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Body, Mind and the Index
Wisdom Letter #19 | The one about health
Happy New Year!
I know we are well into the new year, its the 12th day after all.
But this is our first fresh post of the year, and we want to talk about health and fitness today. Something we all resolve to get better at every January 1st, but as homeostasis kicks in and routine life takes over after the holidays, most of us drop our resolutions by the end of the month. So we thought this was a good time to talk about health, just to give a boost to all those resolutions that might be trending downhill soon.
Majority of the health problems we have today are not caused by deadly viruses or bacteria, but by our own lifestyles.
Yuval Noah Harari in his book ‘Home Deus’ famously says that for the first time in the history of mankind, more people are dying because of eating more than eating less.
Let that sink in.
Obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other lifestyle related disorders are more dangerous to us than droughts and famines were to our ancestors.
The good thing about this realisation is that the cure for this ailment is well within our control. We don’t have to pray to the gods for rains and harvest, or fend off the black plague to survive. We just have to do a few simple things right everyday and get our life back on track.
In this NYT article from 2014, author and physician Jamie Koufman dives deep into 1 such simple intervention that we need. She talks about the dangers of eating late at night. She is an expert on acid reflux and explains how its related to so many other ailments that may be hampering our quality of life.
Checkout her article—
How do you measure your health?
You ask this question to 100 people, and at least 40 will say their weight, another 30 will say they track their BMI(Body Mass Index) along with their weight. The rest might say that they just go by the ‘feel’ of their body?
What is the right way to measure our health?
Weight and BMI top the list because they have been backed by the American insurance and healthcare industry for many decades, as they are easy to measure and track. But what’s easy to measure might not necessarily be the right measure.
At least we can say that there are better and more simpler metrics available. Metrics which are more actionable and are more accurately indicative of our over all well being.
That is what this article from The Atlantic discusses. It argues that simple metrics such as walking speed, or grip strength, or the ability to do push-ups is perhaps more helpful to the average person than weight or BMI.
Its an interesting perspective, and a well made point.
Check it out —
Speaking about physical health is quite easy these days. Almost everyone is involved with some sort of gym or fitness activity or knows people around who are. So when we talk about physical fitness its easier to get our point across. People are more aware and receptive towards their bodily health.
But how do you talk about mental health?
It is still a taboo and people can get offended if they find out that they have a mental health issue. They are more prone to brushing it under the carpet and letting it fester at the cost of their own well being.
1 in 4 people in the world suffers from some form of psychological disorder. It can be something as simple as anxiety or stress or restlessness. But if we don’t seek help when its that small then it can grow into something much more serious.
There’s a good chance that you, or someone you know is going through something terrible within the infinite world of his own mind and people around him have no idea. And the stigma attached to psychological distress can further dissuade them into not talking about it ever.
I think we all need a primer on how to talk about mental health within our circles. How to open up to our close ones if we are suffering, and how to comfort a close one who may be suffering and trying to open up to us.
This article from TED is a good starting point for all of us to learn more about how to discuss mental health issues in society.
Check it out—
A good way to normalise the discussion of mental health in society, same as physical health, is for people of influence to talk about their own issues a lot more. It takes tremendous courage and fortitude on their part to come out in the open and speak about their demons. But it can help millions of others to deal with their issues.
Bollywood star Deepika Padukone bravely came out about her depression three years ago in an interview with Barkha Dutt of NDTV. The interview is excellent as it tries to capture the nuance that depression is not same as sadness. We need a lot more discussions such as this, a lot more sensitivity and a lot more nuance.
There’s plenty of health advice going around, and new fad diets and remedies coming along ever so frequently. But there are a certain classic principles that never get old and have stood the test of time.
Dr. David Agus, compiled such evergreen health advice and tips into a book called “A short guide to a long life”
Its a short book with chapters just a couple of pages long written in an easygoing fatherly tone. Its not something to be read cover to cover, instead its a good book to be kept lying around the house and picking up to read a random chapter every other day.
Its a good tool to reinforce some of the most simple yet valuable ideas that we may miss in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.
Check it out —
Signing off for the week, here’s a quote worth pondering.
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.
— Hippocrates, father of modern medicine
Just that. The right amount. Its so important to strike the right balance in how much we eat, exercise, sleep, relax, and love. A healthy life is the perfect balance of all these factors and we would do well to find that balance.
Think about it!
If you wish to read more on Health & Fitness, check out Wisdom Letter #5. Its called Find Your Fit
If you are not sure how to consume all of the content we have shared here, checkout the ‘how-to’ post we wrote — Navigating Rough Seas
We made public lists of all the content we share for ready reference. Check them out—
Books as Amazon Public Wish-list
Articles as Pocket Recommendations
Videos as YouTube Playlist
This was Wisdom Letter #19. In case you want to revisit any of the previous 18 letters, checkout our entire archive.
And if you’re wondering why we are doing this project, what is the point of it? checkout the intro post, it might make some sense!
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Aditi & Ayush
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