Taking Responsibility for Wellness, Part 1: Eating Your Way to Health

Published: Nov 1, 2022  |  

Mental Health Nurse & author

Wellbeing is now a $1.5 trillion market globally according to McKinsey & Co. In 2021, Virgin Pulse suggests 70% of employees report decreasing stress using their apps and ideas, they also suggest that an extraordinary 87% of people changed their lives once exposed to well-being ideas. 

However, I want to move from the idea that someone else will look after me. My health is my job. I should take responsibility. This is fundamental to the idea of personal wellness.

To my mind there is no doubt that following well-being principles will help keep you well, physically and mentally. In this first installment of a series on taking responsibility for one’s health, we present one element of well-being: what you eat and drink, optimising your ability to stay well for longer with some easy steps. Think of wellness as a series of great ideas to keep you well; then adopt some of them as principles. With this in mind, what you eat and drink is just one thread.

Balance is an important component in maintaining bodies that are disease-free. For me, wellness implies a package of ideas that extends from the spiritual through to the occupational. This series aims to explore these subjects over time. There is no point in being well and hating your job, there is an imbalance. There is no point in looking good but lacking confidence and disliking yourself, there is that imbalance again. And there is no point in eating well and it makes you unhappy. Imbalance yet again.

Countless ideas constitute “wellness.” It is not enough to live life catering to every whim or doing no self-maintenance and attempting to course correct once falling ill. The key to wellness theory is simple: try and stay well. It is suggested that keeping yourself well extends to the prevention of physical illness as well as mental illness. 

This article explores what we eat and drink and keep that balance. I do not stick to a specific diet religiously and I don’t punish myself if I visit a fast-food restaurant; in fact, I thoroughly enjoy it. I do however take personal responsibility and eat at least something anti-inflammatory every single day. 

Certainly, you should take anti-inflammatories as useful supplements or foods every day. So, how do I involve these products in my diet and turn daily regimes into healthy habits? Firstly, I have them in, they need to be easily accessible and in a place you visit often. Decide, purchase and make them accessible.

An anti-inflammatory diet favours fruits and vegetables, foods containing omega and fatty acids, whole grains, lean protein, helpful fats, and nuts. It discourages or limits the consumption of processed foods, red meats, and alcohol. It is not complicated: simply eat fresh food. As a general yardstick or rule, have at least one very colourful meal: peppers, tomatoes, seeds, and anything fresh that you enjoy from the refrigerator. Use seafood and greens too or keep a supplement handy, maybe turmeric. I keep mine in the car and take it with water on the way to work, it is convenient for me that way.

Importantly, stay away from “ultra-processed” foods, which include just about anything that comes in a package—like microwaveable dinners, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, dehydrated soups, baked goods, sugary cereals, processed meats, biscuits, and sauces. I have lots of water and green tea, I always have turmeric and a multi-coloured salad for lunch. I eat salad because it is easy and achievable for me. A staff canteen has salads and they kindly make a multi-coloured meal. Pick what is available for you and will work.

Six easy steps for maintaining health

  1. Drink Lots of Water: 60% of the body is made up of water and our blood is 90% water. They say that the benefits assume you drink about eight glasses a day. Relax if you can’t achieve it. Nobody is judging you except yourself. You will get there.
  2. Antioxidants: Central to this component of wellness are antioxidants. It is the oxidants or free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells in your body) that cause these illnesses and in wellness, it is the antioxidant properties of foods that are considered highly relevant (or, at least, this is the theory)
  3. Green Tea: I drink green tea as a great antioxidant maybe once or twice a day so it does not interfere with my life too much. It is cheap and easily accessible and that is important to continuity. It has been credited with a range of health benefits (take it with a slice of lemon if you find it tastes bitter). High in flavonoids, it is claimed that there are a host of great health benefits. I like green tea on its own and it is part of your eight glasses of water so that’s a bonus, then again, if you don’t like green tea, don’t fret, keep drinking water and that will help.
  4. Tomatoes or Tomato Juice: High in vitamin C and lots of other key vitamins, it is an excellent source of antioxidants, and the benefits of regular use are enormous. Here I keep prepared salads ready and make them as colourful as possible. A few tomatoes and peppers and I have an excellent anti-inflammatory diet. Get as many colours into you as possible, that helps. Pick fruit for its colours and I recommend a small glass of tomato juice every morning, it tastes ok and to be honest, I consider this a sacrifice, I feel good telling people I have tomato juice for breakfast and I consider it helps an antioxidant diet. I don’t think I would call myself ritualistic or obsessional though, I eat other stuff, eat out and take fries, but I achieve a balance and that is my aim. Buddhism suggests the “middle way” and that is what we are doing here. If I don’t get it right one day, I will make an extra effort the next day.
  5. Turmeric: Turmeric has become very popular over recent years. It is said that when the three wise men saw a star and were compelled to follow it to Jerusalem they carried gold (rumoured to be turmeric), Frankincense (a healing incense) and Myrrh (an embalming oil and medicine). All three have healing properties according to eastern health belief models. However, turmeric, the spice that gives curries their yellow colour and has been used in India for thousands of years as both a spice and medicinal herb is very popular today in tablet form (tip: buy turmeric matched with black pepper, it is said that the black pepper enhances the disease fighting qualities of turmeric) Recently, science has started to back up traditional claims that turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties. There are a host of good reasons to consider turmeric an important and regular supplement to stay well. I think of the body in homeostasis, or balance with turmeric helping that balance.
  6. Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods: There are loads of other healthy foods that include Almonds, avocados, broccoli, blueberries, carrots, dry beans, kale, olive oil, oily fish, oranges and mushrooms. All fresh and natural foods. There is no sales pitch here, and neither is it a comprehensive account of all foods, just a very good start. Pick some and enjoy. For me, it is balanced and achievable. I sometimes forget my turmeric and I don’t eat well. Then start again. 

I am hoping this article will help at least one person onto the path of wellness. It is only a start, but it is very achievable so the very best of luck. 

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician.

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