Finding Balance in the Circle of Life
Most of the time, when we think of being "healthy", two things come to mind: diet and exercise. While those two components of health are crucial to our well-being, making sure that we "eat right" and move our bodies can be tough tasks for patients who live with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
The good news is that there are also more components of being whole and healthy than just the things that we, as IBD patients, find difficult to tackle on a daily basis.
I first learned of the idea that being healthy wasn't just about diet and exercise when I was enrolled in the Health Coach Training Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition back in 2014. My classmates and I were shown this diagram of a wheel, broken into wedges that described various parts of our lives - Career, Relationships, Home Environment, Education, Social Life, Spirituality, Finances and more.
Back then, I was unaware of how many of these things could really impact my health.
However, throughout my journey as both a Crohn's Disease patient and a Holistic Health Coach, I've realized that all of these components of this circle are equally as important in order to feel our best.
I'll give you a personal example:
When I made a choice to transition to a plant-based diet back in 2015, I thought that would solve all of my problems. I was doing what I could to decrease the inflammation in my body and hoped that was all that it took to help me feel better. However, I was still stressed about the stand still I was at with my finances and career, and couldn't seem to increase my confidence in myself or create a more thriving social life.
Not having these components of my life where I wanted them to be was causing me lots of stress, which impacted the severity of my symptoms and caused me to feel worse. Even though I was eating the cleanest diet that I had ever tried since being diagnosed, focusing solely on what I was putting into my mouth wasn't the magic solution that I thought it would be.
It was only when I tried to find a holistic balance in the different areas of my life that I started to feel my symptoms decrease and my energy increase.
I'm not saying that once you find a good balance, you'll automatically feel better, but using this tool as a guide to see how you're doing in the important areas of your life can help you realize where you can make some positive changes.
To most, being healthy means a clean diet and consistent exercise regimen. To me, and hopefully to all of you reading this, now it means so much more.
If your pain and increased symptoms make it hard for you to "eat clean" or exercise, look at another aspect of this wheel the you could work on instead. If you love to be creative but haven't had the energy, create something new that you can be proud of. If you haven't seen your friends in a while, invite them over to do something low key, like watch a movie or listen to some music.
Finding ways to better your health that work uniquely for you is what being the best version of yourself is all about. However, finding balance and feeling good doesn't happen overnight. Start where you are and do what you can. Over time, you'll see how these little changes to all parts of your life have helped your health improve.
Do you keep a food diary to help manage symptoms?