September 23, 2013

What Is Wellness?

wellnessIf I say someone is deathly ill you probably get a certain image in your mind, perhaps an elderly person in the hospital unrecognizable due to dramatic weight loss with eyes sunken and grasping for their last breaths.

But, does any particular image come to mind when I say someone is well or healthy? Possibly not. And, that’s because we seem to struggle at defining what wellness is. Sickness we understand, while wellness is more vague, and in my opinion an overused term, that can mean almost anything depending on who is using it.

It’s fascinating how we use language and define words. Voltaire said, “If you want to converse with me, first define your terms.”

Much of our language has been stripped of any clear meaning by the process of political correctness. Medicine is now filled with political correctness.

A simple example is nobody is “fat” but rather “obese”. Terms like “cripple”, “retard”, “idiot”, “moron”, “imbecile” once had clear medical definitions but are no longer used as their non-medical use is felt to be offensive.

We no longer have “charity hospitals” as the word “charity” is now demeaning to the recipients of such care despite the fact that eliminating the word has not changed the fact that people still get free medical care. We seem to think if we change a word that what that word represents changes or disappears.

Watch this video of George Carlin talk on euphemistic language. It has little to do with wellness, but touches upon why we may have a difficult time defining wellness.

But, I believe wellness can be described  in just one word – one word using simple, direct, and honest language that Mr. Carlin refers to. But, we are not ready for it yet. Let’s first take a look at some of the water downed and politically correct definitions of wellness.

Definitions of Wellness

The following definitions of wellness illustrate how hard it is to actually define it. Generally, the more words it takes to define something the less we understand what we are attempting to define.

Wellness is an “integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable.”

“Integrated” is a big buzzword these days, and though I know what it means, I’m not sure I know what it means in the context of wellness. It’s one of those sterile words that Mr. Carlin refers to devoid of any real meaning. Plus, there has to be a better choice of a word than “oriented”.

Or, “wellness is a direction of progress towards an ever-higher potential of functioning.” I’m not sure wellness is a direction as much as it is a destination or state of being.

“Wellness is the pursuit of a healthy balanced lifestyle.” That’s simple and easy to understand. But, again I think wellness is more a destination than a pursuit.

Be All You Can Be

I do think the US Army slogan could be used as an appropriate definition of wellness: “Be all you can be.” All of those are pretty simple words to understand and the message strikes at the very essence of wellness. “Be all you can be”.  Be as healthy as can be. Be the best person you can be. I like the Army slogan as a definition of wellness. But, it is still more words than necessary. Now for my one word definition of wellness.

One Word Definition of Wellness

If you were to ask several individuals, especially middle-aged an up, and asked them what do they want most from their health, and if you took all those varied responses and try to summarize them with one word, I think that one word would be ENERGY!  That’s right, ENERGY!  And, it makes perfect sense, since energy is life. Life ceases the moment we stop making energy. And, the more energy you have, the more well you are. It’s that simple.

What is Wellness?

So what is a high level of well-being when devoid of all unnecessary jargon? It is ENERGY. A high level of well-being is about aging energetically. How we eat, how we exercise, and the health practices we engage all affect how well we make energy and how well we use it. By eating healthier you provide your body with high-octane fuel to burn. By exercising you make your body more efficient burning energy.

You can do more and go farther on a smaller tank of gas. And, by restoring you hormones to optimal levels your further improve your body’s ability to process food, produce energy in the power packs of the cells – the mitochondria, and burn energy more efficiently.

Healthy aging is dying at the slowest rate possible and for that to happen we must maintain energy levels.

Remember:  Wellness = energy and energy  = wellness



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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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