Is it for your own good?

by Simon Evans - Date: 2007-03-08 - Word Count: 651 Share This!

Copyright 2007 The Brain Code LLC

With all the healthy stuff that my wife and I have been doing lately, my 10-year old son has become very health conscious. He will often ask me 'Is this good for me?' I always find this a difficult question to answer because there are very few things that are 100% good for you or 100% bad for you. Everything is really on a sliding scale. But it seems like many people are looking for the same information - what is good and what is bad.

Some good, some bad.

A cyanide pill, for example, is 100% bad for you - take one and you will die very quickly. On the other side of the continuum is something like a glass of pure, uncontaminated water, which is close to 100% good for you. But most everything else falls somewhere in between.

Even a cheeseburger and fries meal has some stuff in it that is good for you - like protein. But it has more bad stuff than good and is overall not good for you. There are much better sources of protein.

On the other side of the coin is something like strenuous exercise. It is good for you cardiovascular system and your brain but it may cause stress on joints and muscles. Overall, it is more good than bad but you can't fully classify it as one or the other.

Then there are things like coffee, chocolate and wine. Every time there is a new study, the media plugs the results promoting either the benefits or the consequences of these. Just last week a study found that coffee has a good dose of soluble fiber that is good for you digestive system. But the bottom line is that coffee has over 1,000 different molecules in it and some are good and some are not.

How does it make you feel?

Another thing that you need to take into account is how the food or exercise makes you feel. Your mood controls stress hormones in your blood and in your brain that affects how good or bad for you that experience really is. If drinking a cup of coffee in the morning makes you feel good then that in and of itself has some benefit.

This adds a factor of individual differences to the positive or negative nature of any meal or experience. Some people get a huge thrill jumping out of airplanes. They induce a brain chemistry that makes them feel alive and probably has beneficial effects. If I were to jump out of an airplane, I would activate my stress response so strongly that I would probably do some cardiac damage, assuming I survived the trip down.

There is whole field of medicine emerging that relates to how your thoughts and feelings control your body. Your immune system, your digestive system, your stress system and your brain chemistry are all impacted by what you believe and how you feel. In fact, there is an entire medical journal that I read regularly called Psychosomatic Medicine devoted to this topic.

Enjoyment maximizes benefit

The point of all of this is that you need to find a diet and exercise program that is mostly good for you and that you actually enjoy. If you try to stick to something that you have to drag yourself through it won't work. Not only will you eventually give up, but you probably won't get the full health benefit either because you'll be stressed out and upset all the time.

This is not an endorsement of just going out there and eating comfort foods and sitting around playing video games all day because they make you feel good. You have to find the happy medium. You have to find relatively healthy foods and a physical activity that you enjoy. Healthy living should not be a chore - it should be a privilege. Approach it in this way and you will live a long healthy and happy life.

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