Notes From Your Health Coach: A quest for true health
I recently spoke with a friend who received a difficult cancer diagnosis. “I was fine and healthy,” she explained, still in shock, “so this came out of nowhere – a complete surprise from a routine annual screening test.” I can’t tell you how often, to my distress, I’ve heard this over the last 15 years. A chronic disease diagnosis is a surprise to many people who may have “normal” aches and pains but otherwise consider themselves “healthy.” So how does this happen? How does a healthy person become so sick so abruptly?
Despite how it appears, chronic disease does not happen overnight. It develops in stealth mode over a long period of time. Visible symptoms are typically the last to appear. This begs an important question — what does it mean to be “healthy?”
Five years ago I faced that question for the first time. For six months I struggled with a series of annoying health ailments, none especially concerning in their own right. I felt more tired than usual, did not sleep well, had to push myself harder to get through the day, had excessively painful and frequent cold sores, suffered from chronic back pain, and spent three weeks recovering from a flu virus I picked up on a 5-day vacation in Mexico. To put it plainly, I just did not feel like myself — I was constantly dragging and lost my natural vibrancy. Yet, at my annual physical my doctor pronounced me “healthy.” When I expressed my concerns to him, he just shrugged them off, saying that he can’t see anything wrong. “There are no signs of disease,” my doctor explained. “There is nothing I can do for you right now. Let’s see if this progresses.” I walked out of his office feeling confused, alone, and unsupported.
My story is not unique. In our society most people equate health with absence of disease. Over the last six months, I interviewed executives about how they balance the demands of their health and careers. One striking observation from those conversations was that most folks view themselves as “healthy” and “okay” despite experiencing various common aches, pains, and discomfort, typically attributed to stress and aging. Many people assume that these are inevitable. So, they ignore and push these symptoms aside or learn to live with them.
But do we have to accept this paradigm? For me, things were not adding up. My doctor told me I was “healthy,” yet I did not feel “healthy.” And I knew for sure – whatever this was, I did not want it to progress and turn into disease. Both of my parents have multiple chronic illnesses, which have descended upon them through their fifties, sixties, and early seventies. I have watched their struggles and knew their stories. They too were pronounced “healthy” early on. It felt like I was about to enter a treacherous path – a path to chronic disease. Unwilling to go there, I decided to take matters into my own hands and set myself on a quest to finding “true health.”
This was, by far, one of the best decisions I have ever made. My quest for “true health” transformed not only my health, but my business and my life, as well. Today, at the age of 48, I feel better than I did in my late 30’s. I have vibrant energy and a healthy glow. I re-built my immune system, bidding good bye to various maladies, including cold sores and other viruses. My chronic back pain went away and I enjoy a comfortable night of sleep. I feel calm, centered, and focused.
But it did not stop there. Through this quest, I discovered my purpose and my calling. I went back to school and became a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Functional Health Practitioner. I created Odysseys into Wellbeing, a health coaching and functional health business, through which I now support and guide other executives and business owners in their quests for “true health.”
So how did I get from there to here? As I look back at the last five years, I’d like to begin sharing some of the lessons and insights I learned through my experience and those of my clients – through our individual and collective odysseys into wellbeing.
And I’d like to start by rephrasing the question I asked earlier – if absence of disease is not “true health,” what is? Look for my thoughts on this in the next column in two weeks. More to come…