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Broaden Your Understanding of “Health”

October 16, 2023

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Broaden Your Understanding of Health

What does it mean to be healthy, now that you have MS?

If you can’t be cured, can you even be healthy?

This was something I personally struggled with because when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I was a nutrition coach, yoga instructor, and personal trainer.

I should have been the picture of perfect health, but my medical chart said “incurable.”

It felt like I didn’t fit in the sick box but I no longer fit in the healthy box either.

So where did that leave me?

To answer the question, I had to decide how I was defining health.

Prior to diagnosis, my answer would have been somewhere along the lines of…

  • Body composition – how much fat versus muscle you have
  • How much water did you drink in a day
  • What diet did you follow?

…All markers of the physical body.

These are all great markers of health, but they only tell part of the story.

It’s a far too simplistic definition to say that health is the combination of muscles and green smoothies.

Because let me tell you I had a front row seat to some of the “fittest” people – these were the people that were winning fitness competitions, performing as professional athletes, and living their dream jobs in acting and modeling. But let me tell you, despite their “perfect body” they were miserable inside. Not all of them, some of them were happy. But many of them were really sad.

How we feel is part of our health.

I experienced the opposite of this when I went on a mission trip to Haiti. I saw some of the sickest people, with virtually no belongings, be some of the happiest people. They had so little, yet they had a joy that wasn’t based on their circumstances.

So, I really had to ask myself how did I define health?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a fully formed answer yet, but I’m willing to share where I’m at with it so far, in hopes that it might help you.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Health is a mindset… it’s personal… and it’s ever-evolving.

Let’s start with mindset.

It’s not about “thinking yourself healthy” or just “thinking positive.”

I’m talking about your perspective on life.

How you see life.

I’m a firm believer that our thoughts shape our reality.

Not in a woo-woo way, but in a very real and practical way.

I break it down like this.

Your thoughts influence your emotions and your emotions influence your behavior.

It makes sense, right?

Like, if you’re always thinking about what’s going wrong… guess what?

You’re gonna see more of what’s going wrong everywhere you look.

It’s like when you buy a new red car, and suddenly, it seems everyone’s driving the same red car.

It’s our brain’s reticular activating system.

It focuses on what we think about most.

If we’re always worried about something, our brain thinks, “Okay, this must be important.” So it points out all the stuff that matches our worries.

That’s how two people can go through the same experience in life and walk away with two completely different perspectives on it.

And their perspective can change how they feel and therefore how they show up in the world and interact with the people around them.

And you know what the people around us do, they often reflect back what we’re putting out in this world.

It’s not hard to understand that when we have a more optimistic and positive outlook on life, we will naturally attract and gravitate to people with a similar style.

So by trying to focus on the good in life, guess what our brain will start to show us more of?

By showing up with a more optimistic attitude, guess who will want to be around us more, and us them? Happy people.

It’s worth a try right?

Health Is Personal… It’s All Yours

Now, let’s chat about the personal side of health. Ever noticed how everyone has their own health routine or a diet they swear by? That’s because health isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. It’s deeply personal.

For instance, when I was diagnosed with MS, I had these ideas of what health “should” look like, but suddenly, those rules didn’t apply to me in the same way. And that’s okay. We all have our own journey and definition. And it changes over time.

Maybe for you, being healthy means being able to play with your kids or grandkids without getting winded. For someone else, it might be about getting that peaceful eight hours of sleep. For another, it might mean having the strength and energy to go for morning jogs. And for someone with a chronic illness, it might mean having a day without pain or managing symptoms so they can do everyday things.

The fitness models and athletes I’ve seen had their version of health, and so did the joyful people in Haiti.
But it’s key to remember – no one else’s version has to be yours.

Your Health, Your Rules

Think about what makes you feel alive, happy, and vibrant. Is it dancing in your living room, enjoying a hearty laugh with friends, or maybe it’s a quiet moment with a good book? Whatever it is, that’s a part of your health.

It’s time we embrace that our health is unique to us. It’s woven into our lives, our happiness, our relationships, and our peace of mind. And that’s the beauty of it. It’s not just about what’s happening on the inside, like blood pressure or muscle mass, but also about how we feel on the outside.

Your health is yours. Own it, define it for yourself, and let it evolve with you.

Health is Ever-Evolving… Just Like Us

Now, onto the last piece of the puzzle – understanding that our health is always in motion, always changing. It’s dynamic, not static. Kind of like how we, as people, grow and change over time.
Remember being a kid? Maybe you could run around all day, eat anything, and still wake up bursting with energy. Fast forward to your twenties or thirties, and maybe you noticed certain foods made you feel sluggish, or a late night out took a bit longer to recover from. Life, right?

Then add in life events, like having kids, changing jobs, or getting diagnosed with something like MS, and our definition of health shifts again.

What I’ve come to realize is that health isn’t a destination. It’s not a place you reach and think, “Ah, I’ve made it. I can just stop now.” Nope. It’s a continuous journey. And it’s okay if your definition of health at 40 is different from when you were 20.

Roll with the Changes

It’s about adapting. Maybe you can’t do the high-impact workouts anymore, but you’ve found peace and strength in yoga. Maybe you’ve discovered a new diet that keeps your symptoms in check. Or perhaps, it’s less about physical fitness and more about mental well-being, finding time to meditate or just sit quietly with a cup of tea.

Our bodies and minds give us signals all the time, asking for what they need. And as life throws its curveballs, as it always does, it’s on us to listen, adjust, and move forward.

Celebrate the highs, learn from the lows, and know that every day is a chance to redefine what health means to you. As we grow, learn, and face new challenges, our understanding of health grows with us.
Embrace the journey. It’s yours, after all.

But I’m Not Motivated!!

Now I can’t wrap this up without addressing the topic of motivation.

Because you may be thinking, yeah Alene, all of this sounds great, but I’m just not motivated to get healthy no matter how you define it.

Let’s have a little heart to heart now.

First, let’s debunk a common myth: You don’t need motivation to get started.

I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out.

Motivation is wonderful, but it’s also fleeting.

It comes and goes.

What we need, more than motivation, is action and habit.

Action precedes motivation.

Meaning you often have to take action in order to feel motivated.

I know it’s annoying. I’d like it to be the other way around too, but it’s not. And until you’re willing to acknowledge that, you’ll be waiting around a long time for motivation to show up.

The other key is starting small.

Like break it down to something that’s ridiculously small and maybe you even make it a little fun too!

Wrapping It Up… For Now

Okay, so what do you think?

Does this definition of health make better sense and sound like something that’s far more meaningful that defined abs or a perfect medical record?

It took my MS diagnosis for me to really see health in this way, but I like it a lot better than the “health” that I was chasing before.

Because this kinda of health feels meaningful to me and it’s one that I want to pass along to my daughter.
It’s also one that reminds me to have grace with myself when I have a setback.

Because health isn’t something that I magically lose if I have a bad day with food, or a tough season of fatigue. Health is not linear – it’s not a straight path to a final destination.

It’s ever evolving and most of all it’s my journey.

No two paths are identical.

It’s okay to take detours, make U-turns, or even park for a bit if you need to.

Health isn’t a race. It’s a deeply personal experience that’s going to be as unique as you are.

The Biggest Takeaways

Be gentle with yourself. Celebrate the small wins. And when things get tough? Know you’re not alone.

This community, our community, is here with you every step of the way.

Please share below, what does it mean for you to be healthy?

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I'm Alene, your MS Sister.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 2016, I was scared and felt alone. But as a Nutrition Coach, I knew there was more to healing than what I was being told. I took action and within six months the lesions I had on my brain shrunk and went inactive. Now, seven years later there has been no new lesions and no new activity. As a nutritionist specializing in multiple sclerosis, I help women take back control of their future.

That’s my story, but I’m not alone. It's your turn to start Thriving with MS. I’m here to show you the way. 

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