By Juan Rojas
If you were faced with the option of having 10 million dollars but being in chronic pain due to an illness or giving up the entire balance on your bank account right now but having full health, what would you choose?
I hope most of you chose the latter option. Our health is perhaps one of the most important things that we have in our life. What is one thing that nobody can take away from you and that will always be with you no matter where you go?
Your body and your mind.
Oftentimes, we see many people who are deemed “successful” in this world because they have mass amounts of money saved up, but their health is completely destroyed. Sometimes it can be due to uncontrollable circumstances that their health has deteriorated, but sometimes it could be certain life choices they made. Regardless of the reason, no amount of money in the world can buy their health back and when they die they cannot take any of that money to the grave with them.
Why am I bringing this topic up? Because the fitness industry and having a great looking body with a low body fat is oftentimes associated with good health. Although to a degree this can be true, many times there are many health risks associated with what it takes to be a high level competitor or reaching a very low body fat level. Not only mentally, but physically as well.
Since the common thought is that if you are in good external physical shape, you must be healthy internally, it is very easy for us to put health on the backburner if we have a set of abs. We may think things such as:
“Only those who drink in excess get liver disease…”
“IBS happens to those who eat crap all the time…”
“The only thing I drink is water, my kidneys are more than fine…”
Or even “I work out and eat well, I’m sure my anabolic/sex hormones are more than healthy…”
The reality is, that although we may live a lifestyle that may involve many factors considered “favorable” when it comes to good health, we are all at risk of a deteriorating health. Oftentimes it may be due to genetics or other factors we simply cannot control. Other times, it is self-inflicted through practices we may or may not be aware of as well. For example, decades ago those breathing in second hand smoke had no idea they increased their risk of developing lung cancer even if they didn’t smoke. Or a little bit of a “closer to home” example is expecting to be fully healthy because you take a liver support yet you are carelessly abusing sports supplements that might be highly hepatoxic. The only way to truly measure how your health may be doing is through testing. Routine bloodwork to determine organ health, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, gut health and many more markers can be crucial to ensuring you are in the best possible physical health.
It is not wise to think, “Well, that stuff happens to other people, not me.” If this is your mindset, you may be lucky and this could be the case, but you don’t want to be wrong and one day it is too late. Of course we can mitigate a lot of the negative stressors that are in our daily life through proper nutrition, exercise, supplementation and lifestyle protocols, but this is never a guarantee.
Now that we chatted about physical health, let’s talk about the other side of the coin which works in correlation with our body. That is our mental health. Mental health has gotten a lot more awareness over the last decade as it was a very “under the rug” subject prior to this. Many people deal with mental health illnesses and it is reported that 34% of high school students in Ontario report a moderate to severe level of psychological stress such as anxiety or depression. This tells us that many people are dealing with suboptimal mental health. When we do not prioritize our mental health, our entire outlook on life changes. Oftentimes those who suffer from mental health illnesses have trouble motivating themselves to being their absolute best, to living out their life to the fullest. Many of them even neglect their physical health. Although many times we cannot control mental health illnesses just like we don’t always have control over our physical health, we can also take steps towards preventing these and working to overcome them. Just like what we feed our body affects our physical health, what we feed our mind affects our mental health. If you are constantly surrounded by negative individuals, are feeding negative thoughts and put yourself in situations that you are aware are not good for your mental health, this is not going to be great for your mental health. Even if you are somebody who requires medication for certain imbalances in your brain, it is crucial to work with your doctor and determine what the best scenario is for you.
As most of you readers out there are involved in fitness somehow, I know that to some degree you guys care about being in good physical and mental health. This will be crucial if you want to have the best possible physique as both go hand in hand. Mental and physical health are linked. People with a long-term medical condition such as chronic pain are much more likely to also experience mood disorders. Conversely, people with a mood disorder are at much higher risk of developing a long-term medical condition according to an article from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. So remember, prioritize your physical and mental health through not only what you feed your body but what you feed your mind. In every single aspect. It is crucial to get routine checks done to ensure that you are not allowing for something to turn into a major issue down the road. If your health is not optimized, you will never reach your full potential of looking your absolute best.
Patten et al. (2005). Long-term medical conditions and major depression: strength of association for specific conditions in the general population. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50: 195-202.
Roberts and Grimes (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. A Canadian Policy Network / Canadian Institute for Health Information report. Ottawa: CIHI.
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.