fbpx
My Journey To A Foundation of Wellness

My Journey To A Foundation of Wellness

After my heart scan in 2018, I was given some bad news. I was told by the cardiologist that I have a moderate level of calcification in and around my coronary arteries. Essentially what this means is I have coronary artery disease. This chronic disease affects a little less than 7% of the population and unfortunately, it puts me at a much higher risk of experiencing a coronary event (e.g., heart attack, stroke) at some point in my life.

Besides the genetic component of this condition, there are other contributing factors that are within my control, such as lifestyle choices and how I manage my stress. Although I cannot do anything about my genetic predisposition, I can examine my eating habits, sleeping habits, exercise regimen, etc.

After the shock wore off of getting this “bad news” from the cardiologist, I defaulted to my inclination to “fix the problem.” How can I slow down or even stop the progression of this heart disease? I am a planner by nature, so my instinct was to make a plan to fix this. I decided to dive into the research of all things health and wellness related. I read every book, article and blog post I could get my hands on, listened to hours and hours of podcasts, and talked to everyone I knew that had some level of knowledge on these topics.

As a result of this learning journey, I was able to synthesize all this information into a simple plan for myself, which included making small, incremental changes in my lifestyle habits. My hope was that small changes would ultimately translate into big results over time.

To keep things simple for myself (I like simple!) I developed a four-part model I call my foundation for wellness. Foundations provide necessary support for our homes, offices, etc. Without a solid foundation, any structure, no matter how intricately constructed, will eventually collapse.

Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep and Mindfulness stood out to me, in my research, as the foundational health and wellness principles upon which a healthy and long life span could be built. Of course, there are so many more aspects of wellness beyond these four, but again I wanted to keep it simple to start and build from there.

Exercise

You do not have to train for a marathon or work up to bench pressing 500 lbs. If you can do those things, that is wonderful. But exercise, at its core, is about moving the body. It is as simple as that. The more you can move your body throughout the day, the better off you will be.

You may have heard the expression “Sitting is the new smoking” and although that may sound like an exaggeration, the truth is that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a multitude of chronic disease related conditions.

Nutrition

I do not like the word “diet” for a variety of reasons, not the least of which the word “die” is in the word. More importantly though, diets, by definition, are restrictive and temporary. Typically, when I would embark on a “diet”, I may see some immediate results, only to be thoroughly disappointed later when the weight came back on and then some.

When it comes to nutrition, I found the greatest success by changing my relationship with food. I try to be intentional when I eat. I experiment with different foods; monitor the way I feel after I eat those foods and log the results in writing. I found that by, simply being more intentional with my eating habits, I started to lose weight naturally. I used to eat mindlessly, and I paid the price when I got on the scale.

The greatest advice I read on nutrition came from food expert, Dr. Michael Pollan, who said “Eat mostly plant based real food in moderation.” I try to follow this eating philosophy as much as I can.

Sleep

One of the most underrated aspects of our health and wellness is sleep. I learned that over 1/3 of our population is essentially sleep deprived. We should be getting between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night, yet so many people I speak with get anywhere between 4 and 6 hours on average. I will often hear people say, “I will sleep when I am dead.” This is a dangerous stance on sleep because you may be taking years off your life by not paying attention to your sleep now.

As a police chief, I averaged around 4 hours per night of sleep and there is no doubt in my mind, this sleep deprived state contributed, in part, to my heart disease. For me now, sleep is non-negotiable. It is rare that I get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, even though my daily schedule is as filled as it ever was.

One of the simplest things you can do to improve your sleep quality is to “turn off the blue light.” You may or may not be aware that your device (cell phone) emits a blue light and that the blue light suppresses your natural ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin, which is naturally produced at sunset, is responsible for helping us fall asleep and stay asleep. So, if you are looking at your device before going to bed, you are inadvertently exposing yourself to the blue light, and thereby negatively impacting your sleep.

So, an easy fix is to simply “turn off the blue light.” You can easily make this change in the settings of your phone and once you do, you never have to think about it again.

Mindfulness

When I first heard about mindfulness and meditation, I dismissed it out of hand. I thought it was “woo woo” mystical mumbo-jumbo. Until I tried it. I started small, with a 3-minute guided meditation per day. I slowly added time and worked my way up to 20-minute meditation sessions. Is every session productive? No, I wish that were true. Some days it is a struggle, but when it works, it is truly amazing. It sets a positive and calm tone for the rest of the day, and I am convinced it helps me in my interactions with the people around me.

After making some of these small, incremental changes in my daily routines, eventually they became habits and just an automatic part of my life. From these four aspects of the foundation, I have been able to build upon them and really make tremendous progress in my overall health.

I was able to lose 50 unwanted pounds, dropped my total cholesterol by 50 points without medication, and wean myself off of a daily medication that I had been taking for many years. More importantly, I feel better each day, have more energy, more present with the ones I love, and more focused on my future. Oh yeah…and that heart disease thing…stopped it in its tracks. After three years following the scan, I have been able to stop the progression of the disease and I hope for that trend to continue.

If someone like me can do this, then I am convinced that anyone can. By making small, intentional changes in a positive direction in your life, you will be amazed where you will be in six months, 1 year or 2 years from now. The changes will be massive!

Stay tuned for future articles going into more detail on each of the four areas of the Foundation of Wellness. We hope to provide you with more tools for your tool-belt. Stay healthy and get after it!

Chief Leadership
charles@chiefleadership.com
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.