My name is Devin. I am a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Natural Trainer, and a Certified Holistic Lifestyle Specialist. I really focus on training and living in a way that promotes the health of the WHOLE - the mind, the body, the spirit, and the planet. This week, I want to take this opportunity to talk about a concept that will help you to improve almost every aspect of your health and life: wholism.
So, what is wholism? To put it simply, wholism means taking into account the entirety of something - regarding it as a whole - instead of reducing it down to its separate parts. I’ll give you three examples so that you can more fully understand this concept and how it can apply to your life.
Example Number 1: FOOD
Almost everyone agrees at this point that, when possible, it is best to get the maximal amount of nutrients you can get for your body from whole foods instead of highly processed and packaged foods and supplements. This is true because nutrition represents the combined interactions of countless food substances. While science has given us a phenomenal look into what food does in our body and how vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients all interact, there is still a lot that we don’t know in regard to why the body accepts certain nutrients better when consumed as a part of a whole food than when they are isolated and consumed alone. A "wholistic” view would say eat the whole food as often as possible, not a stripped down (and often less tasty) version of the supposed best qualities of that food.
Many people have also heard the phrase: “you can’t exercise away a bad diet.” The viewpoint of wholism couldn’t agree more. Even if you look fit on the outside and are able to work off your bad diet, internally, eating poorly will still take its toll. Down the road you may be paying that toll in a way that you don’t expect to or want to.
TAKEAWAY: Taking supplements or working out enough does not make an unhealthy diet “healthy”. Eat a truly healthy diet consisting mostly of whole, plant-based foods, and then complement that diet with an active lifestyle involving physical exercise as well as additional supplementation if/when necessary.
Example Number 2: Fitness Training and Alignment
When training the body through physical exercise, it is important to understand that everything is connected and that the body needs to be aligned properly. Alignment issues lead to very common pains. One example of an alignment issue is often found in changing posture. If you drive a lot for work or sit at a desk all day, you may notice your posture start to change because you are using the same flexion muscles every day to sit forward and drive or type. If one isn’t careful, this will lead to features such as a rounded upper back, rounded shoulders, a forward leaning head, and tight hips. These alignment issues can cause many problems ranging from general body tightness to knee pain, low back pain, and more.
It’s important to take the “wholistic” approach when training the body’s muscles to ensure that if you are doing a lot of forward flexion work throughout your day or in your workouts you do an equal amount of counteractive extension and strengthening work for the back side of the body. As a slightly different example, if your workouts focus mainly on the chest press and other pressing motions, you will start to get much tighter in the front of your body because those muscles will be stronger, leading to alignment issues and pain such as shoulder impingement.
TAKEAWAY: Train the whole body to work in unison. Train your weak areas. Make mobility and body alignment an integral part of your workout routine, not a 30 second afterthought.
Example Number 3: The Mind and Stress
In order to be truly successful at achieving your health, fitness, and life goals, the body and mind both need to be aligned and working in your favor towards success. Having a stressed mind is very acidic to the body and is considered one of the top precursors to disease. Stress activates the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. While that response is beneficial to us in the short term in certain situations, it can be extremely detrimental to our health if we can’t turn it off. High stress, fast paced days in which we are unable to take even a little time for ourselves and our health - such as taking time to relax, exercise, eat a healthy meal, or spend time with friends and family - are recipes for unhappiness, and are the calling card of many of the “diseases of civilization” that are at such a high rate in our country right now.
If we never allow ourselves the time to relax and enjoy any part of the day, then aligning our minds with the goals we want to pursue will be a challenge. What we think about and the way that we live our day to day lives has a major impact on us. Eventually something will have to give. Many people find out too late after having a medical emergency that they need to change the way that they are both living and thinking.
I know that was pretty serious, but to put it plainly, we can no longer afford to take our personal wellness so lightly. I want you to understand that you have the power to achieve your goals, live the life you want, and improve your health in every way...but as with many things, consistency is key. If you don’t set aside time to better your own mental and physical health on a regular basis, then don’t be surprised when your health suffers. This is good news, because you have the power to make the change!
TAKEAWAY: Start viewing your health as a whole, take time for you, and your life will improve.
In essence, we can no longer afford to separate everything out. For your ideal long term health, you need to be healthy as a whole! What happens to one part of you will affect the rest of you. After all, you’re connected aren’t you?! If your nutrition is poor it will affect your body and mind. If your body alignment is poor and your physical activity level is low it will affect your body and mind. If your mind is stressed constantly and you are unhappy, it will affect your body as well. View things through the lens of wholism, and understand that you can really build momentum when making positive changes. When you improve one thing, others will begin to improve along with it.