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What Does Health mean to you?

What does being healthy mean to you? I know in my life the word health has evolved many times. Every year it grows in depth and importance. When you Google the definition of Health the top 5 results will all give you a vague definition. They all come back saying basically the opposite of illness and free from disease. Now in a straightforward world we could take that as a valid answer but in the world, we live in it’s not an answer at all for someone really trying to figure out what it means to be healthy. We can’t even agree on what illness means anymore so how do we agree on what health means?  With mixed messages bombarding us from every angle how do you know who to believe when they speak about what to do to achieve health? How do you figure out what health means for you? 

Battles with my own body started me on the path to learn the many meanings to the word health. Many cultures have very different ideas of daily practices to achieve optimum performance of the human body. Western ideologies tend to focus on body shape as being the true representation of health.  Eat a certain way, workout a certain way and if you achieve that perfect shape … you magically are deemed a perfect specimen of health. Most of our country understands that being skinny does not mean being healthy. There is such a thing as skinny obesity. That is a subject for another day. 

 When I was 18, my life forever changed in one morning. I woke up in pain with my right arm turning blue and purple from a lack of circulation. I went to Urgent Care and spent 8 hours getting poked and prodded by Dr.’s who could not figure out what was going on. They brought in a physical therapist who was able to stretch and adjust me to bring back the normal color of what my skin should be but there was no answer to why this had happened. I was prescribed muscle relaxers and pain meds. I was then put on a schedule with a Physical Therapist 3 times a week. I was assigned an at home strength and stretching regimen and of course keep taking the pills. This is what sparked my want and need to learn about everything I could to fix my body.  All it took was my main Dr. To this day no one knows what my circulatory issues are and quite frankly I stopped trying to get a clinical diagnosis many years ago. All it took was my main Dr. telling me, “After talking with my fellow doctors we think you have a tumor in your spine hiding and that is why no one has been able to figure out what is wrong. We are sending you to get scans that will show us. But we are 99% sure. This was a punch in the gut this was years into dealing with this and all I could think is all this time I could have cancer and you have let it grow?!?!?!?! He then went on to tell me at this rate you will be a vegetable by 29 if you make it that long. I was in shock, pissed off and numb all at the same time. I get through the red tape of insurance and get the scan. A month goes by, not a word. I call we will get the Dr. to call you. Two months go by We promise he will call you. In the third month I was calling the office every day telling the front office until I get an answer I will be calling daily until someone tells me. After calling several times one day the Dr. finally comes to the phone, I am sure the office staff saying for the love of God just talk to her already!!! This is supposed to be THE guy to be seen by and his response is etched into my brain. ” You are abnormally normal, go see another specialist I can’t figure it out” and he handed the phone back to the receptionist who told me that I needed to go back to my Dr, and she would make sure that my scans were sent to him. And in that moment my distrust of the medical industry was solidified. What does that even mean? I am abnormally normal?!?!?! That day I stopped listening to all my Dr.’s orders and started to live again. I started slowly getting back to being active and hiking and getting back on my mountain bike and learned what my boundaries were before pushing myself in a huddled mass of pain. I had to find my new normal and keep striving to figure out what was wrong and what I had to do to not become a vegetable and dead before I was 30. 

I will be 47 this year and I am doing things I was told I would never do again. My quality of life started to come back to me the day I started questioning the medical establishment. Now hear me out. Medicine has its place. The last thing I am saying is top listening to your doctors if you are going through a major medical issue like an actual diagnosis of cancer. What I am saying is get them to answer the same question for everything they tell you they want you to do or what they want to do to you. The question is one word, WHY? This is my all-time favorite word. Three letters that always leads to the core of an issue. Three letters that will always lead you to what needs to be dealt with even when you do not want to. Health is all encompassing. Health is so much more than being skinny and eating kale. Health is going to look different for everybody. You are built with DNA that is yours and only yours, never to be created again. 

This means that cookie cutter solutions are at best band aids. Until you take the time to learn your body and what fuels it to work at its best you will not know your true definition of health. I am still learning the depth of my own health. Every day I am learning more and more about how to nourish my mind, body and soul. My journey over the last 28 years is why I want to share with you all that I have learned. My hope is my failures, my lessons that were learned from choosing the hard way can keep you from making the same mistakes. 

When this all began, I had the worst daily habits. I started college and my first job the same day. No one told me how stupid I was for signing up for 13 units my first semester. I had a plan all mapped out if how I was going to get my degree and land my dream job. NO one was going to stop me. Going to college was my act of rebellion because I was raised to have no expectation of being anything other than a housewife. Before you get all mad at me there is nothing wrong if that is what you want. Being a parent is a full-time job with no time off for the rest of your life. If that is your dream, great! I wanted a family at some point, but I wanted more. I wanted to get out and experience the world. I wanted to do everything that my mom gave up to raise her kids. I wanted to be able to take her to travel and experience all the places she dreamed about since being a teen. So, getting told you have no chance of that pushed me to show everyone that they were not going to hold me back. 

I had to start fixing me for me and that meant looking at what I was doing daily that needed to change. I learned on that first day at urgent care that for the rest of my life caffeine was out of the question and no alcohol, which was easy for me I never had a desire to drink. To this day I have never had a drink of anything. Ok I did love to ask for the olives on the cute little swords in my grandpa’s and parents martinis when I was little. Come on how to pass up little swords with the ultimate finger food for a little kid? I had to give up my guilty pleasure of plantation brownies for breakfast. (There was a vending machine outside my first class that was my first order of business before walking into class.) Now this was the late 90’s we didn’t talk about clean eating and whole foods. You had the food pyramid that no one paid attention to.  

Unless you were a diehard fitness freak how to eat properly wasn’t a topic of daily conversation. Even with cutting out some bad habits I still did not eat great because my schedule was insanity. Monday, Wednesday, Friday I left home at 4:30 in the morning to get through traffic and the hike across campus to get to my 7:30 class. My last class was out 3. I drove home changed and then went to work until 9:30 came home shoved whatever was left over from dinner Mom made and did homework until about 2am. Tuesday and Thursday I worked full days and did homework and on breaks I ate crap out of the break room vending machine like a cup o noodles. Dehydrated veggies are still veggies, right?
No sleep and high stress were not what I needed but I was on a mission dammit! Until I pushed myself to a point I physically collapsed, and my Dr. put me on disability.
I took that as an opportunity to get caught up on homework and to study. It was nice to get some sleep in and to eat actual meals, but it didn’t change my habits.  

Fast forward my parents decided to move and they were moving to a city I did not want to go to. I found my first apartment and moved to the city where my then boyfriend lived.
This is when my body told me I’m done. I was 20 and on my own. I remember one day maintenance needed to come in to fix the pilot on my stove and was mortified because dishes hadn’t been done in days because I couldn’t stand at the sink long enough to wash them. I could barely stand to let him in, and he told me “Go back to bed I will let myself out once it’s fixed”. The look of pity on his face made me feel worse than I already did. The head games were strong. The doubt creeps in and I started to tell myself maybe you can’t overcome this, and I will be a vegetable. Depression is real and it is not real fun.
I fought with myself and didn’t give up. I kept pushing myself and slowly started to learn again what my new normal was and what my limits were. For about 3 years I would have times that it took everything to not give up when my body would not let me walk for days or weeks at a time. I was about 25 when I gave up on Dr.’s and realized that it was me and only me who could change my health mentally and physically. I had a special woman in my life Velma. She had COPD and her body was failing her, but she didn’t let it stop her. She is the one who started to teach me about how to eat better and about spices and how they are good for your body. Salt was taken out of the kitchen and spices like cumin and turmeric were used for flavor instead. Lots of fresh veggies and lean cuts of meat. I was cooking for a heart patient, and it made a difference in my health. She would talk to me about setting boundaries with people including myself. She helped me to learn how to not feel I had to be perfect in everything because I wasn’t and never would be. But more importantly why would you want to be? Fast forward to 2009. 

In 2009 two major things were introduced into my life. In Jan my friend asked me if I would get a few friends together so she could come talk about her new skin care company. I said yes because that’s what friends do. Now I was a skincare snob from working at a day spa, but I loved talking about skincare. Her mentor came with her and after everyone left including my friend Jules and I talked until midnight. I ended up buying products and then spent the next 2 months reading every ingredient in all their products. Yes, I am a nerd and already admitted to being a snob. The company was Arbonne International, and they had a nutrition line as well. I was intrigued and fell in love with their philosophy and their products. In one week of using the skincare my acne was almost completely gone. (We will revisit this story another day.) This company opened my eyes yet again to another level of taking care of myself. This is when I learned that the average woman puts 500 chemicals into her body daily with her selfcare products. Once again why are we not taught about what our skin does for our bodies and how crappy processed skincare exists just like there is crappy processed food. My skin kept getting better and looking younger and healthier. I started using their vitamins and drinking protein shakes when I had busy days, and my body was getting better. 

Summer of 2009, I went with my sistermom Nina to her vacation home in Hurricane, Utah.
We had lots of pampering time and she introduced me to one of her friends who was very much into naturopathic healing. Nina had told her about my struggles before we went, and I was invited over to get into her Infrared sauna. Heat scared me because when your body doesn’t have proper circulation over heating can happen very easily and the swelling that went along with heat for me was painful. I went to listen to her and found out that her sauna was in the garage. Let me get this right you want me to get into a heat box in a garage when it’s 100 outside. I caved and got in and let me tell you there was a puddle in the bottom of that sauna in 20 min. Now this is huge for my body because I usually don’t sweat like I should which is why I would overheat so easily. After 20 min I got out and showered off and I had lost weight from releasing all the water weight but more importantly I could move. I could stand up straight and it didn’t hurt. I was going to find a way to get that sauna home because if only one session could do that what would it be like using it consistently. I was able to use it again before we left and as soon as we were back home, I started the hunt to find one that I could afford and fit into my home. It took about a year, but I found one and I used that thing until it died. Game changer for me which led me down another rabbit hole to learn about health.  

A lot of life has happened since 2009. Lots of self-growth spurred on through the process of becoming a true adult, watching people near and dear to me pass, a divorce that led to starting from scratch at 35 and learning what healthy could look like for me. I beat the odds given to me what seemed like a lifetime ago. It was time that I took this opportunity to build my life back for me. For my health. So that I wouldn’t feel depression, stress, loneliness and pain physically and mentally ever again.  

One of our goats Jak.

Fast forward again to Sept of 2016. I went out on a date with a man which I didn’t know then was going to change my life.  Turns out he had an infrared sauna and was really into living a healthy life. That date turned into a weekend and now going on 8 years later we are still together, and he is stuck with me for the rest of his life. I now have for the first time in my life someone I can nerd out with about supplements and learning about alternative modalities to improve our health. He does have one flaw …he is pretty anti carb which is a sin in my world. If I can’t have my bread and pasta is there really a reason to live? You only live once we all have our vices, so I don’t care what anyone says I am not giving them up! Joking aside, having someone who cares about being healthy and cares about my health is amazing. Yet another level of health that he brought into my life was realizing how important it is to have a place where you can be yourself unapologetically. A place that you know you are safe even when you want to kill each other. A place where you know you belong. We now live out in the country with Highland Cows, Goats and chickens and working out plans for a an epic garden that will allow us to eat truly organic veggies and fruits. A dream that we both had but had to learn lots of life lessons before it was our time to meet to make it come true.  

It has taken a lot of life for me to learn how to treat my body with respect. It has taken a lot of getting knocked down and tripping myself to learn that at the end of the day  Michael Pollen said it best. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy”. Is that going to be the answer for you? Not necessarily but with decades of trying different combinations it is absolutely the answer for me.  

I hope that you decide to take the time to listen in every week to hear more about the many definitions of health.  I will be talking with experts who understand that health does not have a one size fits all solution.  My only goal is to help you realize that your health, all of your health is important and worth the effort.  We all know people who were taken far too soon unexpectedly. So, let’s make the commitment to ourselves that we will do what we can to make sure that we stay on this earth long enough to make a difference for those who we love. That we leave this world a little better than the way it was when we were brought into. How do we make the world better, you ask? One person at a time, and the first person is yourself. 

Carpe Diem my friends!! 

 

Learn more about me at
 https://linkedlocalnetwork.com/frances-esters-the-elegant-tomby/

Listen in every Friday to Creating Health on Fridays at 9:00 am PST at 

Frances Esters – The Elegant Tomboy

 

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