There’s More to Health Than Food

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or infirmity.”  ― World Health Organization

I wouldn’t have chosen dietetics as my career path if it didn’t matter. Nutrition can make a huge impact on someone’s quality of life. However, food is only one piece of a massive puzzle. What you eat can affect these other areas of health, but these areas will also have a strong effect on your nutrition.

What benefits your health besides food?

  • Hydration 
  • Movement
  • Rest
  • Stress management

These four categories are a great place to start. They do not include every detail, but you also don’t need to have a long list that you’re micromanaging every day.

Before diving into a habit like counting macros/calories or trying supplements that aren’t recommended by your doctor, consider how much attention you’re giving to these areas.

1. Hydration

In order to feel your best, you need to make sure you’re drinking enough water. It’s recommended that women drink at least 11.5 cups a day and men drink at least 15.5 cups. This doesn’t account for times when your water output is even higher. When you’re sick, in warm temperatures, or exercising frequently you should be especially mindful of how much water you’re drinking.

Keeping track of what you drink is a great start. Figure out how many ounces your water bottle can hold and make tally marks every time you go to refill it.

It can also help to be mindful of how much caffeine and alcohol you are consuming. These types of drinks will dehydrate you when they’re consumed in large amounts.

A cup of coffee or two isn’t likely going to have a negative effect on a healthy individual. It should not be used as a replacement for water though. It is recommended to limit caffeine to 400 mg daily. Energy drinks make it a lot harder to stay under that amount. 

Although the alcohol recommendations may seem low to some, it is for good reason. Alcohol is the center of many social situations but the more you drink, the worse you’re probably going to feel the next day. It’s incredible how much even small amounts can affect your energy levels and mindset. 

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2. Movement

Physical activity can help increase energy levels, improve sleep, and manage stress. It can also reduce the risk of chronic disease while increasing bone and muscle strength.

That being said, you do not need to spend hours in the gym every day to see those benefits. It’s recommended to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity daily. This doesn’t even have to be in a gym.

Starting small can be the key to success with exercise. It’s probably not going to be productive to start an overwhelming workout program if you haven’t gone to the gym in months. Like eating habits, the more sustainable behaviors are the ones that naturally fit into your lifestyle.

Movement can be walking your dog, taking the stairs, or even cleaning the house. It doesn’t always have to have a designated program. The important thing is that you’re moving in ways that feel good and choosing activities you enjoy.

If you need a bonus, movement can also support healthy digestion!

3. Rest

Your body is going to crave energy when you don’t get enough sleep. I’m sure you know from your own experiences that no amount of coffee or food can make up for the tossing and turning.

Eating healthy, exercising, and working your butt off for a project can all be great things. That is, until they interfere with your rest. If you are waking up at 4AM after 3 hours of sleep, your workout might be more harmful than helpful.

If you stay up all night working on a project because you’re on a roll, you might make some great progress that night but what are the chances you’ll do the same when you’re exhausted the next day?

Recovery is another important consideration when it comes to rest. If you do an intense workout and can barely move your arms the next day, would it be helpful to do another arm workout? Your body would be much happier if you took an extra day to recover and went on a walk instead.

The grind is great but there’s a fine line between pushing yourself and overdoing it.

Yes, when it comes to exercise, you will probably get less sore with practice. However, there are so many things you can do to help yourself in the meantime! Foam rolling, stretching, post-workout snacks, and ice baths can help you have a better next day instead of continuing that trend downwards.

4. Stress Management

If you aren’t taking care of your mental health, eating a balanced diet and moving daily aren’t going to cut it.

Stress management can vary so much from person to person. The only way to figure out what works for you is to try. I personally enjoy going for walks and journaling. These help me sort out how I’m feeling so I can look at my situation more clearly.

Some other common stress management techniques include meditation, spending time with loved ones, yoga, positive affirmations, and finding something to make you laugh.

Stress can directly impact your quality of sleep, eating habits, and motivation to exercise. Each of these things can also affect your stress levels. This is why paying attention to more than one area of health is so critical.

In Conclusion

Taking time for hydration, movement, rest and stress management is dedication. It can take up a big portion of our day, but isn’t it worth it to make those days better?

Our lives are complex and there is only so much in our control. If you can make one small, positive change today it could improve your life significantly.

Every area isn’t going to be perfect all the time. There will be days when you only get a couple of hours of sleep. There will be weeks when you can’t get a structured workout in. That’s okay.

You don’t need to start a restrictive diet that makes you miserable. You don’t have to feel completely exhausted after every workout. The whole point is to be mindful so you can make yourself a priority.

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