Wellness Weekly: The dangers of 'over-optimising' your health

Wellness Weekly: The dangers of 'over-optimising' your health


Don't get lost down the rabbit hole of health perfection.

One of the most interesting things about social media and the health landscape is the emergence of all these tools that propose to help you bulletproof your health and make you indestructible.

Ice baths, red light therapy, apps to check ingredients, an endless list of supplements...I'm sure you've seen it.

Now – of course I'm a big fan of health optimisation and living well, and there is nothing wrong with exploring certain modalities.

I myself have even explored some of them.

But with the constant barrage of things that you are told that will better your health, it's easy to get caught up in a cycle of what I call over-optimisation.

That being, trying to be seek 100% perfection in your health habits and dial in each and every single area of your life to the absolute max.

This can even show up as avoiding dinners with friends, obsessively checking ingredients for fear of being exposed to constant 'toxins', hopping on each and every single health 'trend' there is, and more.

It's an obsession with always wanting to stay in your routine wherever you are; you could even call it an unhealthy obsession with being healthy.

Also known as orthorexia nervosa, and I think this could be problematic for a few reasons.

An unhealthy obsession with being healthy could actually be detrimental to you

Health practices should equal robustness

The main problem of over-optimisation is that in my opinion, the whole point of being health-conscious is to make yourself robust enough to not have to obsess over whether certain ingredients will harm you.

You should be able to go out and enjoy dinners/gatherings with friends without worrying about what a single meal outside of your usual routine will do to you.

Because if you truly are healthy, you'll have a clarity in your mind and a mental state that recognises that occasionally stepping out of a sustainable, health-focused routine will have zero negative impact.

Secondly, another problem I have with over-optimising every single area of your health each and every single moment of the day is that it fails to recognise basic human biology.

If you are consistently dialling in healthy practices 90% of the time (I even think the majority of people could succeed at 80%) then the last 10% is ultimately negligible in how it impacts you.

Beneficial stress through training and eating a nutrient-rich diet provides a hormetic effect to the body – adaptations to strengthen the body.

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Think about this: if someone who was overweight/obese, had Type 2 Diabetes and a whole host of other metabolic problems, and they went to the gym once every couple of months, what would happen?

Obviously nothing.

The reverse applies – if you dial in your health with consistency throughout the year without over-optimising, you can have that cheesecake at the occasional dinner with friends without freaking out over ingredients.

What's the takeaway here then?

Obviously this isn't a call to let your standards around health slip.

You absolutely should want to control your environment (when it is in your control) and make it easy to choose the healthy decision.

I don't advise going on weekend benders, overdoing it on junk foods at the weekend and slowing down with your training – just because Monday-Friday you are dialled in.

Keep things locked in when it is in your control.

But life brings with it it's fair share of birthdays, weddings, travel, gatherings and so on – scenarios where your routine may be broken up, and you might even be faced with eating foods you wouldn't normally eat, or potentially sleep later than you normally would.

And that's alright.

Sometimes life will bring situations that may pull you out of routine - and thats alright

It's better to enjoy company and community with friends than to completely avoid that (community is great for our health!) for fear of stepping out of routine.

Because if anything, that's perhaps even rooted in a fragility and a lack of trust in the human body.

No doubt if you have a specific reason – such as managing a health condition – then absolutely, be mindful and try to control your environment at all times.

But what if you're generally very healthy, sleep 8 hours in alignment with your circadian rhythm, train hard, recover well, eat an anti-inflammatory plant-rich diet and have built some really good relationships in your life?

You can afford to step out of routine once in a while with no worries at all.

All you need to do is bounce back, and go again.

Stay healthy,