The Four Elements of Health

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My original plan for this blog was to provide specific information about how I lost weight and the current status of my joint inflammation.  But I realized that without understanding some of the fundamental elements of health, giving you specific elements of a weight loss strategy is really more of a disservice.

So, it’s time for a bit of context …

Reactions to Weight Loss

When I posted my “before and now” picture on Facebook, the majority of people’s comments were of the “how did you do it?” variety.

And that makes sense, I suppose.  People are looking for strategies for implementing changes in their own lives.  Or, they want to understand other people’s methodologies for getting results.

But learning a methodology to achieve a result without understanding the fundamental philosophies of the core problems is akin to trying to fix a car by changing the oil when you don’t know what is wrong with the car in the first place.

The reality is, being overweight is a result of being unhealthy.  And I know that some of you might not like to hear this (I wouldn’t have either), but here’s the brutal truth:

Healthy people aren’t fat, and fat people aren’t healthy.  Period.

At least, this was the case for me.  I would lie to myself saying that I was “healthy” and “making good choices”, but the reality of my physical condition made it pretty obvious to anyone who paid attention that it wasn’t the case.  I was only trying to fool myself (and not doing a very good job at it either).

It wasn’t until I started focusing on health that my physical condition reflected any improvements, both through my inner physical operations, as well as through my outward appearance (i.e. losing fat).

Focusing on health over weight loss

I’ve said this before, but I never did all of this to lose weight.  I wanted to lose weight, but it wasn’t my motivation.

I remember a while back when I first started to show some fat loss (around 20 or 30 pounds lost) someone said something to the effect that changing everything about how you eat (which I had done) wasn’t sustainable for long term weight loss.

And they were right.  IF your only motivation for changing what you eat is weight loss, then it isn’t sustainable.  But it wasn’t until they said it that I realized that weight loss wasn’t any part of my motivation.  As I said in a previous post, my motivation was to get rid of the extreme joint pain.  Losing fat and dropping the weight was just a result of my approach to better health.

If you’re only changing what you do in order to lose weight then you’re sort of missing the whole point.  Weight loss is a result, not a motivation.  At least that is true for me because I’ve wanted to lose weight for as long as I can remember.  But the desire to be thinner was never enough to motivate that change.

But the desire to improve my health?  The desire to cure a chronic condition through improving my body’s biochemical operations and natural healing?  Boom.  Suddenly the weight came off in droves.

There isn’t a quick fix to weight loss.  There isn’t a magic formula you can plug in.

I’ve had some people comment on my weight loss with statements like “So, I just avoid sugar and don’t eat breakfast?” to which I have to do a palm slap on my forehead in frustration.

You can’t look at the forest for the trees, any more than you can look at the trees for the forest.  They are both parts of the same scenario.  Reducing insulin response and implementing intermittent fasting protocols isn’t “healthy”, any more than one or two trees is the entire forest.  They are just a part of the approach to improving health, but you need the whole picture.

Which is what this blog post is about.

The four fundamentals of health explained

Okay, so with that lengthy explanation out of the way, let’s get down to the four fundamentals of health.  In my experience and understanding (and I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medical advice)  these are the four parts of our lives that have the biggest impact on our health.  And, as I said, if you improve your health, you will lose weight. (Not the other way around.)

The four fundamentals are:

  1. Food (input)
  2. Movement (output)
  3. Sleep (process)
  4. Stress (environment)

And we’re going to take a quick look at each:

Health Fundamental #1: Food

four elements of health - food - mark c moran
Food = Input

Food is where you bring in the things your body needs to operate.  Primarily it helps with the biochemical processes of your cells (maintenance), aids in performing cellular work (energy), as well as the elimination of cellular waste (detoxification).

Naturally, this means that what you put into your body is extremely important.  In fact, everything you consume affects everything you are.

It is so important that if all you focused on improving was the quality of your food, your health could dramatically improve, even if you ignored the other three fundamentals of health.  (Don’t do that, of course, but I’m just saying, y’know.)  Most of my improvements of health were done primarily through nutrition, as I was unable to exercise during the past 3 months.

There are three aspects of food consumption that are worth focusing on:

  1. What to eat: This is about the nutritional quality of what you put in your face hole.
  2. When to eat: This addresses the biochemical and endocrinological response to food.
  3. How to eat: This is about your methodology for eating, such as speed, food combinations, mindfulness, etc.

This blog post is going to be long enough as it is, so I’m going to save talking about each of these in a future post with specifics on how I approach each one. But for now, just keep them in mind as the important aspects of your food intake protocols.

Health Fundamental #2: Movement

four elements of health - movement - mark c moran
movement = output

I avoid calling this “exercise” because that word has a slightly different connotation than saying “movement”.  Also, not all movement is technically “exercise”, meaning it doesn’t require the effort that most forms of “exercise” do.

Movement is related to the output of your body’s energy.  So, if food is your intake of fuel, then the movement is how you use the fuel to improve your body’s health.  There are three types of movements that I think are important to focus on when considering your health:

  1. Circulation: This is about improving the circulation of your blood, lymph, and oxygen, all of which provide important detoxification of waste materials for your body.  There are many ways to circulate these such as Qi Gong (deep diaphragmatic breathing), yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, swimming, walking and other low impact activities.  You don’t need to go to a Cross Fit Box to improve your circulation.
  2. Strength: This is about improving your metabolism, bone density, muscular performance, balance and skeletal support.  Building strength is about exerting power, but again this doesn’t necessarily require weight training (although that is a great way to do it).  Any movement that provides a whole-body resistance activity will work.  The more body parts working at once the better.
  3. Endurance: This is about improving your body’s ability to perform work over a longer period of time.  This has a bit to do with your muscles, but it’s really more about organ health.  Your heart and your lungs, specifically.  There are two ways to improve endurance (low-intensity cardiovascular movement, and high-intensity interval training) and each has pros and cons that we’ll discuss another time.

Health Fundamental #3: Sleep

four elements of health - sleep - mark c moran
sleep = process

If food is the input and movement is the output, then sleep is where you process the results of both of those things each day.

You can sort of think of it like a computer.  The input (food) is the keyboard and mouse, the output (movement) is the monitor and speakers, but the processor (sleep) is the CPU where you actually take the data and compute the results.

Okay, that isn’t really a good analogy, but you get the idea.

A lot of people (especially young folks) like to dismiss their need for sleep.  I used to pull a lot of all-nighters myself back in my 20’s, but I just can’t say enough about how bad that is for you.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t make it healthy.  I can eat a dozen hot dogs in one sitting, but that doesn’t make it good for me. (Well, okay.  I probably can’t do that these days.  #oldschoolhabits)

There are three parts of sleep that affect how well you maintain and build your health:

  1. Consistency: This is making sure you go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
  2. Quality: Keep the quality of your sleep high by how you get yourself to bed and the environment of where you sleep.
  3. Length: Make sure you get enough sleep to repair and regnerate your body.  This is slightly different for each person, and changes as you get older, but for me I need about 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night.

Again, I’m going to share specifics on my sleep methodologies in a future blog post and/or video, but for now, this gives you a general framework.

Health Fundamental #4: Stress

four elements of health - stress - mark c moran
stress = environment

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Stress is a fundamental of health?”  But hear me out.

Stress is more than just feeling anxious about work or getting sweaty palms when asking someone on a date.  Your stress response dictates the environment in which your body processes what it needs to do.  The way you respond to stress, and the amount of stress in your body affects both your hormonal responses and your immune system.

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone (along with adrenaline) has a huge impact on both how you process food, how your body functions and how you combat fatigue and illness.  Excessive stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, cortisol insensitivity and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Lupid, diabetes, and much more.

When people say “stress kills“, they aren’t kidding.  It really does.

There are two areas I think are worth focusing on with stress:

  1. Reduction of stress: Some of the best ways to reduce stress (at least for me) are learning how to say “no” to social pressures and obligations, being mindful and focused through meditate or prayer, and movement/exercise.
  2. Increase in contentment: Ways to improve your contentment include getting outside and being in nature, being productive and accomplishing things, and enjoying entertainment such as movies, hobbies, travel or music.

Coming soon to this blog …

In future posts and videos, I will explore each of these four areas in more details, and share my thoughts and findings on how they each can bring about optimal health.  In turn, this will help you lose weight (if that is something you struggle with).

But before I go there are a few things I want to reiterate.

Health starts from within

Weight loss is not an approach to health.  It is a result of health.  If you try to throw a band-aid on the problem (“I’m going to eat keto!“, “I’m going to do HIIT training!“, etc.) then you’re not addressing the core issues that are making you unhealthy in the first place.

It’s about finding your motivation to identify and tackle the core issues that are keeping you unhealthy.

I’m going to tell you something that you might not agree with: The core issue that is keeping you from losing weight is NOT your relationship with food.

What is?  It is your relationship with yourself.  Or your relationships with other people.  Or your relationship with stress.  Those are what affect your health more than being “addicted to carbs” or being a “chocoholic”.

Focusing on food is a distraction to keep you from focusing on the problem.

There, I said it. #toughlove

I actually referred to this back in the video I made on February 5 before I lost the weight.  I knew this at the time, but I hadn’t figured out how to tap into it yet.  And to be honest, it is still something I’m working on.  But that’s okay.  At least I’m working on it, and that is better than sticking my head in the sand and ignoring my core issues.

The Vlog Version

I also created a video for my YouTube Channel where I talk about the same stuff you just read about.  But if you’d like to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, then click below to view it.

So, thats it for now.  If you have any comments or if you think I missed something important please post it in the comments below.  I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Photos by Jamie Street, Keenan Loo, Dave Contreras, Sabri Tuzcu and Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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