10/31/2012 08:46 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2012

The Recipe for Better Health Doesn't Always Begin in the Kitchen

I'm stepping out of the kitchen today to address how the recipe for better health doesn't always begin there. In speaking with others, it would seem that many of us simply have too many pots to watch at any one given time, and that's not a healthy kitchen -- it's a recipe for disaster!

Are there patterns of behavior that contribute to poor health? You bet! I know, because I had been stuck in my own unhealthy patterns for years. I knew that in order to save my life, I needed to break those patterns and develop and promote healthier ones.

I'm known for my healthy recipes, and I am living proof that food plays a very important role in our ongoing health -- but it's only one part of becoming whole. There are other vital areas that make up a healthy lifestyle -- especially when healing from a life-threatening illness. The best pattern to develop is one of maintaining good health in every area of your life -- and this requires balance!

It often occurs to me that I can help people change to a more plant-based way of eating, but unless they change some of their less-than-healthy (or what I see as energy-draining) habits, there won't be enough energy remaining from which their body can draw to complete the healing process. Eating well and plant-based is a biggie, of course, but it's just one of the healthy patterns that I help people develop on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

Remember: To obtain and maintain great health, you need a multi-pronged, well-balanced approach. A healthy balance allows for overall healthier results.

Overdoing is a behavior pattern that I participated in -- big time! It ties into the inability to say "no." Sound familiar? I remember having two young children, being "volunteered out" to the max, feeling completely exhausted by having to drive the kids everywhere, shop for the groceries and other necessities, and meet my family's needs inside the home while fulfilling commitments outside the home -- and still continuing to push myself beyond that point. Each day, I forced my exhausted body out of the car to squeeze in the one last chore, one more appointment, or one more obligation. If you said jump, I'd ask how high? I had very little time for myself, but lots of time for other people. Looking back, I was killing myself over some really meaningless things -- sacrificing my own health in an attempt to please others. I would just have another cup of coffee to keep me going. Eventually, when I couldn't sleep... I took sleeping pills. Then it was hit the coffee first thing next morning to help me feel more awake... Get the picture?

Don't get me wrong, helping others can bring us great joy, but we have to watch that we don't overdo and risk being of no help to anyone. By scheduling time for ourselves, we are able to be both helpful and healthy.

My client, Susan, was a victim (and prime example) of what I call "energy drain" -- the one-way flow of energy. Susan told me that she was driving the carpool to her children's school and had to race to get out of the house every morning. It had all started as what seemed like a helpful and good idea: a carpool wherein one day she would pick up her friend's children and, along with her own, drive them to school, and then pick them all up again in the afternoon. On alternating days, the friend would drive. But, as time went by, her friend seemed to have more and more to do and eventually, Susan found herself driving all of the children -- every day. For three-quarters of a year, Susan was the sole "carpooler" and along with the driving, she also had to get out of the car and wait in line with the children for half an hour until they were dismissed and released by the school. It drained her energy until she finally discovered the courage to call her neighbor and state that she needed that extra time in her also busy day, that she needed time to be alone with her own children and not have to rush every single morning of the school term. Finally, she stopped the one-way flow of energy, developing a healthier pattern of behavior in her life by promoting a healthier balance.

Being aware of where our energy goes and rearranging our lives to promote balance is a great recipe for better health.

You've probably heard it said, "We need to put on our own oxygen masks -- first!" This is exactly what I'm talking about. Include making time for yourself, and seriously consider downsizing your life. Don't try to find the time -- make the time, especially if you are in the midst of a life-threatening illness. If you're already making time for plant-based cooking... Don't stop there. Make time to rest and relax. Make time to reflect and reward. Make time to break unhealthy patterns and introduce new ones -- even if it means that someone else will have to pitch in and do his or her share. Adding one more activity to your already-burdening schedule is not life-enhancing, but removing the pattern of overdoing can be life-saving.

I encourage you to say "no" -- and mean it! End the craziness of over-scheduling yourself and overdoing. It won't magically happen -- you must have the strength and courage to take that first step and make a conscious effort to drop one activity or an obligation (or many obligations). Promoting a healthier balance in your life starts with you putting on your own oxygen mask -- first! And in taking back the energy you so desperately need to help you heal, you will discover the better recipe for better health.

Have you changed an energy-draining habit in your own life? Would you consider changing some less-than-healthy patterns of behavior? Tell us about it here in the comments section of my article.

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