mind
  • Finding your own path. 

After my carefully delivered speech, she informed me that her "path" was leading her to some Saturday morning TV. 

(Sigh.) I said, "Fine, for a few minutes. But once I wake your brother up, you guys need to start getting ready for soccer."

She agreed and headed to the family room.

As she left, I recalled some great advice I once learned about being "weird." It came from Dave Ramsey.

Great Advice

I've written about Dave Ramsey before. His no-nonsense approach to personal finance is what allowed my husband and I to pay off over $90,000 in debt (lowering our monthly payments by over $1,600/month) in one year's time.

Talk about feeling like a huge weight was lifted off of us... Talk about freedom... Talk about feeling hopeful and vibrant!

Dave talks about how 75 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are drowning in debt.

In other words, debt is normal. And if that's normal, you don't want it, he explains. "That is why you want to be weird."

"When the culture has lost its way, the best thing you can do is be opposite. Figure out whatever they're doing, and do the other thing. You're only going to get what they're getting when you do what they're doing. This is not hard to figure out."  -Dave Ramsey

How This Relates to Health

middle age woman and man prepare for walk in the parkThe same advice is applicable to health. Let's look at the statistics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Over 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese.
  • 90 percent of American adults do not meet vegetable intake recommendations (2-3 cups daily), and 87 percent do not meet fruit intake recommendations (1.5-2 cups daily). 
  • 80 percent of Americans do not meet weekly exercise recommendations. (Adults should do 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. They should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week.)

Additionally, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), the majority of Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress. The APA also notes that "Instead of managing their stress in healthy ways, Americans are indulging in unhealthy behaviors."

Since this is "normal" in our culture, and since this is a recipe for chronic illness, I recommend aiming for "weird."

Weird means:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Not overeating
  • Ensuring that most of the food you put into your body is healthy (nutritious whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible, mostly plant-based) 
  • Getting enough rest and finding healthy ways to cope with stress (such as exercise, meditation, counseling, spiritual practices, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors that will only make the problem worse)
  • Avoiding tobacco and illicit drugs altogether, and being cautious with alcohol and even caffeine. 

I'm not saying this is easy. This takes some SERIOUS discipline. 

teen boy with wild hair gets into karateI'm guessing that you already knew these practices lead to better health. But have you ever thought about how counter-cultural these things are? It's no wonder why practicing healthy behaviors is so difficult. Our environment constantly tempts us to do the opposite

To turn these practices into a lifestyle, you have to be willing to get a little weird --

  • To think and act outside the box
  • To not blindly follow what the majority of Americans do
  • To not settle for less. 

It helps to seek out other "weirdos" (whether it be friends, health care professionals, books, or online resources) to support you in this process. It makes the journey more interesting and fun, and it improves your chances of success!

So, an important question to consider is: In what areas are you willing to get counter-cultural (a.k.a. "weird") in order to improve your sense of health and well-being?  

Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post — along with helpful links to other resources — originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.

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