Author: Malcolm Regisford
It is important now more than ever to start reframing the way we think about our health in the modern world. While the essential and more concentrated areas of our health system are going to those who really need it, what are some of the things we can do on a micro level to help positively influence our life on a macro level?
These are some of the questions I began to ask myself about 2 years ago while recovering from an arthroscopic ankle surgery that effectively derailed my junior campaign in D1 collegiate basketball at Colgate University. Both my physical and mental performance had been crippled. My body was not responding as well to the prescribed recovery protocol due to an accelerated training regimen in order to get me ready for the season, which ultimately was premature.
My mental state was not at its best either. I was essentially seeing my team move on from the integral role I played beforehand. This coupled with the realisation that my individual expectations for the season were not going to be fulfilled had me in a depressed state. I felt powerless. I knew I needed to make a change and take back some control. This change came in the form of 2 core areas, Reframing Nutrition and Practicing Mindfulness that helped heal my physical body, regulate my mindset and tap in to a holistic approach for my health.
Food is fuel. That is the underlying philosophy. You wouldn’t put regular gas in a Lamborghini nor premium in a Prius. There are physiological processes and chemical interactions that happen in our body which directly relate to how we “perform” in daily life. Our bodies are perfectly designed and have an intelligence of its own we constantly overlook. Why not give it the best fuel to optimize your experience with it? The content of the food we eat shows itself in the form of blood sugar levels, skin appearance, body composition and mental clarity. So, the saying “you are what you eat” isn’t as cliché as you might think.
These ideas influenced me to adopt a 100% plant-based diet, which helped me drop unnecessary weight, cleared my head, gave me less inflammation, helped me recover faster after strenuous activity and connected me to a better relationship with the food I ate and what consumed holistically (i.e. food, media, people/relationships) all while playing a D1 sport. I’m not saying going plant-based will fix all your problems. While I’m a strong advocate for the lifestyle, being plant-based only means that majority of your diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods like grains, seeds, nuts, fruit, vegetables and legumes and minimal to no animal products (i.e. meat, eggs, cheese, dairy, etc.) so technically you can still eat meat and other animal products in moderation and be plant-based.
What is more important is that you reframe the way you think about food and think of it as fuel. Think about the difference in how you might feel both immediately and after when you pick up a can of soda as opposed to a fresh juice or smoothie, a cheeseburger versus a black bean burger. Also, you would have to consider other areas of your life that may need to be addressed (i.e. social life, finances, emotions, etc.) in order to holistically enhance your wellbeing.
But I get it, it’s a lot to think about and you may not know where to start. Some tips for getting started on a journey like this would be to Google/YouTube/Instagram people who live the same lifestyle you do and embody the habits you want to adopt in your life. There are so many people on the internet sharing their stories and showing people their spin on life. To see someone lay out a realistic day in what they eat and how they live is a huge help to start deriving inspiration on how to implement some of the practices in your routine (this helped me a lot starting out).
Mindset is also instrumental. Think about why you want to make the change and set intentions for your new lifestyle choice. Intention will ground you in the process and help keep you motivated when things get challenging. Our mindset is the basis for how we interpret our experiences. It is important that you understand yourself and how you interact with the outside world. This takes time and experience but if you commit to the practice, the results will pay dividends. A good focus point would be to first understand how you view yourself. How much of what you believe about yourself is really your own thoughts or is what you feel placed on you and carried? From there you can begin to uncover your true and highest self. Most people never get an opportunity to do this work due to their circumstances, so to be able do this is invaluable.
Another way to tap in to more mindset practices is to practice mindfulness. It is ironic the word itself sounds how it reads (mind-full) but in most ways means the opposite. To be mindful is to focus on the present moment and to carry gratitude as the leading focus. This can happen anywhere. You’re in line at the coffee shop in the morning on your way to work. You might be anxious about the day ahead or still wanting to be in bed, either way that is a moment to be mindful. Release your expectations for the day and take in what is around you. Focus on your senses and what is stimulating each of them. The smell of the coffee, the people you see around you in line, the interaction with the cashier, the warmth of the coffee in your hand. When focusing only on what is front of you, there is no room anything else and you contribute the most of yourself in that moment.
There is a bunch of research out that shows the effects of mindfulness reducing levels of stress and anxiety, all while having mood boosting properties. To get your mind to work with you instead of against you further aligns your health. If you are holding onto trauma, insecurity, stress, etc. this carries a negative vibration. These feelings can physically raise adrenaline and cortisol levels which make your body think it is threatened and too much of this over a long period of time can manifest itself as other physical or mental ailments and dis-ease.
Health & Wellness looks a lot of different ways for people and is not an all or nothing endeavour, more of an ebb and flow. Wellness is a combination of practices done over time that lead to “health” as a state of being. It is a process all in itself that yields rewarding results. The two areas of Reframing Nutrition and Practicing Mindfulness are what galvanised my journey when faced with adversity and have helped me adopt much more along the way. Don’t know if this will work for you? Only way to know is try. Carry the intention on how you want to live daily, tap in to your highest self and your path reveals itself to you.