Before I get into things, I want to preface this article with the fact that this is not your usual, plain old, informational article. This is an opinion-based piece - my opinion, to be exact.
I appreciate that a lot of health and fitness is based on science. However, I find there's a certain level of variance in what works best from person to person.
Some people absolutely love, love, love the gym, and they'd be happy to spend seven days a week pumping iron at no detriment to the rest of their life. More power to them.
Some people, like myself, approach health in a more holistic fashion. In my eyes, it's important to prioritize mental health and social health alongside the physical workouts I put myself through in the gym.
What exactly do I mean by "holistic health"?
Well, holistic health incorporates various aspects of our lives rather than prioritizing only our physical state. While everyone's definition of holistic will vary, I see holistic health as the following:
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Emotional health
- Social health
- Spiritual health
It's important to note that these different forms of health all interact with each other in one way or the other. It's like Newton's Third Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
This opens the gateway to a discussion on why we should consider holistic health practices; too much focus on one area of your health can lead to the neglect of another.
Why do I think we should prioritize holistic health?
The simple answer is that life is too short not be to enjoyed. The in-depth answer is a bit more complex.
It takes vulnerability to talk about this, but I would like to share a personal anecdote about the importance of holistic health.
I think it's a safe assumption to make that many of you are in the same boat I once was in. I started seriously going to the gym when my athletic career was at its end.
I operated under the pretense that by getting all muscular and fit, I could increase how attractive I was. Stupid, I know.
I now recognize how vain this was of me. I'd be a liar if I told you that I'm entirely rid of that mindset even today. It plagues me, the idea of working out "to look good."
Slowly but surely, this mindset bled over into other areas of my health. Everything, and I mean everything, turned into a tool to be used for the gym. It was an unhealthy fixation.
I started to look in the mirror more critically than ever before. No matter how strong I got, or how lean I could get, I was never happy. It was never enough.
I went to the gym to like what I saw in the mirror and it seemed that the more I went, the worse my self-image became.
To this day, my mind tricks itself into a dissatisfactory state. The body in the mirror is never cut enough, never muscular enough.
The same thing happened to the food in front of me.
My motto in life is to live with no regrets, as my philosophy is that there is always a lesson to be learned. The day I started counting calories and macronutrients is one of the only regrets I hold in the nineteen years I have been on this earth.
It turned into an obsession: weighing my food, meticulously calculating how many calories I should be eating, and making all sorts of weird "healthy alternatives." I delve deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole trying to hit my nutrition goals, and for what?
At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic ensued and we were all cooped up in our houses. I got sucked into the trap of comparison and that only worsened my relationship with my body and the food I ate.
The timing was unfortunate, but I would have fallen victim to my compulsions sooner or later. The pandemic only expedited this process.
Three long years later, every day is different. Somedays are a struggle, and I cannot see food as anything but numbers; then again, some days are great and I can enjoy a good meal with friends and family!
Everyone is different, but I tell you this anecdote to relay the message that becoming fixated solely on my physical health came at an absolute decimation of other aspects of my health.
My mental health? Poor in many ways. My emotional health? Less than stellar. Shoot, even my social health was affected when all I could think about was the next workout or the next meal. It was a nightmare!
So for anyone experiencing a similar struggle, it's okay. We all have our ups and downs, and they look different from person to person.
My anecdote embodies my argument for holistic health: to avoid the dread that comes with a hyper-fixation of your physical state. To live a fulfilling, well-rounded life.
How can I practice holistic health?
Being a practitioner of holistic health, I have a couple of personal tips you can employ to distribute your efforts across the various aspects of health.
For your physical health, create good habits. Forming good habits without becoming overly fixated on the specifics is how I approach fitness and physical wellness nowadays.
For your mental health, try journaling. I'm a major advocate for journaling, so I'm going to shamelessly plug my beginner's guide on how to start journaling!
For your emotional health, practice gratitude and find a safe space for yourself. This could once again be a journal or even a therapist.
For your social health, find a community that shares similar interests as you. Maybe you love to play with your dog, and so you make friends at the dog park. Maybe you enjoy knitting, so you join a Facebook group of people who like to knit. Whatever works.
Lastly, for your spiritual health, try meditation. As I'm not super religious, I find meditation is a great way to slow down, ground myself, and get introspective. Of course, practicing your religion is another excellent way to work on your spiritual health.
If you stuck around and read all the way through, I want to personally extend you a piece of gratitude. This is a topic that is hard to talk about but needs to be normalized.
I want to break the toxic gym community mold and create a safe space for those who want to lead a healthy lifestyle without all of the extreme measures. That is what I believe in.
This blog is the first step in a long line of plans to change the status quo, to create that safe space. If you would take the time to subscribe to our website and watch Six Pack Center grow into everything it is meant to be, I would be forever grateful.