I wrote about the fact that our physical health isn’t the be-all-end-all in the context of our overall well-being here, and this can be a difficult concept to grasp for those who’ve spent YEARS—or often decades—chasing physical pursuits.
The obsession with aesthetics can easily translate into physical health neurosis, and this can be equally as damaging.
“But Jess, how can an obsession with feeling my best be a bad thing?”
In a nutshell, it isn’t. However, we have to look at what you’re sacrificing to get there.
Fearful of spontaneity?
Cling to your food and fitness routines and experience anxiety or fear when you deviate from them?
Constantly turning down social invitations in an effort to “stay on track”?
Beating yourself up when don’t feel physically well, despite all the effort you put into your health?
Experience frustration when you make decisions that leaving you feeling run down, tired, or sick? (Hungover, as an example).
The negative emotions and feelings experienced from making choices that leave us feeling less physically well—but enhance our well-being in other areas of our lives—are an indication that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.
You decided to stay up past your bedtime with your partner or girlfriends to share some laughs or watch movies and feel exhausted the next day.
You chose the boozy date night or night out with friends that left you feeling hungover, but damn—you really value those light and fun times with them.
You skipped the workout in lieu of a spontaneous happy hour with some of your favorite people.
You ate the food you know your body doesn’t like, because you wanted to get the full experience while traveling.
You forewent an action that contributes to physical health—or even engaged in one that’s detrimental—in favor of emotional, energetic, and mental health.
Which is the correct choice?
That’s for YOU to decide, and it requires awareness, experience, and the willingness to make the less ideal decision on occasion (which will still be incredibly useful, as it gives you data to make a better decision next time).
You need to be willing to take risks and discover your own “physical health tipping point.”
What is a Physical Health Tipping Point?
It’s the point at which greater physical health no longer contributes to our overall well-being, and at which lesser physical health diminishes our overall well-being.
For me, this often looks like 80-90% physical health. This encompasses high energy levels, optimized brain function, strength and cardiovascular fitness, efficient digestion, and balanced hormones.
For you, this might include the state of your skin, endurance abilities, or flexibility.
We can all value and prioritize different elements of our physical health.
Using myself as an example, this percentage ebbs and flows depending on my priorities at the moment (i.e. work projects due vs. vacation mode), but through experimentation, I have determined that my overall well-being peaks when I hover around 85% physical health.
Does this mean that I go out of my way to decrease my physical health if I’m over 85%? Absolutely not.
It simply means that I’m willing to sacrifice some of my physical health for my overall well-being to an extent.
If I’m consistently living below 80% physical health, my overall health begins to suffer. My energy levels drop, my brain doesn’t fire well, I don’t perform well in the gym, my digestion goes to shit, and my hormones are bonkers.
As a result, I’m then not able to show up as fully as I want to for the other aspects of my life that contribute to my well-being, and it creates a vicious cycle of diminished quality of life.
On the flip side, that extra 10-20% of optimized physical health can mean sacrificing time with loved ones, unique experiences, and other meaningful (to me) elements of life. And foregoing these just isn’t worth it to me.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to have our cake and eat it too, right?
Be able to enjoy all the social gatherings, amazing food, late nights, the extra boozy drinks, in addition to amazing energy, a strong and fit body, and optimized digestion, brain function, and hormones.
However, this isn’t our reality most of the time. So, we have to pick and choose our priorities while being mindful of the BIG PICTURE of our health.
How do you find your physical health tipping point?
1. Write down your priorities for the current season of life you’re in.
Career or big work project, building relationships, healing physical health ailments, going on adventures and experiencing more freedom, upcoming physical challenge or competition, raising children, etc.
2. Assess the current state of your physical health.
What feels good and what doesn’t right now?
3. Identify how the current state of your physical health is impacting your priorities identified in Step One.
For example, if connection with loved ones and being adventurous is at the top of the list, then you likely don’t need to be at tip-top physical health, and sacrificing some physical well-being in lieu of spontaneity and late nights may be a sound option.
However, if you have a big work project or competition coming up and really need your body and brain to be functioning optimally, then you’ll likely need to contribute more to your physical health.
4. Start experimenting!
Now that you’re clear on your priorities and what is truly important in this current life season, and you understand whether or not you have more leeway with your physical health in reference to your overall well-being, you’re ready to throw yourself into the wild and gather data!
Throw in the late night or an extra drink (simply examples) if you want to be more spontaneous and develop relationships with new people. How does it impact your overall well-being the next day?
Decline the party in favor of more sleep and a solid meal so that you can be productive while working the next day (ideally work you actually care about). Feeling fulfilled with this choice?
Just want to feel damn good the next day so you can fully engage with whatever you want to participate in? That’s a sufficient enough reason to prioritize your physical health, too. Simply wanting to feel good is perfectly acceptable (and understandable).
5. Assess the data & adjust as needed.
You should be doing this in the short-term as part of Step 4, but you also need to take a step back and consider how this impacts you in the long run. You may find that you thought a late night with friends was fulfilling in the moment—and even the next day—but your inability to work towards your long-term goal of starting your own business is being impacted due to feeling unwell.
As part of this step, you may find yourself rearranging your priorities listed in Step 1. This is a good thing! It’s a constant process of learning, re-evaluating, adjusting and experimenting further.
Our priorities will continue to ebb and flow throughout our lives—in tandem with the season of life we’re in—so flexibility and adaptability are key.
Our relationships with our physical health are no different.
Learning to be mindful of what we’re willing to accept and sacrifice regarding our physical health is incredibly empowering, and remember that it’s YOUR choice—and yours alone—to make.
There’s no shame in making a choice that leaves you feeling less physically well at times, in the same way there’s no shame in making a choice that supports your physical health.
Just ask yourself, “Are these choices elevating my overall well-being?” THAT is the kind of health worth pursuing.