The Unattainable Chase of Optimal Health

The Unattainable Chase of Optimal Health

In my previous article, “Green Box Living,” I explored the importance of creating moments in between our hectic lives to cultivate a sense of peace and mindfulness. Today, I want to delve deeper into a pervasive issue that’s been weighing on my mind: the constant, often unattainable, chase for optimal health.

The global health landscape is more complicated than ever. On one hand, we have unprecedented access to information about health and wellness. On the other, this wealth of information can often be conflicting, overwhelming, and anxiety-inducing. The rise of social media has only exacerbated this issue, perpetuating feelings of inadequacy as we constantly compare ourselves to curated, often unrealistic, portrayals of health and fitness.

Podcasts have become a popular medium for sharing knowledge, and while there are many reputable sources, the scene is also riddled with misinformation, grifters, and untrustworthy advisors. These voices often amplify our anxieties about health, aging, and our perceived shortcomings. Instead of empowering us, they can make us feel helpless and more disconnected from our innate ability to understand and care for our own bodies.

This relentless pursuit of health excellence paradoxically takes us further away from true health. The constant highlighting of our health issues and the fear of aging foster a state of anxiety, making us believe that we’re perpetually falling short. This mindset distracts us from the fundamental aspects of well-being: mindful eating, mindful movement, and emotional regulation.

Recently, I experienced a moment in between that allowed me to reflect on my behavior and the daily chase for optimal health. I noticed how easily I was pushed and pulled in different directions depending on the content I consumed. Wearables, while intended to guide us towards better health, often highlight our “bad habits” or “poor sleep quality” or “insert metric here” where you fall short. There are days when I wake up feeling rested and at peace, only to be notified that my sleep was “NON-RESTORATIVE.” My health goalposts immediately moved for the day and every choice I made was questioned. It wasn’t until I took some time away from my wearable and health apps that I realized, I am actually doing okay. I am okay.

While I believe the intentions of developers of this technology are to guide us to a higher baseline level of health, I also believe they are taking us further away. Instead of listening to our bodies and tuning into our needs, we become overly reliant on external data, which can often contradict our personal experiences and feelings. Health data is important, but perhaps it’s not something we should consume multiple times daily—or even at all. Do we even know what we are looking at? Are we drawing completely inaccurate conclusions at the risk of becoming grifting evangelists of our untrained insights, wearing yellow goggles and drinking our own urine out of fear?

Watching my son’s learning path has been a profound reminder of the importance of self-exploration. He rolled over for the first time last week, and during tummy time, I observe his brain constantly experimenting and problem-solving. His perfect little feet move freely, unbound by the constraints of fashionable shoes, and he explores each fist, hand, and finger with curiosity, feeling them in his mouth, kicking his legs and flailing his arms until a new level was “unlocked.”

It may sound cliché, but we must go full circle and dive back into ourselves to uncover true health. We need to reconnect with our bodies and minds, creating those moments in between to reflect and understand our needs. My son’s self-discovery of movement, sounds, and colours is unhindered by decisions. He is not wondering if his hand placement is the correct one for him to roll. He is not tied to any outcome other than an instinctive desire to explore, and with that exploration comes growth.

Every extra data input we receive forces us to make a decision – action or inaction? Each of these choices involves mental energy, adding to the decision fatigue we already experience in our busy and stressful lives. These micro inputs of data cause us to make hundreds or even thousands of decisions daily, on top of our existing responsibilities. This can only equate to a net-negative for our health and well-being.

What we need is a shift in perspective. Instead of chasing an ever-changing ideal of health, we should focus on being more in tune with ourselves. Mindful eating involves paying attention to what and how we eat, understanding our body’s needs, and nurturing a positive relationship with food. Mindful movement encourages us to engage in physical activities that we enjoy and that make us feel good, rather than following the latest fitness trends. Emotional regulation is about recognizing and understanding our emotions, which are often the root causes of unhealthy behaviors.

As I mentioned in my previous post, creating moments in between—pauses in our busy lives to reflect and reconnect with ourselves—is crucial. These mindful moments allow us to step back from the noise, listen to our bodies, and make choices that truly support our well-being.

The journey to optimal health shouldn’t be a source of stress or a never-ending chase for perfection. By embracing mindfulness and tuning into our bodies’ inherent wisdom, we can cultivate a healthier, more balanced state of being. Let’s move away from the anxiety fueled by social media and the misinformation in the podcast scene, and towards a more mindful, self-aware approach to health and wellness.

What do you think is the best way to achieve true health in our modern world?

As I finish writing this, perhaps it is not the data at all but my perception of it? Perhaps I am adding more confusion to the already confusing landscape. Please reach out to info@minervahealth.nz if you see me on a podcast wearing yellow goggles.

James Penman
Managing Director
Minerva Health & Wellness