The four cornerstones of whole health

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WHAT IS HEALTH?

When I really stopped to ask this question, my life changed forever.  This journey into whole health has lead me to health coaching: partnering with people, helping them to find the keys which will unlock health for them too.  In our Western medical view of health, we are taught from a young age that health is “the absence of disease”.  There are many places in the literature where researchers and practitioners across disciplines have attempted to define “health”.  Here we are focusing on personal health.  A good starting point is simply this: whole health is more than the absence of disease.  It is a state of wellbeing that encompasses physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social vitality.  I believe that if we don’t start here, we cannot ever attain the loftier goals of global health.  In our modern Western lives, we are far from achieving this rounded and holistic experience of health.  I saw this over and over again in my practice as a paediatrician.  In staff and patients alike, I continually observed a system that valued the absence of disease more than it valued whole health – we had lost sight of the bigger picture.  The devastating irony is that by focusing purely on eradicating the symptoms of disease and denying the absence of whole health we are actually managing to create more disease, the very thing we are desperately trying to reduce.  For me, this was the game-changing realisation. 

 

I left the NHS in 2016 with symptoms of physical and mental burnout and couldn’t even walk a mile.  In the four years that followed I have regained health better than in my 20s, recently cycled in a major event in the French Alps, run on average 50 miles a month, juggle my job with three growing children, and everything in between.  I feel strong, compassionate and healthy like I’ve hacked into the biggest secret there is going! 

I’m now going to share with you the principles I have learnt from the incredible body of research evidence supporting lifestyle change as medicine.  I have learnt that these simple changes work by applying them to my own life.  This journey has opened my eyes to how doable personal health improvement is and how empowering regaining control over your own body can be.  I am hoping you will find, like I did, that the effects are quite literally contagious…