There’s a very important distinction to be made between how we feel and how we function, especially in regard to healthcare and the Structure-Function model of healthcare. Over the years I have asked thousands of people what their definition of health is. For many people, health is when they feel good and when they are not sick. This can be a very dangerous definition of health. So, what is a good definition of health?
First, I want you to understand why the above definition of health is dangerous and that in reality, how you feel does not have a direct relationship to how healthy you are. Let me explain with two examples:
The Pastrami Principle
The first example I call The Pastrami Principle. Years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I worked a late shift. One evening, after work, I found myself at my favorite sandwich shop.
They made an incredible pastrami sandwich and that is what I took home. Now, have you ever been so hungry that you shove food in your face so fast that you don’t even taste it until about the third or fourth bite? Well, that is exactly what I did that evening— it really wasn’t until the third or fourth bite that I began to taste the sandwich. Suddenly, I realized that something was terribly wrong. I opened the sandwich and the pastrami was slimy and had a couple of different patchy shades of green to it.
I was extremely upset! How could they do that to me? I quickly re-wrapped the sandwich, hopped in my car and headed back to the sandwich shop to return it.
Ok, here is where it gets interesting… On the way back to the shop I began to FEEL horrible. My heart started racing. I started to sweat. The taste in my mouth began to change. My belly started to bloat and all of a sudden, I needed to pull over because I knew what was going to happen next… I threw up.
Ok, now, here is the question: Was I sick or was I healthy? Think about that. Again, I’ll answer in a bit but before I do let me tell you about an old Colorado Cowboy
The Ol’ Colorado Cowboy
The second example involves my grandfather. At age 77 he was still riding rodeo in Colorado. Although he wasn’t very fast, he always won first place in calf roping because he was the only one in his age category. Not only did he ride but he also spent time teaching young folks how to do it. He was FEELING great in the years leading up to that one. However, during that year he noticed he wasn’t feeling so good and he started to feel some pain.
He went to the doctor and was soon diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer in his pelvis and spine. They gave him two years to live. If you know anything about that type of cancer, you know that it does not develop overnight nor is it a primary cancer (the first place you get cancer). What that means is that for years before he was diagnosed, he had cancer growing in his body that eventually metastasized to his pelvis and spine, moved from stage one, through stages two and three, and finally to stage four before he started to feel bad.
Of course, no one would say that my grandfather was healthy while he was in pain and had been diagnosed with cancer but when was he really no longer healthy?
Again, was I healthy when I felt so horrible throwing up on the side of the road and when exactly was my grandfather no longer healthy?
Hopefully thinking about those stories and questions has gotten you thinking about your own definition of health.
Let me give you my answers to the questions:
Although I felt horrible on the side of that road, I was healthy and my body was functioning! My body recognized the poison I had ingested and did what it needed to do to forcibly expel it so that my body could continue to function correctly! I was healthy even though I felt “sick”.
On the other hand, we can easily say that while my grandfather felt on top of the world, he was not healthy because for years the cancer was growing undetected in his body. He was not healthy even though he felt good.
If feeling good does not mean you are healthy and feeling bad does not mean you are sick then what is a good definition of health? It is so much more than the dictionary definition of “the state of being free from illness or injury” (Oxford Dictionary). Let me share my definition of perfect or true health:
HEALTH is when our bodies are optimally FUNCTIONING physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually
Let that idea simmer for a while. Maybe it will challenge your own paradigm when it comes to True Health. And that is what we value here at Holistic Integration – True Health.
Yes, we do care about how you Feel. How you Feel is probably what brought you into the clinic. However, we care much more about how you Function. In fact, we are Passionate about how you Function! We also hope that you become more aware of, committed to, and passionate about how you Function as well!
It is that focus on Function in the Structure-Function Model of Healthcare that is the foundation of how we make a difference in helping to transform the lives (and minds) of our patients and their families.
I’ll end this post with a question; a question I want you to think about. I will answer it in my next post.
What is the opposite of health?
Until next time.
Dr. Clinton S. Dodge DC