Am I Healthy?
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
How to Define “Health,” Determining if You’re Healthy, and How to Be Healthier
The WHO Constitution describes it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease…” Kind of a mouthful, but sure! Precision Nutrition (PN) -- who I’ll refer to a lot -- coins it as “BioPsychoSocial” Health.
Ok, cool, but what does THAT mean? Let’s break it down and talk about all three parts of it. Each part has pieces you can’t really control (i.e. you can’t control your genetics) and pieces you can control (i.e. how much you eat that day)
BioPsychoSocial: Biological, Psychological, and Social Health
Bio: Think of “Bio” as your body. Physical health as WHO would say. This takes into account everything from your genetics to what you’re eating or how much you're exercising. While you can’t change your genetics, you can adjust how you treat your body. Typically, most of what you can change comes down to the habits [Link blog here] you have.
Psycho: The “Psycho” portion would then be the psychological health. This is a combination of your thoughts, beliefs, worries, how you learn, and more. Essentially, everything rattling around in your brain.
Social: Then the “Social” part is everything around you. Family, friends, work, etc. You also would factor in where you live, your upbringing, and even your education. Yeah… lots there. The better and more supportive your social life is, the higher likelihood of health you have.
“Healthy” Looks Different for Everyone
So, what does any of this mean for you? The gist of it is, there isn’t one measurement that can tell you whether or not you are healthy. Not your weight (ahem… I’m looking at you BMI), speed, or pants size. If you want to be “healthy,” you need to think beyond one measurement—you’ll want to look at your life as a broader picture.
This is going to look different for everyone. If “health” is a spectrum, your task now is to figure out where you are on the line, and then decide where YOU want to be.
**Side note: There are very real markers that mean you are at risk of sudden sometimes fatal illnesses. As we journey through if you find yourself in that range, it’s important that you seek medical attention quickly.
To sort out this “line,” let’s dive a little bit deeper into our three categories. Sorting through these concepts will give you a head start at seeing what roadblocks might try sneaking up on you. It will also give you a chance to see if there’s a specific area you should get after first.
Deep Health: Measuring Your Holistic Health
We are going to take a peek back into PN. Using their terminology, we are going to look at what Deep Health looks like. That breaks our three categories into six:
Mental and Cognitive health
Existential / Purposeful health
Relational and Social health
We are going to take these and turn them into a quick quiz. You are going to rate each category from one to six (1-6). Let’s say one (1) is the lowest and six (6) is the best. After, we will total your numbers. This is just a tool for you. We aren’t chasing you down if you misjudge a category, but this is the most helpful if you’re fully honest with yourself. Got it? Cool.
Relational and Social health: How do you feel with human connections?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Physical health: How is your body feeling and performing?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Existential / Purposeful health: How do you feel about your self-worth? Your deeper “WHY”?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Emotional health: How is your mood, regulation, and range of emotion?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Mental and Cognitive health: How is your thought life? (Think learning, creativity, outlook, etc.)
1 2 3 4 5 6
Environmental health: How safe and supported do you feel?
1 2 3 4 5 6
Now, add up the totals of each health marker.
How did you do? Did you get a 36? Yea.. me either. But hey, we’ve all gotta start somewhere right?
Let’s start by looking at your highest scores. What were those for you? Before doing anything else, pause and think through those. What contributed to you scoring highly in these areas? Is it you being a rockstar? Do you have incredible people around you? Do you have a deep sense of meaning?
Whatever the reason, take some time to be thankful and practice gratitude for the resources you have. I know, I know. Mushy feel good. But, if we can be aware of and thankful for what we do have, the parts that need more improvement will seem a lot less daunting.
Are you pausing?
Dealing with Areas Where You Do Not Feel “Well”
Now the harder part. What are areas that you labeled at 3 or below? What caused you to choose that score, and what is contributing to challenges in those areas? Perhaps an injury you've been stalling seeing a doctor for, or challenges connecting with friends post-pandemic?
Now you might ask, how do I bring those numbers up?
Are you ready for it?
What a scary, loaded word. Unfortunately, if you weren’t happy with a score from any or all of these questions, you will have to make a few changes to improve them. What that looks like will be different for everyone, but know that you’re not alone. As you consider how to make changes, we want to encourage you to start where you are, not where you think you should be. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for improvement! If you were at a 2, what would it take to bump you up to a 3, or even a 4 or 5? Small changes in your thinking or actions can make a big difference.
I’ve still never met a 36, nor will I ever. That’s a part of the human experience. We won’t ever be perfect, but the good news is we can always be improving.
Your next step now is to go forth and make it happen. To do that, I want to leave you with some action steps to help you get started.
Physical Markers of Health to Track
First, since most of this has been a mental exercise, I want to walk you through a few physical markers that are highly beneficial:
Walking. It doesn’t take long to see that it’s suggested you get at least between 7,000 and 10,000 steps each day. In fact, it took me all of 2 seconds to find it in a GOOGLE search. While the physical benefits are evident, there are even studies showing the mental benefits of getting that movement in throughout your week.
Does that mean you need to hit 10k tomorrow? No. It does mean that for most of us, we need to do a few more steps.
I suggest spending a week seeing roughly how many steps you’re currently taking, average that week out, then add to it. Slowly. Try to add 500-1,000 steps on average each week. So if you're sitting at 3,000 daily steps this week, aim for 3,500-4,000 next week. Then boost that up every week to two weeks. Before you know it, 10,000 steps will be a common occurrence!
Measure your Heart Rate. Knowing your resting heart rate (RHR) -- aka Resting Pulse Rate (RPR) depending on the publication -- is a great way to understand the baseline you are already living. The best time to find this is right when you wake up in the morning. I suggest spending 4-5 mornings practicing taking your pulse before you get out of your bed or check your phone. Finding the average of that is a great indicator for what your RHR is.
Next, learning to measure your heart rate recovery (HRR) can be a quality tool in your tool box to understand your current health. Studies have suggested that a better HRR is a good indicator for overall health and body resilience.
On the flip side, having chronic (persistent / long lasting) elevated RHR could be an indicator that you are at risk for disease. This CDC report even suggests “increases in RPR [aka RHR] appear to be an independent predictor for adult cardiovascular disease.”
Measure your Blood Pressure. Similar yet different to heart rate, knowing your blood pressure (BP) is a great tool to measure your overall physical health. Most of us only get our BP measured at the doctor since you need equipment in order to measure it, but now you can get one as cheaply as $25. While it’s not vital to have a BP machine, being able to consistently track your numbers can help you stay on track, or better yet see how much you are improving!
Celebrate Small Wins
In reality, health is a lifelong road. There will be bumps along the way, but the best course of action is the one forward. As we wrap up, I want you to pause one more time.
Take a breath.
Take time to appreciate who you are right now. Your ability to love yourself through every stage of your life will go a long way in determining how big the “bumps” are. We always want to be better, and that’s great. Don’t let that get in the way of you knowing how amazing you already are. Enjoy the journey. The destination will come.