There is incredible power in our daily habits. This can be a positive thing—incorporating healthy habits can have a tremendous impact on our wellbeing and help us feel more focused and productive as we go about our workday—or a negative—in the case of unhealthy habits that undermine our health and make it harder to function optimally.
Sometimes the “bad” habits or the parts of our routine that aren’t helping us are obvious, but other times, we need to dig deeper to understand—but how? There is a lot of information out there, but it can be hard to know what to apply to your own situation. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone try a diet or workout routine or product that just wasn’t a good fit for them, only to wind up feeling more confused about their own health—and not any better.
I interviewed several leading health and wellness experts about the importance of taking an individualized approach to wellness, practicing “bio-individuality” by honoring their unique needs.
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DC, leading functional medicine expert and author of The Inflammation Spectrum and Ketotarian, explains, “We each have our own biochemistry – a unique combination of genetics that is different than anyone else. Because of this, what affects us health wise (diet, environmental triggers) and how that plays out in your health case (symptoms, diagnoses) is going to be different from person to person. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health.”
He adds, “While there are certain foods that can trigger inflammation in most people such as conventional sugar and processed foods, there are also so-called ‘healthy’ foods that can trigger inflammation in one person but not another. For example, I’ve seen spinach be an inflammatory trigger for some people—and most people would agree that spinach is a ‘healthy’ food. But for some individuals those healthy foods aren’t so healthy.” Dr. Cole, who guides patients through specialized elimination diets explains that “going through an individualized elimination diet will help you discover your individual food triggers so you can build the healthiest diet for you.”
Dietitian Maya Feller counsels patients with a wide variety of needs and tailors her recommendations to what that individual person may need. “When we look at population-wide data, we know many Americans are not meeting the recommended intake for fiber, choline, magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamins A, D, E and potassium.” However, each person may have specific concerns depending on their health history, diet pattern, medications, lifestyle and work schedule, just to name a few factors.
Feller, who is a partner of Life Extension, is a firm believer in working with a credentialed healthcare provider and using lab tests to assess what your individual needs are in regard to which gaps in the diet you need to fill. When someone is unable to meet their needs through food, she says, “I think safe supplementation is key.”
Another area where paying attention to your unique needs is your skincare. Whether we are interacting with people in person or virtually, feeling confident in our skin’s health and appearance can play a role in how we present ourselves in our work life.
Dr. Kiran Mian is an aesthetic and medical dermatologist in New York City. She says, “There are many factors that play into what our skin looks and feels like, including our diet, our sleeping habits, our mood and stress level, as well as our genetics. Our genetics even determine how our bodies handle these different factors. Speaking to a board certified dermatologist can help tease out the different factors affecting your skin. For example, I had a patient continuously breaking out on the left side of his face, and it turns out that’s where his headset sat while he was at work. I also suggest my patients keep a food and skincare journal. Writing down what you ate, how much you’ve slept, and how your skin has been going during that time helps us find patterns. It’s not always a direct causation, but an overall pattern we’re looking for.”
Because social media is where so many people go for health information and inspiration, it’s important to consider how what we see may impact how empowered we feel to practice bio-individuality as opposed to trying to conform to standards and ideals that may not apply to us at all.
“When we think about the wellness space historically,” says Feller, “it’s been exclusive and has used white people as the barometer, asking people, regardless of where they are to blind themselves up with a white ideal. If we’re able to expand that space, that will make it possible for people with more diverse backgrounds from more places to be a part of that conversation…all of those people can be in the space in a way where they are seen and heard without asking them to shift to a white ideal.”
Dr. Cole echoes, “Health and wellness can do a better job at representing other people and giving them a chance to share their stories and showcase their wellness journey. Whether that is someone wanting to be healthy or get into the wellness field as a practitioner, the more the wellness community can practice diversity, the more we can empower everyone to take back control of their health.”
“Racial diversity is important so that people feel represented, seen, heard, and part of the conversation,” says Dr. Mian. “We are all human, and human skin under the microscope looks the same. However, all the factors that influence skin are different, based on our cultures. This is a beautiful thing that should be celebrated.”
Featured Image by Lisa Fotios from Pexels