Sarah Kolman is the mom of three young boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master’s degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness to help adults and children heal their bodies and live their lives fully. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family’s Whole Health in a Busy World. Learn more (and get a free copy of the first 3 chapters of Sarah’s book) at This One Life, or find her on Twitter or Facebook.
It’s not exactly news that the way in which we address health as a nation isn’t working. With cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and dementia on the rise, America is in an obvious health crisis. We are spending more money on healthcare than any other developed nation yet our health outcomes are among the worst.1 With a healthcare system that is designed to treat “illness,” rather than create “wellness” or “health,” we are clearly falling short.
People continue to feel sick because what they are doing isn’t working. To get different results we need to do something different. In my health coaching practice, I teach clients to “think outside the box” in order to ditch their chronic ailments, start feeling good, and finally live their best lives.
Here are 3 ways in which I help people “think outside the box” when it comes to health.
- Consume foods that are outside of a box, bag, or package whenever possible. You’ll find that “outside-the-box” foods likely come directly from the earth rather than a manufacturing plant. Simply put, foods that consist of plants and quality animal products have the ability to nourish and heal our families. The Paleo lifestyle is founded in this principle—eat foods similar to what we used to eat before we had factories and the ability to process and package our food. Many of us have found that adopting a Paleo lifestyle—eating “real” food—has healed long-standing health problems and improved quality of life.
- Don’t forget to look inward for dietary advice. What works for me might not work for you. One person’s medicine might be another’s poison when it comes to health. Understanding overarching principles of health is no doubt a critical first step (like, eat real foods that are minimally processed and increase vegetables), but self-awareness and self-trust will help us identify what specifically nourishes our individual bodies best. This is a paradigm shift in our culture because we tend to look externally for direction and answers.
I see the Paleo lifestyle as a template for eating real and minimally processed foods, but each individual will still have his specific “flare” of what is most nourishing to him. In my family, we have a spectrum of egg tolerances. I used to be a total egg pusher for breakfast everyday. I figured that eggs were a perfect real food protein—so we dumped cereal and got on the egg bandwagon. After we invested in 6 hens to keep up with our supply we learned that all three of my children have egg sensitivities. Each of my kids is affected very differently by eggs—from emotional sensitivity to sleep disturbance to eczema. Meat consumption is another example of how we can be different. Some individuals thrive on meat for protein; others require very little to no meat to feel their best. It is crucial to look inward to assess a food’s impact on our personal health versus merely looking externally for hard and fast rules about what is “supposed to” fuel and nourish us.
- Recognize that the true path to health is much deeper than diet alone. Eating healthy food isn’t enough, because a good diet is only part of the health picture. Although what we eat is important, we don’t always realize that there are widespread factors that impact our health equally as much as diet. In addition to nutrition, we must also look at our relationships, career satisfaction, sleep habits, movement, stress levels, and connection to our spirit. When anyone of these factors is neglected it is hard to be healthy. A toxic relationship or a high stress job can nullify the benefits of a pristine diet. It is critical to look at the big picture—and put together the whole health puzzle.
We had to think outside of the box when addressing my middle son’s health. For the first two years of his life he never had a solid stool. He had extreme emotional outbursts, passed out from screaming regularly, woke frequently at night, and was hypersensitive to light touch. When mainstream medicine couldn’t help us with answers we looked to naturopaths for help. We were able to identify the root problem that involved food sensitivities and an imbalance of bacteria and yeast in his gut. After a few months of dietary modifications we saw big results—his digestive issues were resolved and a completely different kid emerged—calm, content, emotionally regulated, and….a good sleeper.
How we thought outside the box to heal our middle son:
- We found a naturopath to guide us when mainstream medicine wasn’t giving us the answers and support we needed. The naturopath helped us balance his intestinal flora.
- We discovered that he had food sensitivities to dairy, wheat, corn, eggs, and almonds and removed those foods from his diet. We learned what foods were medicine to him and what foods were poison.
- We began to refine his (and our whole family’s) diet to a cleaner, less processed diet—focusing on eating real foods that were largely outside of boxes, bags, and packages.
- Over the last year we have expanded our understanding of good health to go beyond the focus of food alone. We try to get our daily dose of oxytocin through connecting with each other and filling our plates with meaningful activities while limiting/avoiding the depleting ones. We strive to carve out time to slow down and not always be so rushed. We talk about how important it is to breathe and connect with our spirits. We even talk about stress and poor sleep and how they negatively impact the body.
If we wouldn’t have done something different with our son’s health it is possible that he would be living with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder and irritable bowel syndrome—and we would continue to be a stressed family. I am grateful that we were able to address the root cause of his health needs and help him to thrive. I encourage you to think outside the box as a way to improve your family’s health. Learn more about how to do so in my book Full Plate—get a free digital copy of the first three chapters here.
1) Ashley Allen, “Countries Spending the Most on Healthcare,” USA Today, accessed 3 Sept 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/07/countries-spending-most-health-care/12282577/