The Subtle Formula for Health (Why Small Choices Matter)
By Dr. Dana Myatt
Disease and poor health are rarely caused by a single, cataclysmic event.
Most people do not lose their health overnight. Instead, disease and declining health result from an accumulation of poor judgement and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
In other words, most disease is caused by a few small mistakes, repeated frequently.
Why would anyone who knows they are making bad choices or “cheating” on their health be so foolish to keep repeating those bad choices day in and day out? Because the average person doesn’t realize how much those small choices matter.
Individually, our little daily indiscretions don’t seem that important. A slight bit of overeating here, forgetting to take supplements a time or two there, skipping our daily exercise a couple of times a week doesn’t cause any instant or noticeable problem. Most of the time, we escape any immediate consequences of our “slips.”
People who eat too many unhealthy foods are contributing to future health problems, but the temporary pleasure of the moment overshadows the potential consequences of the future. If one is lucky, that over-the-top sugary desert causes a stomach ache and we are not eager to repeat the taste again. Usually, however, there is no apparent consequence for such a “small” bad choice. And so we come to believe that such a choice “doesn’t matter,” forgetting that such choices are cumulative. Because there are no apparent repercussions, it becomes increasingly easier to enjoy a sweet desert more often.
The same holds true for smoking, drinking, skipping exercise, skimping on sleep. One may not feel immediate consequences, but don’t be fooled! The consequences have simply been delayed for a future date. These choices accumulate until the “day of reckoning” arrives. Eventually the price must be paid for our “little” poor choices, choices that didn’t seem to matter at the time.
Disease’s most dangerous trait is subtlety. Those little errors don’t seem to make any difference. We eat desert every night and nothing bad seems to happen. Our health does not seem to be failing. Because nothing terrible happens over these small choices and no immediate consequence captures our attention, we continue from day to day, repeating the errors, eating the wrong foods, skipping the exercise, forgetting our supplements and making poor choices. The sky did not fall on us yesterday when we skipped our supplements, so we think that probably didn’t have much effect and that skipping them doesn’t matter. Since the choice seemed to have no negative consequence, it feels safe to repeat.
Wake up and smell the green tea!
If we ate a rich desert and woke up the next morning with fifty extra pounds of fat hanging off our middle, we’d notice – pronto!
Such immediate feedback would undoubtedly merit an emergency visit to the doctor and a promise to ourselves not to repeat such an act. Like a child who sticks his finger in a flame despite warnings, the instantaneous feedback would have convinced us of the folly of our ways.
Unfortunately, most poor choices don’t holler out warnings or give immediate feedback. This is why anyone aiming for good health, sustained into old age, must be wise enough to recognize the cumulative effects of small daily choices and develop a philosophy of consistently making better choices. With a clear personal health philosophy guiding our steps, we can more clearly see our errors in judgment and also see how those small daily choices really do matter.
In reverse order, the results of consistent good choices are not always immediately apparent. As one patient recently remarked, “I took those supplements for a whole week and didn’t feel any different!” Positive changes resulting from small, positive choices take time to accumulate and manifest, just like poor choices take time to manifest.
Fortunately, the formula for health is just as easy as the formula for disease. Good health is a matter of a few simple habits practiced every day.
One way to make small daily habits a part of our routine is to make a decision to be healthy in the future. Only by caring about our state of health in the future will we be able and willing to make small, positive changes today.
What do you want your future to look like? When you are old, do you want to be healthy and vigorous, still able to play a keen round of golf or throw a few hoops with the grand kids? If you can see yourself as vigorous and healthy tomorrow, you will have stoked the fires of enthusiasm today.
How many good things could happen to your health if you took just a few minutes each day to think about your future? The consequences of your repeated actions would become clear to you, and the day-to-day choices would become easier.
One of the exciting things about this “Health formula” of just changing a few simple habits, practiced every day, is that the results, though not immediate, can be seen quickly. Fifteen minutes a day of exercise, replacing water for soda pop, taking nutritional supplements regularly instead of occasionally — these simple habits will improve our health noticeably in just a few weeks. That positive feedback, combined with our increased awareness and pro-activity toward our future, can make a significant difference in our health today and tomorrow.
Little choices practiced consistently add up to big results, whether for good or ill. Remember, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” — Chinese proverb.
Will you start today to make “deposits” toward a future of good health?
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