This week in my Precision Nutrition Level 2 coaching course, we’ve been studying “deep health.” Deep health, similarly to integrative or holistic health, considers the notion that all aspects of your life affect your physical health. A friend of mine, Warren, is an acupuncturist and I went to him for PMS relief. I’d been having A LOT of anxiety and depression in the weeks leading up to my period and I decided to give acupuncture a try. The intake form consisted of 672 questions (slight exaggeration) about everything from my sexual history to what I eat to drug use to how I sleep to my trauma history. Unlike a conventional doctor, who would have talked to me about my symptoms, my hormones, and probably recommended either calcium supplementation, ibuprofen, or hormonal birth control, Warren wanted to understand me as a whole.
Now, I only got 2 treatments of acupuncture because it turns out I have an acupuncture phobia. (You guys, those needles are totally going to get swallowed by your body and travel to your brain to lobotomize you. Phobias are NOT rational!) But I remember answering that questionnaire thinking, “Great, now Warren knows more about me than my best friend.” If I had continued to go to him for treatment, he might have given me some Chinese herbs, nutrition advice, body work, and whatever else is in his scope of practice.
Acupuncture isn't relaxing when you think the needles will kill you.
I asked Warren about the extremely detailed intake form and here’s what he had to say:
Given each of the systems of the body work in concert, and are interconnected, we use the patterns of symptoms to help identify your body's specific weaknesses. The idea being that if we can strengthen your body to manage the physiological and psychological-emotional stressors more effectively, then your symptoms will self-correct. So while we focus on your chief complaint, we look beyond any single symptom in developing your treatment plan. This is why your health history intake is so comprehensive.
Interesting, right? In my lesson, Precision Nutrition states:
There are a zillion different indicators of integrated health (which we call “deep health” — health at all levels of life), such as:
pain, mobility, and function
perception of one’s symptoms, body, and experiences
hormone levels and body chemistry
recovery, resilience, and regenerative processes (of all kinds)
food and eating habits; appetite, hunger, and fullness
self-regulation and maintaining homeostasis (of physiological processes, emotions/perceptions, and one’s life demands)
a strong social network and health-promoting surroundings
Deep health states that any one of these indicators can affect the others. A few months ago, a friend told me about an NPR story that explained that pregnant African American women are “243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes” than are white women. And though you might think that increase is due to a lack of access to healthcare, healthful foods, and adequate exercise, this trend is found even among affluent African American women.
The story explains that institutionalized racism appears to have an affect on black women. It places such stress on their bodies, that they physically age faster than white women. This, researchers believe, is one main cause of the increase in mortality rates:
Stress has been linked to one of the most common and consequential pregnancy complications, preterm birth. Black women are 49 percent more likely than whites to deliver prematurely (and, closely related, black infants are twice as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday). Here again, income and education aren't protective.
The repercussions for the mother's health are also far-reaching. Maternal age is an important risk factor for many severe complications, including pre-eclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension. "As women get older, birth outcomes get worse," Lu said. "If that happens in the 40s for white women, it actually starts to happen for African-American women in their 30s."
This means that for black women, the risks for pregnancy start at an earlier age than many clinicians — and women— realize, and the effects on their bodies may be much greater than for white women. In Geronimus' view, "a black woman of any social class, as early as her mid-20s should be attended to differently."
It's not too flip to say that racism kills. Or that #blacklivesmatter. Or that a 243% increase in mortality rates is astounding and disturbing. To me, this article demonstrates that having a lack of "health-promoting surroundings" can inhibit "recovery, resilience, and regenerative processes," which ages black women's bodies prematurely and creates a much greater risk of pregnancy-related death.
One way you can examine your own deep health-indicators is by using Precision Nutrition's deep health map, also called the Life Web.
*Click the image above to download the map as a PDF
You can see categories associated with Work and Hobbies, Relationships, Health and Function, and Personal Growth. You can use the map to find out where you’re succeeding and where you can use a little TLC. Simply print out the map and shade in each category to illustrate the proportion by which you feel fulfilled in that area. So, if your marathon training is going swimmingly, you’d fill in Physical/Athletic Performance most of the way. If your marathon training means you never see your family and your wife is angry that you're not helping with childcare, you might fill Intimate Relationships and Family Relationships only part way. You can see my map below as an example.
I sprained my wrist hiking a few weeks ago, so my Physical/Athletic Performance is depressingly not at its peak (and clearly I'm a workaholic), but overall, I think I'm doing pretty well!
In next week’s post, I’ll talk about ways you can use this map to help rebalance your life and start expending your energy in ways that will support your deep health.
Amazing illustration of my acupuncture phobia by the incomparable Eduardo Espada. You can find him here.
Interested in a coach who wants to address you as a whole person rather than a series of symptoms? Find out more about my services.