What is Health?




Health, my friends, is made up of many things. I think, many times, we tend to see food as the starting point of wellness. I know I do. Over the last seven years or so I have become very interested in how the things we choose to eat and drink affect our health.


We know, on a cognitive level, that what we ingest makes a difference. We know carrots are healthier to snack on than potato chips. We know drinking water is better than drinking soda (or alcohol). We know, for the most part, what to eat. And yet we choose to do something that is not in our best interest. “This little bit won’t hurt,” we tell ourselves. “Just this one,” we say time and time again.


But those times add up. We engage in these behaviors more often than we think we will. And then we wonder where the weight came from, how the glucose levels have become too big, and how we no longer feel as well as we once did.


Yes, food is important. But it is not all there is to health and wellness.


Joshua Rosenthal understands this. He seems to understand we, more often than not, think primarily of food when we think of health and yet that there is more to it than food alone. Rosenthal is the founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and in his book, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness, he writes about Primary Foods.


Primary Foods are not what you might first think they’d be. You might think, like I did, that Rosenthal meant food groups such us fruits and vegetables and grains and proteins, etc. But he is reaching further than that into wellness and health. In addition to healthy eating, the Primary Foods for Rosenthal are Relationships, Physical Activity, Career, and Spirituality. These areas of life are very important to overall health according to Rosenthal and I tend to agree with him. It reminded me of the Mindy-Body-Spirit connection we have heard about forever and that is why I used the graphic at the top of this post.


But these Primary Foods go further (or perhaps expand beyond?) than the traditional triad. If we think about it, we can easily see how each of these Primary Foods contribute to overall health and wellness.


Good Relationships make a very positive impression on our health. We have all probably been in relationships which were less positive and remember how hurtful to our health those times were. Contrast that with how a good relationship helps us feel. This Primary Food is not always a romantic relationship but can you remember when you were completely enthralled in romantic love? I’ll bet it added quite a boost to how you felt about life. And conversely, if you have experienced the loss of a relationship you did not want to end, you have realized a pain in life where it is initially difficult to find a good feeling anywhere.


Good Relationships can have additional benefits to health. We will often discontinue a poor health behavior when a loved one requests that we do so. When relationships are steady we are often steady as individuals — we are calmer and cooler. And good relationships provide someone to talk to when other areas of life are not going so well. While good relationships are often difficult to maintain as they go through their natural ebbs and flows, they are also often worth the effort for health and wellness (plus additional benefits).


We all know that Physical Activity is important to health and wellbeing. And yet it is often the last thing on our “list of things” that take priority in our lives. I believe this is because we try to make or do too much physical activity. By that I mean we create unrealistic expectations of what we must do to be physically active so we wind up doing nothing at all.


My suggestion is to do what you can. There is actually a point of diminishing returns with physical activity. However, most folks are nowhere near that mark. Consistency is helpful. Make it part of your routine. But Do Something…


Now, because I don’t like my posts to be super-long. I’m going to write my thoughts about the Primary Foods of Career and Spirituality next week. I have several things to say about both these areas of health so hope you’ll stay with me as we examine those two areas of health next time.


But before you go, I wonder, do you have an example of how Relationships or Physical Activity has made a positive impact on your health and wellness? Please post a comment below.


And, if you have, in any way, found this post to be helpful, I’d be very appreciative if you would let others know. This link will help others sign up for these free updates:



Until next time,


I wish you Peace!


Russell Elleven

The Minister of Health




  • Carla

    My most recent concern has been my thoughts. Are they physical or mental or even spiritual? They are definitely real and sometimes out of control. It’s not exactly either or thinking but more insidious. It’s doubt. I doubt my ability my competence even my reality. Lots of stress moving to FL. Love it hate it. Just one tiny item. There are bugs called no see ums. They are almost invisibly tiny but they sting like a bee then are gone. They are outside and get me. I think they are inside too. I am constantly scratching rubbing my skin. I imagine they are on my bed on the sofa in the kitchen. Everywhere. Am I imagining them? I used to be peaceful and happy. I am working on a mantra to keep calm while vacuuming everywhere again and washing down all surfaces. I am calm and peaceful and it is hard work. Breathing is good.

  • Carla Hardy

    I definitely know that physical activity keeps me alive and well. After my first heart event I started cardio rehab on my doctors suggestion at Baylor. i began with only 7 minutes on each machine, bike, treadmill elliptical.Since it was a four month program I got in the habit of exercising and that made all the difference. I later signed up for Jazzercise and spent an hour exercising 3-5 times a week for several years. Now that we’re in a new place we have machines available but I miss the support and encouragement of a group so I will find another exercise place and get started. Any activity helps me and I bet others feel better.

    • Yes, doing anything is better than nothing, right:-) I hope you are enjoying your new home, Carla!

      Wishing you well,