Generally, there is very little guesswork in staying healthy. If you eat a healthy diet, get adequate exercise, manage your stress, minimize your toxic exposure, and maintain the health if your nervous system function by visiting your chiropractor regularly, you should significantly decrease your risk of disease. Likewise, doing the same by changing your lifestyle from generally poor habits to excellent behaviors should reverse certain chronic illnesses that many people just assume are inevitable. Essentially, so-so habits will give you so-so results. Excellent habits, though, can change your life.
In most cases, you have the control over whether you are sick or not. Unfortunately, many people believe or, rather, have been trained that disease is inevitable, an unstoppable force we are destined to collide with at some point during our lifetime. The reality is, however, that the choices you make now will impact not only whether you will have a long life, but whether you have a quality life. Less a matter of genetics, chronic illness is more impacted by the poor choices we make, neglect, and missed opportunities for health that we allow throughout our lifetime.
While the road to health is a journey, not a destination, one of the largest obstacles standing in a person’s path to true health is unrealistic expectations. Now, I’ll be clear. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have full health as a goal even if you are suffering from chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes. I’ve seen enough patients with everything from asthma to sleep apnea experience full resolution of their condition over the years to know with certainty that your body is an amazing healing machine capable of miracles. What is unrealistic, though, are the artificial time frames, illogical conclusions, and nonsensical methodologies employed to accomplish those goals.
When looking at your health goals, there are several factors you must consider:
1. Is your time frame realistic?
Many people, when expecting improvement for a chronic condition, are completely unrealistic with their time frames for improvement. Much of the chronic illnesses that are rampant in older populations are the results of years of neglect. Still, I work regularly with patients who expect to be well in a matter of days or weeks. You cannot accumulate the effects of aging for decades and then expect immediate recovery.
Getting sick takes time, as does becoming well. Your body is a self healing machine with incredible capacity as long as it’s given adequate fuel and proper maintenance. Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations cause too many people to give up on improving her health, often long before the beneficial effects of their lifestyle change begin to take effect.
2. Is what I’m doing helping or harming?
You have to ask yourself whether the solutions you are relying on are helping you, making no difference, or may even be hurting you. We live in an age of limitless options, where there seems to be an answer for everything. The problem is that often the solutions you’re given are just empty promises.
For example, many people who drink soda with choose a ‘diet’ option because they perceive it to be a healthier alternative to sugar. Besides the fact that soda has almost no nutritional value, the artificial sweetener they are consuming may be linked to cancer or is toxic to the nervous system. This ‘healthier’ choice is probably worse than a regular soda. The better alternative is to avoid consuming soda altogether.
And there are countless other shortcuts and changes that people make that they perceive are better for their health like margarine versus butter or pool exercises versus weight bearing exercises. Even your medications that you take to control your symptoms come with a price. Mark Twain once said to “be careful of health books, you may die of a misprint.” It still rings true today.
3. Is this a fix or a cover-up?
On the topic of medication, a common unrealistic expectation is that your pharmaceuticals are somehow making you healthier. You have to understand that if you are taking medications to begin with, you are not healthy. The medication only chemically alters normal bodily function to produce a desired effect, decreased symptoms and risk factors. The problem is that you’re just as sick while taking them. You just don’t feel it because your symptoms have been suppressed.
There is not a medication out there for chronic illness that reverses any type of disease. Granted, they will help you feel better and may prolong your life, versus not taking them, but they are by no means a pathway to health. The results of taking medication are also temporary. Meaning, if you stop taking the medication, the symptoms of the disease return relatively rapidly.
In my experience, I would also argue that taking medication for your condition means you have a suppressed disease process that you may not be realistically and directly addressing in a more meaningful way. Unless you take real action to improve your lifestyle and the causes of your illness, you will have a hard time truly being well.
4. Have you corrected some of the bad habits and neglect that contributed to this condition in the first place?
Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Chronic illness is not a matter of luck but a matter of choice. The pains and illnesses a person develops as they age are the result of the decisions they’ve made. Essentially, you become a picture of the good or bad choices you’ve made up to that point. In order to maintain and improve your health, you have to move away from the bad habits and behaviors that keep a person sick. You can’t expect to continue to eat poorly, get no exercise, and have high levels of stress but remain healthy. In the case of a person with chronic illness, you have to begin incorporating healthy choices into your regimen while eliminating the bad. To change your health, you have to change your lifestyle.
Are you willing to make the difficult changes necessary to improve your health? If you are, maintaining realistic expectations in the face of disease may be a critical factor in whether you improve the way you should or not. Often, a person may never realize their true health potential because their unrealistic vision of improvement prevents them from attaining their goal. How? Because the person who thinks recovery should be fast and easy is more likely to give up on trying all together when they realize recovery is long and hard. They are also more likely to prematurely stop an effective intervention before realizing the pull potential of that change. Does a difficult road mean that you should give up on health altogether? Many do. Unfortunately, the end result is an opinion that illness is inevitable and uncorrectable…an opinion based merely on unrealistic expectations.
To change your health, you have to become realistic with your expectations. To change your life, you have to commit to the difficult path, that may seem hard at first, but is worth your commitment in the end. You’ll be able to make sizable changes in your quality of life and may even extend your life. The choice, however, is up to you and your ability to be realistic with your expectations.