Dr. Melissa's Three M's of Optimal Health
I recently did a free 5 day, which turned into a 7 day training by Tony Robbins. While listening to his talk, I was reminded of the old acronym, KISS--Keep It Simple Stupid. Tony says the enemy of execution is complexity. Basically, if you make it too complicated, it's just not going to happen. What do we LOVE to do in medicine? Overthink and over-complicate things. Healthy living shouldn't be complicated. It's really quite simple. And I've boiled it down to these three components for you: Movement, Mindset, and Metabolic Health.
So let's just dive right in...
Our bodies physiologically need movement in order to move lymph out of our extremities and circulate it through our bodies. Lymphatic vessels are squeezed when our muscle contract during walking or other tasks, and this moves it up through the vessels and circulates it.
Our bodies also need movement to maintain and build muscle mass and bone density. Did you know that more muscle mass helps to manage blood sugar and healthy hormone balance? Yes. Bone density builds from weight bearing forces and from the tensile forces of the muscles pulling on the bones.
Additionally, movement is important for both brain and cardiac health. Physical exercise increases circulation, which moves waste products out of the brain and brings oxygen and nutrients into the brain. Exercise also releases endorphins--those happy, feel good brain chemicals. Want to improve heart health? Start walking!
Exercise not only helps with bones, muscles, heart, and brain--it helps with detoxification. You actually excrete toxic waste products via stool, urine, breath, and sweat! Next time you break a sweat, remind yourself that your body is getting rid of the icky stuff and that sweat is a good thing!
But what about MINDSET?
If you are waiting for the motivation to get started... guess what... you will never find it. Motivation follows. You have to actively engage in your own rescue. You have to take that first step, then the motivation to continue will build over time.
Here's the really good news: ENERGY does not come from food or sleep. For example, if you sleep 4 hours, you'll feel like crap. If you sleep 10 hours, you'll probably still feel like crap. Yes, it helps to get the right amount of sleep, but it is not the sole determinant of our energy. Likewise, you can eat a huge meal (e.g. Thanksgiving) and feel like a slug. You can eat a small snack, and feel like a slug. Yes, your food is the source of fuel for your body, but it is not your source of MENTAL energy. Here's the really good news: YOU CREATE YOUR OWN ENERGY! How do you create it? With your MINDSET.
Do this simple exercise: Slouch, round those shoulders forward and think of something that makes you feel sad. You feel sad and tired now, don't you? You just put yourself into a low energy state.
Now, pull your shoulders back, raise your arms up, and let out a whoop like you just won the lottery. Really, get yourself pumped up. Feel better? Yep. You just created a high energy state.
You can control your own energy. Life happens and knocks us out of our mindsets though. That's just life. The key is to learn to bounce back into your high energy state quickly. Make that high energy state your default.
Switching energy states can be more difficult for those with mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety. So give yourself GRACE if you're not able to maintain that state or rapidly switch yet. Seek the help of counselors and support systems who can help you find that positive mindset. (I'm not talking about toxic positivity here... that's a whole other discussion. I'm talking about a FLOW state, PEAK state, or high vibrational energy state in which you are at your best.)
We talked a little about sleep and food, and yes--they are important. I've included them in the concept of Metabolic Balance. This is the GOLDILOCKS ZONE of health where your body is getting what it needs and it's JUST RIGHT. Not too much. Not too little.
Metabolic Balance is about the health of your cells of your body. There are many factors that play into the balance. There's also some basics. Let's talk about those.
Sleep--this is when your cells take out the garbage, literally. When your body is in a resting, fasted state, your cells dump the toxic byproducts of metabolism that they've been holding onto. They regenerate and repair the damage that's been done from oxidative stress during the day. Your memories are consolidated. Your migrating motor complex in your bowels cleans and moves bacteria to the right place. The amount of sleep we need varies with age. Kids need a lot more sleep than adults do!
Food--Our bodies are highly adaptable and will run off many different fuel sources (fats, proteins, carbohydrates). That is how we've survived as a species. Because of this, there's a bunch of diet confusion out there. Add to it special medical diets, conflicting food industry interests, and the diet industry... and it's become an overly complex topic. Let's keep food simple. My general rules for nutrition are to eat a varied diet, lots of vegetables and fiber, a little protein and fat, and enough carbohydrates to keep me in a good mood and to fuel my running. I try to eat organic when possible to avoid chemicals. And, I make sure to enjoy some fun foods because food is one of the pleasures in life! It's all about the balance. Let's eat healthy without restricting or judgement.
Vitamins--while most of our vitamins will come from our food if we eat a varied diet, some do need to come from supplements. Our soils are pretty well depleted of B-12, so I personally supplement with a B-complex. (This is not medical advice--you'll have to schedule an appointment with me if you want specific recommendations for you!) Additionally, there are many health conditions and pharmaceuticals that can cause nutrient deficiencies. This is where lab testing becomes so important!
Speaking of lab testing... How do we know if we are in metabolic balance? Hopefully you will feel good, but we can also objectively assess this through lab tests. Some basic labs that a physician might check are HgA1c, complete blood count with differential and smear, comprehensive metabolic panel, liver enzymes, urinalysis, ferritin, thyroid panel, lipid panel, hs-CRP, or sex hormones. What about weight and BMI? It doesn't tell us much and really isn't that useful. It's more important to run the labs that show the health of the cells.
Finally, one of the most basic things we can do for our metabolic health is hydration. The caveat here is that some people have medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure or renal failure, where they cannot follow the basic guidelines for water consumption because they must adhere to a fluid restriction. Excessive hydration in some people may be deadly. Excessive and rapid drinking of water without electrolytes is deadly in all people. Rule number one: NEVER do a water challenge that involves chugging massive quantities of water. This can lead to rapid fluid overload and electrolyte depletion, which can cause the heart to stop because the cardiac muscles cannot contract properly. Again, it's about BALANCE.
For the average person, drinking about 64 ounces of water over the ENTIRE DAY is an adequate amount of hydration. However, people who work in the sun, athletes, and in hot climates may need more water and/or water with electrolyte powders added. Some people will need less water than this. Again, check with a physician to determine how much water you need. Balance is key.
Striving for optimal health isn't a state to be achieved and discarded once we've arrived though. It's not a "when I get there" thing. It's a process of reaching, balancing, and fine tuning that doesn't stop. If it stops, we're dead.
So let's keep it simple and practice these three things every day: Movement, Mindset, and Metabolic Balance.