Ironically, this famous soliloquy by Shakespeare’s Hamlet applies perfectly to our current healthcare crisis, characterized by skyrocketing lifestyle-related diseases (think obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline) and healthcare costs (excess of $500 billion), as well as the healthcare overhaul, known as ‘Obamacare’, that’s just beginning to kick-in. Thus, we all must ask ourselves ‘to be, or not to be’ – Healthy and Well… that is the question! Ultimately, the essence of ‘to be or not to be well’ examines our fundamental decision-making process when we are faced with a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle choice at any given time during the day. For example, do we make the instant choice during the day to eat a healthy snack, such as a banana with peanut butter or carrots and hummus, or do we choose instead, to eat the donut or bagel with cream cheese? Or how about whether to stand up from our chair or couch every hour and take a brisk 5-10 minute walk around our house, office building, neighborhood, or parking lot instead of choosing to sit and grab another bag of chips, candy bar and soda as we sit in front of the TV or computer? Sound familiar?
The beginning point of any new healthy lifestyle lies in our daily life decisions to choose the healthy lifestyle alternative over the unhealthy one. So, a better name for our healthcare system may be “Selfcare”, because it suggests the greatest resource to improve our health resides within each of us— maybe you have heard the saying, “physician, heal thyself”? Unfortunately, many of us, myself included at times, ask ourselves why it’s even important to choose ‘to be well’ in the first place? Of course, there are the obvious and well known health reasons such as, reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cognitive decline and mental illness, among others. However, perhaps even more powerful and personal are the subjective reasons including, clearer thinking, enhanced mental and emotional well-being, greater productivity at work and home, more physical energy to spend time playing with kids, grandkids, and loved ones. Sadly, despite all of these real good reasons ‘to be well’, we still find lots of excuses ‘not to be well’ such as, too tired, not enough time, too busy, don’t like to exercise, healthy food doesn’t taste good, and the list goes on. While some of these excuses may be true some of the time, many of us use them all of the time. Think about it, from the time the alarm clock goes off in the morning the ‘rat race’ cranks in to full gear and we drag ourselves out of bed and into the shower to get ready for work. If kids are in the picture, we have the added task (indeed burden) of trying to pry them up out of bed so they can get ready for the day. Then, we turn our attention immediately to multi-tasking which includes grabbing some breakfast, making lunches and coordinating everyone’s schedule before we all head out the door for a full day of work! At the end of the work day of course, it begins all over again—only to repeat itself the following day. Thus, it’s no surprise we often choose ‘not to be’ well. But, I believe our choice ‘to be well’ is influenced to a much greater degree by relationships we form with others than alone by ourselves.
For me, the spark to choose ’to be well’ was ignited on a cold, wintry morning in 1983 at a health club in Connecticut between classes my junior year in college, during my first week on the job as a fitness instructor. My supervisor asked me to train a young women scheduled for a training session. I figured, if I was an exercise science major in college and an athlete I was prepared for just about anyone who walked into the gym. As I turned to meet Tina, she was not walking, but was being pushed into the gym in her wheelchair. She had cerebral palsy and was 19 years old, the same age as me at the time. For the next hour, with me leading Tina through an exercise program, and the help of my supervisor when needed, I was transformed—my spark was lit. I still remember sitting in my cold car in the gym parking lot for several long minutes that day reflecting on how powerful of an experience it was to witness firsthand Tina in her compromised physical condition pushing herself to her limit and seemingly enjoying the workout with me. As my eyes welled up with tears, all I could think about was how strong her resolve and desire was ‘to be well’ and healthy. In fact, it was right then and there, in my cold, beat-up Ford Escort that I decided to devote my life mission to helping others experience that same opportunity ‘to be well’ that I shared with Tina on that blustery, cold day. In truth, it was a life-changing epiphany and made me realize that sharing health and wellness with others is contagious and it’s a two-way street, not a one-way… I learned just as much, if not more, about being well and healthy from Tina as she learned from me that day and I continue to learn and grow from the many students, athletes, research study participants, and clients that I work with every day on how to achieve optimal health and wellness. My challenge to myself everyday is that I choose ‘to be well’ so that I may give back to others more fully, the same way Tina gave to me. It is with this mindset that I share my journey as a health and wellness leader with all of you…
At this point, I am hoping all of you reading this are asking the vital question of how do I live a life ’to be well’? The good news is you are already on your way as a member of the PRISESM Protocol team, which places a priority on personal wellness solutions. That, along with reading my Dr. Paul’s Optimal Health and Wellness Newsletter each month where I will share real-life, practical lifestyle strategies for optimal health and performance through exercise, nutrition, and stress management tips, as well as a nourishing meal recipe, will help you get there. I invite all of you to join me each month on our mutual climb to optimal health, wellness and nourishment.