Are You Health Savvy – or Health Obsessed?


obsession (Photo credit: jox.)

Do you routinely DVR every episode of shows like The Doctors, The Chew, or Dr. Oz? When a new study about food pops up on the news, do you change your diet to follow? Are you a walking encyclopedia on various eating styles such as macrobiotic, paleo or veganism? Have you tried every trick on the internet that’s reputed to add years to your life?

While you think you might be taking the pro-active approach to managing your health, you might actually be letting your health concerns hurt you.

How Much Is Too Much?

I’m a huge fan of technology. Medical science has made more discoveries and advancements toward understanding the human body than ever before. And with television, podcasts, online videos, message boards, websites and ebooks, we have more access to that information than ever before. I think information is a very good thing indeed.

However, with all that access and all that information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where do you begin? What information do you listen to? What do you do when last week one food was considered “good” and this week it’s considered “bad”? And with a nation quickly becoming obsessed with weight and health issues (to the point where even a curvy newscaster can’t do her job without some yahoo demanding that she lose weight), the outside pressure to project a certain image (in this case “health”) can make anyone batty. For those of us who struggle with the added obstacles of chronic illness and the often unflattering side effects of the medications that manage it, is it any wonder that 15% to 60% of lupus patients experience clinical depression at some point?

On the other hand, even taking small steps to better your health through healthy eating and exercise can help lower the amount of medications you need, boost your self-esteem and provide a stabilizing foundation for managing an often unpredictable disease. But how do you know if you’re going overboard?

Some red flags to watch for:

  • Are health concerns keeping you awake at night?
  • Do you quickly change your diet and/or habits with every new study that’s released?
  • Are you severely limiting your diet to omit certain foods – not because a doctor recommended it, but because of something you read online or heard on TV?
  • What have you done for fun, for sheer enjoyment in the past week?
  • Do you get anxious if you haven’t taken your vitamins/drank a certain amount of water/had enough antioxidants/ etc. for the day?
  • Have family or friends commented that you seem “uptight” about your health?
  • Does every change in your health have you expecting the worst?
  • Do you exhibit obsessive behavior in other areas of your life?
  • Has the fear of health concerns completely overridden fun plans, hobbies and other enjoyable activities so that you no longer do them or enjoy them?

Of course, these are just a few general points to be on the lookout for. But, in general if taking care of your physical health is robbing you of your mental/spiritual health, then it may be time to consider a few changes.

Getting a Handle on Obsession

There’s a lot of talk about the troubles of maintaining a work-life balance. For lupus patients it’s more like a work-life-lupus balance and it can be a very tricky. Balance is not a static state of being, not a final goal that you nail once and -poof!- you’re done. Balance is a matter of shifting and making change to accommodate the new without overloading yourself. Below are a few suggestions for i

  • Get to the root of it. If you’re desperately trying every health trick you can find, what’s the reason? If your function is still poor despite your doctor’s help, have you spoken to them about it? Do you feel overwhelmed in other areas of your life and are trying to bulk up your energy to cope? Perhaps it’s time to trim some of the fat and take that energy back. Whether you’re more a journaling type or choose to enlist a therapist, taking a look at the big picture of your life at the moment, can offer big clues on where to begin making changes.
  • Try a grounding practice. It can be prayer, meditation, a hot bath, a cat nap or simply unplugging from technology for an hour, but try to make some time where you can quiet your mind – or at least quiet everything else. We can be so bombarded by outside noise that we don’t even recognize our own thoughts anymore. Taking a moment to get reacquainted can potentially be relaxing.
  • Save spoons for fun activities. If you think of your energy as a finite resource, then you’re forced to really consider what your priorities are. Give yourself permission save a few spoons for yourself and not to give them away to everyone else.
  • Set up a ‘play’ space. If part of the reason you avoid hobbies is that they require many pieces or complicated set-up, then consider making a space in your home where you can have at least the basics all ready to go. If you like to paint, a table-top easel doesn’t take up much space and some come with built-in storage drawers where you can keep your brushes or pencils handy. Armchair caddies can be great, not only for holding the remotes, but also to keep knitting needles and your current project, or your favorite current book. Aside from saving you time and energy, having a visual reminder of something you like to do, might motivate you to do it more often.

If your health concerns have become so all-encompassing that you’re even scaring yourself, then call in the professionals. After all, what is the point of having fabulous physical health if you can’t enjoy it?

Can there be such a thing as health-obsessed? Weigh in below.

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