Causing Health, Not Preventing Disease
What is health? low risk factors? longevity? absence of disease?
People talk about health and good health all the time, but they seem to assume you know what they mean. Why eat a good diet? to be healthy of course, but just what does that mean? Lower my risk factors so I don’t get some disease in the future?
Nope, we seem to talk all around it, but never pin it down, what we really mean by health. Health is the goal, the ultimate outcome. It’s why we eat “right” and exercise. We need to focus on health first and understand it and what causes it instead of worrying so much about meaningless risk factors.
Perhaps there’s a better way to understand health than the tired old definitions from the chronic disease prevention model.
I want to know what health is, and how to get it today, don’t you?
You cannot live by risk factors and health markers. They are not reliable ways to gauge your health. We all live in the present moment, not in the future.
Apparently, our model these days is to worry about getting chronic diseases. To reduce our chances, we follow guidelines and rules put out by public health organizations that are supposed to lower our risk of getting these diseases down the line.
But what about right now? How do I live a full, healthy, vibrant life right now? Why don’t the public health authorities tell me how to live healthy right now?
Risk factors don’t make me feel better, no matter how low they are. I still fall asleep after lunch and don’t have the energy I used to. Sometimes I get moody and don’t always get good quality sleep.
Public health organizations are focused on chronic disease prevention, not day-to-day, present-day health and wellbeing. They say they are but they really aren’t. They tell you to lower your risk factors and lose weight. Like that’s supposed to make me healthy today.
I want to know what health is—and how I can achieve it today.
Risk factors don’t work to produce health today.
But we don’t even know what health is. No one ever defines what health is in a way you can understand and makes sense.
Having low cholesterol is not the definition of health. Having low or normal blood pressure is not health.
You know what good health feels like, intuitively, but doctors and health researchers don’t focus on these soft qualities that are most important to you, like how much energy you have in the afternoons, how good your mood is most of the time, or how well you can focus and concentrate on whatever you need to do.
Isn’t it time we defined what good health really means? And how to get it?
The chronic disease prevention paradigm we’ve lived under for the past 40 years says eat this, not that, exercise some and you’ll prevent yourself from getting chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But how does that give me health today, right now?
I want health today, health right now, Health NOW!
How can I achieve that? Is there a way? What if we took our focus off of preventing chronic disease later and put our focus on achieving good health right now, today?
Can we do this?
Yes, but in changing the goal from “preventing disease” to “good health now,” we’d have to define what “good health” or “health” means.
No one ever seems to define what health or healthy means.
Except in terms of absence of disease, which makes not a lot of sense.
What does healthy mean to you? That you can do all the things you want to do? That you have no physical restrictions or illnesses or injury?
We need a more pragmatic way of defining health, one that does not depend on medical tests or prevention models.
We can look toward the nascent quantified self movement where people use devices to measure all sorts of things about themselves, from heart rate to sleep quality to calorie counts to steps taken to what comes out the other end.
But step counting and all the other metrics don’t tell you if you are healthy.
No, what we need is a more general reference frame to test ourselves, to rate our own health because we know when we feel good, right? I know I do.
We need a way to capture that, not all these metrics that really don’t mean a lot, no matter how much data we collect or how many fancy graphs we can make from the data.
So, not only do we need to define health, since no one really has, but we also need a simple way to measure health, that anyone can do at anytime, without fancy tests or gadgets.
We don’t understand how to achieve health now, in the present moment, because we’ve been focused on the future and preventing disease.
It’s time we changed our perspective and focused on achieving Health Now.
I want Health NOW, not some time in the future when I don’t get some disease. How does preventing future disease help me feel better now? It doesn’t. Only feeling good health now, right now, makes me feel good right now.
This is a paradigm shift that is needed. From the prevention paradigm built on epidemiology to Health Now. See my Health Now page for a table of differences between the old Prevention paradigm and Health Now.
Health Now becomes health in the next moment and on into the future. By focusing on what makes you the most healthy right now, you take care of the future while giving you optimal health now. Unlike the prevention strategy where how you feel right now is less important than keeping your risk factors and health markers within normal ranges.
Health is not the sum of risk factors and health markers.
Health NOW is what you want; it’s what I want; it’s what you should want—not low risk factors.
The idea is to shift our thinking and health creation strategy away from prevention and toward health.
It’s about: Causing Health, Not Preventing Disease
And it starts with reclaiming your Plate from the USDA.
They try to tell you what to eat to be healthy or what they believe is healthy. See their ChooseMyPlate.gov website for the color coded monster.
It’s what you’re supposed to eat. So “my plate” is really what the USDA wants you to eat, supposedly that will make you healthier by preventing chronic disease in the future.
But once you shift your paradigm to Health NOW, you see that you have to reclaim your plate and make it truly your plate, not what the industry-influenced USDA wants you to eat.
When you do this, you become responsible for your own health and wellbeing, so you decide to investigate and experiment to see what really makes you feel healthy.
But even before you start experimenting with your diet, you have to know what healthy is.
So we need to define health in a simple way that everyone can understand and intuitively measure without doctors and medical tests.
How do we do this? We learn to listen to our bodies and what they tell us. They are always giving us feedback about how we’re doing, if only we’d learn how to listen to the signs.
This is what I’m working on, and what Figure Out Food is all about: the process of learning how to listen to your body.