Optimal Health: What Does It Mean & WHY?

Health, like most things in life, is the meaning we give it.  The majority of us want more of it, but what exactly is "it?"

Photo courtesy of Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado, UNited States

Photo courtesy of Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado, UNited States


My personal journey to better health started when I was nine years old, and I didn't even know it.  I started playing tennis around that time, which led me to compete locally and nationally, and then I found myself trying to take the sport I loved to the next level.  

I was going to a small private school in Redmond, WA and also to a local public school in Florida, where I played at the Bollettierri Academy of Tennis--the place where the pros go to train.  Training day in and day out, I was one of the very few athletes who had such as huge academic load together with the intensity and level of training.  Burnout was an understatement.  I slept 5 hours, woke up at 5 am for the first workout, went to school until noon, had a small lunch, played from 1-5 pm, hit the weight room, ate dinner, and depending on the day, played some more tennis before burying myself in academic work.  

This is not uncommon for athletes: long training days, mixed diet, overtraining, and short recovery.

Fast forward about a decade, and I found myself in medical school learning about naturopathic medicine, wellness, the systems involved, and how to help people reach a state of health by first helping myself.  I think some of us choose a career path, because deep down, we are trying to fulfill or heal a certain part of ourselves.  

My background in 20 + years of competitive sports has created a certain health standard for which I strive daily. There is a certain level of physical and mental vitality, clarity, focus, and fitness that I want to experience.  I know what it feels like to be in my prime, and I also know what factors I need to change in order to get there--sleep, diet, supplements, social factors, exercise, travel etc.  

If your health care provider tells you "it's normal what you feel, you're just getting older," or "it's all in your head," or "there's a pill for that," please ignore them and find someone who is willing to take you on the journey to better health.   Because health is a journey, and it requires an understanding of how all of the body systems work in unison--this is what is called functional medicine and it is the present and future of healthcare.  

So, what does it mean for you to be healthy?  I mentioned that for me it is this sense of vitality that I work toward and the secondary perks that go along with it, but what does it mean for you?  

Every journey to optimal health needs to start with defining what it is that we want to get out of it, and more importantly, WHY.  Your why is what is going get you up at 5 am, your why is what will prevent you from taking a couple weeks off from the gym, your why is what will make you commit day in and day out to your health.  This may sound a little intense; however, think of an area where you have that level intensity and the results that you have?  In this instance intensity and passion are one and the same.

Photo by Stephen Matera.  Dr. Elena Zinkov running for Topo Athletics.

Photo by Stephen Matera.  Dr. Elena Zinkov running for Topo Athletics.

There is a big difference between commitment and trying.  You can try a new food, a recipe, or a gym class, but when it comes to your health, you have to commit.  The level of commitment is very personal and individual, and it starts by defining the meaning you give to health and your why.

The more significant the meaning, the bigger the why, the bigger the commitment.  The less significant the meaning, the smaller the why, the smaller the commitment.  It does not have to be complicated and results you experience are a direct reflection of your commitment.  

I believe that as health care providers, we need to move away from the diagnosis-prescription model and help people turn the health vision into reality by identifying and removing obstacles to cure--one of naturopathic medicine's principles.   I also believe that long term success as it relates to health requires an intimate knowledge of the why behind the vision.  If someone wants relief from fatigue, I want to know what they want to do when they feel energized, and why that is important to them.  Same principles apply to anything else: weight loss, digestion, libido, clear skin, you name it.  

When you have the meaning and the why figured out, commitment is what will take you from where you are now to where you want to be in your health, and your personal & professional life.

Dr. Elena specializes in gut health, women’s health, weight loss, nutrient injectables, and offers unique chronic pain treatments at Proactive Health, A Naturopathic Clinic.  Got a question? Post in comments or contact directly at info@proactivehealthnd.com 

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