I don’t want to be a body builder. Everything out there tells me I need a six pack. That’s not my ambition. That’s just the outside world telling me what’s healthy in a way that sells more dumb bells, protein shakes and work out plans. I just want to be strong enough to not have to think about it (or to not be constantly reminded that I am weak 😅).

I want to be healthy today and for the rest of my life.

Okay…everyone wants to be healthy.

Some people just do more about it than others. I am not one of those people.

I spend each day in reasonably good health and so I haven’t had to think about it. (Just typing that I can sense the fates toying with my future).

And so my current health “strategy” is…

“Don’t worry about it until it’s a problem.”

Yeah.

It’s…lacking.

The reason my approach is so limited is simply because I take my health for granted. But, that’s not a good answer for a blog post. So, if I dig into it I’d also attribute it to fear, fear of finding out something I don’t want to know and a healthy skepticism of our current healthcare system in the United States. Not the politics, but the advertising plastered everywhere while most medical journals sit behind paywalls.

So, as part of my Dream Map project that I’ve been telling you about, I’m taking control of my health. And the first step is educating myself. I’m not a doctor and don’t have the time to consume or have access to the med school curriculum so I’ll do the best with the time and resources I can manage.

Defining “Healthy”

The first step on this journey is defining what it means to be “healthy.” A bunch of words come to mind. Strong. Feeling good. Not sick. Pain free. Long life.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb quote: They are born, put in a box ...
What’s the point of a long life if it’s not well lived?

Not a bad start, but not a great start. I clearly haven’t thought about this much before now ⤵️.

The Book Definition

Let us turn to Mr. & Mr. Merriam. (Hopefully they do better with this than “success“).

Okay, so Merriam-Webster uses a derivative of the word in the definition. Not a good start.

Next, Cambridge.

*nods*

This is a definition I can work with.

While I was at it I did a little more digging and I found an abstract from one of those medical journals I was talking about.

Today, three types of definition of health seem to be possible and are used.

The first is that health is the absence of any disease or impairment.

The second is that health is a state that allows the individual to adequately cope with all demands of daily life (implying also the absence of disease and impairment).

The third definition states that health is a state of balance, an equilibrium that an individual has established within himself and between himself and his social and physical environment.

The NCBI (part of the National Institute of Health in the United States) defines “health” more extensively in this paper (source)

Taken together, this is the best definition I’ve found. I especially like that third definition. It’s reactive (e.g. if I’m diseased, it addresses that to be healthy I’d want to exit that disease) and proactive (e.g. it positions health as steering towards equilibrium throughout my life).

Okay, so equilibrium. Balance.

Taking The Abstract and Making it Practical

Keeping that idea of balance in mind, let me take a pass at building out a practical strategy. The body is a complex system. I mean, of course it is. Otherwise we’d all have it figured out.

A Problem of Metrics

Other than your weight, your mile time, your bench press and your temperature what metrics are available to you that you that tell you anything about you health except those that you can only get from a gate keeper (aka doctor)? Besides, if balance is the goal, these metrics seem to heavily favor physical health.

A Problem of Definition

Since we (yes, I think I can speak on behalf of all humans) don’t fully understand the body as a system, traditional western medicine breaks the study of the body down into systems. Again, I didn’t go to med school, but I did take human bio in high school and that’s what we did. We talked about the renal system, the cardio vascular system, the integumentary system, yada, yada, yada. In real life though as a non-doctor I haven’t ever used the word “integumentary.” (How am I still alive? I clearly know nothing 🙄).

Here’s how I would break the body down as a lay person who is subject to the experience of living in a body (unlike these guys):

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Energy

These are categories I can work with.

So when I say I want to be healthy, here’s what I really mean:

I can’t predict the future, but I know there will be volatility (aka curveballs). I want to thrive in situations of short term and long term volatility.

  • I want the energy to thrive every day (i.e. an energy surplus)
  • I want the ability to think clearly
  • I want lack of pain and disease daily
  • I want the ability to manage my emotions
  • I want to be strong & resilient enough to handle what life throws at me.

A healthy body is a body that is in balance between the physical, emotional and mental operating at an energy surplus.

The silver lining is that even though my approach sh*tty, my health isn’t a complete failure. I have been lucky in the regard. But, going forward I’d like to rely less on luck. Here are the changes I’m going to make to tips the scales from luck and bring my health into my control.

What am I Going to do About it?

What I’m not going to do about it is set the expectation that I have to go to the gym all the time. No. I know myself and I will not do that. The perfect strategy is one that I’ll do and sustain.

What are the variables I can influence?

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can ...

It’s a reality that there are some things I cannot control, but I’m not going to get caught up on those.

There are many variables I can influence. I started to divide them according to those four categories, but there’s so much overlap (the body is a system!) that I ditched the categorization.

More on the list of variables in just a quick scroll!

Revised Strategy

Each of the variables that I can influence I’ve listed in the following table along with the practical strategies I can employ.

VariableStrategy
Strength– Improve strength in the gym
– Improve strength outside the gym
– Support joints
Cardio– Walk
– Run
Sleep– Sleep enough to avoid energy deficit
– Awareness of energy deficit
Intake– A combination of “how much” and “what kind”
– Less soda, more tea and water
– Some sunlight
Attention – Attention management
Belief System– Don’t re-invent the wheel. Find a belief system to piggy back on and practice it.
Emotional Regulation– Embrace emotions
– Don’t prioritize emotions over critical thinking
Self Belief– Irrational self belief in my ability to figure it out (overlaps with the Dream Map core beliefs #synergy).
Disciplined Thinking– Learn mental models to discipline thinking and provide tools for handling life (e.g. tool for managing uncertainty)
Appearance– “Look good. Feel good. Do good.”
– Own it
Education– Prepare for the chronic or unfixable situation
– Educate myself
– Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
– Get help if I need it. I’ve done it before. Here’s how I knew I needed help.
Trying to provide some structure to “health” which is…hard to define

That’s a lot, yes. On my health road trip these are all the destinations I want to hit. I believe that if my tactics address each of these dimensions that I will be setup for success.


Revisiting my Strategy

This revised strategy reflects what I think the roadmap to a healthy lifestyle looks like. This is a topic that could be 10,000 words, but I’ve done my best to whittle it down to fewer than 1,500 2,000.

I’m no great scientist, so I expect there’s something in here I’ll need to change. However, I don’t want my strategy changing every month. So, I intend to stick with this strategy unless I have significant reason to change whether that’s reflecting on it in 3 years or uncovering some confounding limiting belief (e.g if we’re robots by then or discover we live in a simulation) 🤖. Look for me to report on results in the future.

Closing thoughts

Where does this get me?

Health isn’t a glamorous personal priority, but without my health I have nothing. I still need to sort out the particular tactics for each prong of my strategy, but this exercise alone gets me closer to my dream by making me more accountable for my own health. I want to take control of my health, not outsource it to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about me.

Now to get to it!

What do you think?

What would you do different? Did you find this helpful? Leave a comment. Let me know what you think 🔰 !

This is part of my Drawing My Dream Map series. For more, follow along here as I work towards my dreams publicly and in real-time.

Personal Priority: Health

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