Geoff Whitington was overweight had type 2 diabetes and was facing foot amputation. His sons Anthony and Ian decided to step in and find a solution. Their attitude towards Dad’s problem was fitness, nutrition and mind, a phrase I picked up on as being particularly resonant.
This was a BBC documentary, entitled “Fixing Dad“, that I had seen the trailer for and fully intended to watch, but I obviously became side-tracked and found some other shiny object to take my attention.
The phrase “Fitness, nutrition, mind” struck a chord with me as I consider all three as important elements to managing a chronic illness like the Multiple Sclerosis I have.
As I have come to know this debilitating disease, I have come to realise how important nutrition really is to managing, even reversing, the symptoms of my chronic illness. Key to knowing what you should eat is understanding your mitochondria.
- Fitness – Essential to any healthy body; Exercise helps oxygenate the brain, build or maintain muscle and strengthens the heart
- Nutrition – You have heard the phrase “You are what you eat” which is ever true and medical science is coming to realise the importance of feeding your mitochondria, in battling chronic illness
- Mind – The power of the mind should never be underestimated. You may have heard of the placebo effect, where your health improves because you think that latest tablet is the answer even if it is just a sugar pill.
The thrust of the BBC documentary “Fixing Dad”, which as you may notice, I didn’t get around to watching, was that Geoff had a poor diet, was overweight and assumed that what he was going through was fate.
Geoff had long existed on a fast-food diet which did not help his weight or his blood-sugar levels, he took little or no exercise and he didn’t see the point in changing.
His sons, Anthony and Ian had other ideas. They researched all they could find on diabetes, food and exercise. But as they discovered diet and exercise were easily achieved, changing Dad’s mindset was harder.
It took time but, slowly Geoff came around to his sons’ way of thinking. Junk food was out, salads were in. He stopped his all too frequent drinking and Ian and Anthony got him out running.
Small changes to lifestyle can make big changes to the outlook of your health. Geoff has been an inspiration to all of us who battle with chronic illness and he proves we CAN make a difference to our lives if we both believe and take positive action.
Do not accept your illness as being inevitable
I have Multiple Sclerosis and I have several friends with fibromyalgia. It is my opinion that both of these conditions have the same underlying root cause; dysfunctional mitochondria.
I follow, not as stringently as I should, the Wahls Protocol. A diet regime designed by Dr Terry Wahls of Ohio to help feed your mitochondria which she is sure is essential to tackling autoimmune disease.
I have noticed considerable improvement from being on this diet although I have seen claims from others that it can be detrimental. I take these claims with a large dose of salt as I cannot see what could be damaging about it.
Exercise to improve your fitness
It may seem to be an obvious statement, and in many respects it is. But if you have MS, Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome then the idea of going out and hitting the gym is likely to be very unappealing if not downright impossible.
But, any exercise is better than no exercise and the exercise does not have to be about building muscle or losing weight. Fitness can take many forms; improving cardio vascular response will improve blood flow to the muscles and the brain, mental fitness can be improved by the meditational properties of exercise and thinking about what your body needs will improve your understanding of diet.
No one of these exercise routines will improve your fitness to any significant degree but, a combination of all of these fitness activities will help you feel better about yourself and improve your overall prognosis.
If you are bed-bound or wheelchair-bound then it should still be possible to exercise. Unless you are completely paralysed then you should be moving those parts of the body you are able to move.
Nutrition for the body cells
Eating is a bit more than just filling your belly. Food provides the energy that fuels your movement however, it also provides the energy your cells need to function and replicate. The cells in your body live and die in a constant cycle. This is normal and is an essential part of your body maintaining itself in peak condition.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a cut or a bruise, you have damaged cells in your body. Those cells will be replaced by new, healthy cells in a strong, healthy body.
This is where mitochondria come into play. Mitochondria are part of nearly every cell in the human body and the provide energy and regulate cell division and destruction.
All cells in the body are replaced regularly so it is important that old cells die in a timely manner to be replace by new cells. When this cycle is disrupted, cells die and are not replaced or new cells grow uncontrollably – cancer.
Feeding your mitochondria
The mitochondria needs feeding just like every other process in the body. Unlike other parts of the cell, the mitochondria do not need a steady supply of carbohydrates, they need the minerals and vitamins found in certain fruit and green vegetables.
The importance of a good, balanced diet is paramount to us all but, if you have a chronic illness it is even more essential.
I recall seeing a comment, somewhere on social media, about the Wahls Protocol where the commenter was being critical of Dr Wahls suggesting that she was making us feel guilty about our poor diets.
I took the view that “Yes” if my diet was indeed to blame for my health condition then “Yes” I was to blame, my poor diet had been my choice and was, therefore, to blame for my poor health. This was down to ignorance on my part but, there can be no excuse for ignorance. We each have a responsibility for our own lives and we must ensure that we are as knowledgeable as we can be.
Feeling better about yourself
Feeling better about yourself, is where the mind comes in. Fitness of mind is every bit as importance as fitness of body. “You are what you eat” is an expression you may have heard before but, “You are what you think” is probably more accurate.
Nutrition is vital to geed life. If you have a chronic illness the good nutrition is even more critical.
“You are what you think” is what defines your character, who you are, your personality. It is also what shapes your attitude to life which influences everything about you and your well being.
How often do people tell you to “Think positive” and you discount their remark as being a trite, meaningless pleasantry. Perhaps you should take this advice more seriously; it is NOT meaningless, sure, they may have made the comment as a flippant nicety, but a positive mental attitude CAN be a powerful incentive.
If you believe, I mean REALLY believe that you are doing what you need to do to improve your health, the chances are that you will see the benefit. Not necessarily because of the belief itself but, because having that belief will shape your actions towards that positive future.
Your thoughts on Fitness, Nutrition and Mind
I conclude this post with my usual invitation to you, to leave a comment adding your thoughts on what it takes to improve health and well being. As ever, if I have made mistake or made any erroneous statements, I will welcome you thoughts, criticisms and, possible even, praise.