I wanted to get 2019 started with this question about what “healthy” really means to get you thinking about how improving your health (REALLY improving your health) can change your life in unimaginable ways.

We say we’re going to go to the gym, start exercising, or lose weight to “get healthy”. But what does it REALLY mean to be “healthy” anyway? In today’s world, “healthy” has become a very loosely defined term. Symptoms and chronic states of dis-ease have become so commonplace that we’ve come to label ourselves as “healthy” so long as we’re not down and out with strep throat, a cold or the flu, have not received a warning from our doctor that our cholesterol levels or blood pressure are not normal, or we don’t have some type of medical diagnosis such as cancer or an autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, things have become so bad that even folks who have a diagnosed autoimmune disease of some sort are considered “healthy” as long as they’re just chugging along and not down and out with the bug of the season.

We intuitively know that we’re not actually “healthy” when we’re experiencing symptoms, because we go to our doctors for help. Because, let’s face it, the symptoms suck and they’re impacting your daily life and happiness. If you’re like most people I know, you’ve been to your doctor to seek help for some nagging symptoms that you know aren’t normal. The doctor listened to your complaints during your rushed appointment, and probably interrupted you a few times to hurry your story along. You likely walked out of the office with a prescription in your hand for a new medication or two, likely a long-term medication that you’ll need to take indefinitely because there’s no cure for the ailment that your doctor diagnosed you with during that ten minute rushed appointment. Oh, and these new long-term medications are in addition to the other long-term medications that you were prescribed before during previous visits for different symptoms.

Or perhaps your doctor ran some blood work and maybe even scheduled you for some scans. You’re actually secretly hoping that SOMETHING will show up on those tests to give you SOME explanation as to why you’re experiencing all these symptoms and to confirm that you are not actually crazy. But, the results come back and everything looks normal. You’re “healthy”.

“You’re having respiratory problems and get short of breath during exercise? You must have asthma because all the bloodwork and scans look normal. Here’s a prescription for an emergency inhaler and another for a daily maintenance inhaler.”

“You’re experiencing chronic headaches? All the tests look normal. Here’s a prescription for a medication to reduce the occurrence/severity of your headaches, and another for managing the pain when you get one.”

“Can’t sleep at night? Here’s a prescription for a sleep medication.”

“You’ve been experiencing depression and/or anxiety? Here’s a depression/anxiety medication. It must be taken daily and don’t you dare stop taking it without consulting your doctor first because it’s dangerous to stop taking it all at once. You must be weaned off!”

“You’re exhausted all the time no matter how much sleep you get? You must be depressed. Here’s a prescription for depression medication. See above.”

“Terrible allergies and sinus issues? All the tests look normal. Here’s a prescription for a daily medication intended to suppress your symptoms and another one for a nasal steroid to squirt up your nose a couple times per day. Oh, and you should probably get rid of your dog. And avoid going outdoors during allergy season. Wrapping yourself in a bubble might be a good option as well. There’s no cure for allergies, you’re just one of the unlucky ones.”

“Acne? Here’s a prescription for that. Who knows how long you’ll need to take it. And you should probably buy some of those medicated acne face wash lotions and potions. Oh, and jeez, stop touching your face already!”

“Terrible PMS symptoms, heavy menstrual bleeding? You should definitely be taking hormonal birth control pills to f*** with your body’s natural hormone producing pharmacy. You might even consider an ablation surgery to screw with your hormones even more. Oh, and here’s a prescription to manage the cramps and another to control your anxiety.”

“Heartburn? Here’s a prescription antacid.”

“Digestion issues? Here are some medications for that.”

And on and on and on.

What gives?

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy. I suffered from a laundry list of joy-diminishing chronic symptoms for over two decades, the grand finale of which was a two-year autoimmune flare-up that the doctors couldn’t seem to identify which left me agonizing daily about my mortality and wondering what my young boys’ lives would be like after I was gone. There were countless doctor visits, blood draws and scans, all of which said things looked “normal”. Over those 20+ years, I estimate that I was prescribed antibiotics over 60 times in addition to a wide range of other pharmaceuticals. I wish I was exaggerating. By the time I was 30 I was taking five long-term prescription medications in addition to over-the-counter medications such as Advil, which I took to reduce pain and inflammation from my frequent running injuries.

For many years I figured that I was just unlucky and because no doctor seemed to be able to give me any long-term solutions, I came to accept that managing these symptoms was just going to be my way of life. Maybe it was just bad genetics or because my dad smoked in the house when I was a kid (that was likely a contributing factor). And, like most people today, I figured I was “healthy” as long as I wasn’t down and out with the bug of the season, like strep throat, which I got at least once, but usually twice per year for over 20 years. I motored through each day in survival mode doing all the things that moms do. Until things got SO bad that I was facing my own mortality and I decided to take my health into my own hands.

I learned that my “healthy” eating habits were not as healthy as I thought, and adopted an ancestral, or Paleo, approach to eating, which…CHANGED MY LIFE! I learned that the way I was exercising (marathon training) was actually harming my health, so I changed the way I exercised, even though I LOVED running, and at the time believed there was no other exercise that I could love as much. I learned that my thinking patterns, sleep habits, and stress perception/management were all contributing factors to my health (or lack thereof). And I learned that there were HIDDEN causes of dysfunction in my body that all my doctors’ tests had not uncovered. I discovered these hidden causes of stress on my body through functional lab testing, which I now use as an investigative tool to help my own clients figure out the H.I.D.D.E.N. causes of dysfunction in their bodies. Dysfunction with the Hormones, Immune, Digestion, Detoxification, Energy, and Nervous systems.

Healing my body was a journey that required work and a diligent commitment to changing the lifestyle habits (including my thinking habits) that were not contributing to my overall wellbeing.  But it was work that ended up being well worth the effort. Today, at almost 46 years old, my quality of life far surpasses the quality of life from what I experienced in my teens until my late thirties. I wake up each morning full of energy and anticipation of the day ahead. I no longer suffer from any of the symptoms that were at one point a part of my identity. I no longer need to know where the closest box of tissues is. I have not taken a prescription medication of any kind in almost eight years. I am often mistaken by strangers as my young adult sons’ girlfriend or sister; a pretty freaking awesome side effect of being healthy from the inside out!

My friends, taking charge of my health has been the biggest source of empowerment that I have ever experienced and has improved my life in more ways than I can even begin to explain.

So, getting back to my original question, “What is health?”. Today, my definition of health is much different than it was for over two decades when I suffered from all those symptoms. It is far different than what most of us, including doctors, in our modern world have come to define as “health”. My definition of health is having an absence of symptoms and waking up each and every day filled with the energy necessary to tackle whatever challenges life has to throw at us.

So I’m here to to tell you that if you are suffering from chronic symptoms, you’re not healthy, even if the blood work and the scans say you are. Because as I said above, true health means an absence of symptoms. The good news is that you have the power within you to fix that! The suffering is unnecessary, and you are not “unlucky”.

The human body has an amazing capacity to heal if only we give it the right conditions. We really are intended to thrive, not just survive. Pushing through each day with pain and suffering is what I call surviving, and we all deserve so much more so that we can ENJOY LIFE each and every day and be there fully for all the things that matter. Like our families.

If you are ready to take charge of your health and stop the cycle of trial and error, I can help you do that. My experience with suffering from chronic health issues for years and healing my body when the professionals couldn’t help lit a fire in me to help others who are suffering. I know what it’s like to feel like you can’t be there fully for your family, struggling through each and every day, and wondering if you’ll be able to care for your children. Because I’ve been there. I suffered, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to. There is life on the other side of chronic illness. A f***ing good one. So, if you’re ready…really ready to get to the other side…contact me here to schedule your FREE 45-minute consultation session to learn about my health coaching programs and to find out how my work is different than anything you’ve experienced until now.

And one more thing, if you have a friend or a loved one who is struggling with chronic health issues, please share this link with them!