Why You Need a Health Ally

While a few people seem to be blessed with lifelong good health, many of us struggle to stay healthy, even when we put a lot of effort into caring for our bodies. As a chronic illness sufferer myself, I know how difficult and frustrating it can be to have recurring symptoms despite doing so much to heal myself.

I named my business “My Health Ally” because I’ve come to realise how important it is to have allies when we’re in the healing process. We simply can’t do it alone, no matter how much we believe we should be self-sufficient. Last winter I was in the depths of a Crohn’s disease flare-up, and feeling frustrated that I was able to help so many of my patients recover from illness, but couldn’t seem to help myself. That’s when it hit me that I simply can’t give myself the same kind of help as I give my patients; I needed to receive it from someone else. I finally understood how important it is to reach out for help, and how much I needed someone to help me, even if I knew exactly what I should be doing.

So why is it that we often need outside help in order to stay healthy? I believe that, while our bodies have the capacity to heal, there are many reasons that having a health ally can really speed up the process. From the illness-causing influence of modern life and the challenges of changing bad habits, to the placebo effect of a care provider, this blog post is all about why we need help when we’re healing, and how we can get it.

Health Allies Help Us Stay On-Track in an Unhealthy Society

Modern life is, in many ways, bad for our health. From high-stress levels to junk food, everywhere we turn there seems to be encouragement to do things that are bad for our bodies. If we don’t actively make an effort to counteract these influences, we’re likely to make poor choices because it’s more convenient. It’s so easy to slip into the habit of not exercising, for example, because we generally don’t have to. When you come home from work exhausted, with your mind churning about the things you didn’t get round to, it’s a lot easier to eat a pizza in front of the TV instead of doing what your body needs: getting some exercise to clear the stress from your body and mind, eating veggies for dinner, and doing some relaxation practices so you can get a good night’s sleep.

To counter these bad cultural habits, we need to surround ourselves with health allies – not just a health practitioner, but friends and family too. Making plans with a friend to go for a walk or to a yoga class makes you less likely to skip it when you’re having a bad day (which is when you need it the most). Getting your partner on board with a healthy eating plan makes it much easier to change your diet, and you can support each other in getting healthy. If your friends or family aren’t interested in creating healthier habits, try to find at least one friend who can be your health ally, or join an online group for support. You don’t have to do it alone!

Habit Change is Easier When You Have a Health Ally

Given how much we’re encouraged by cultural norms to have poor habits in terms of diet, stress, and exercise, we all need to actively cultivate healthy habits. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done, as you know if you’ve ever committed to a new exercise regime, only to fall off the wagon permanently after a few days or weeks. Our habits are wired into our brains, making them automatic much of the time.

As Charles Duhigg writes in his book, The Power of Habit, it’s much more effective to start slowly. That’s why health kicks usually don’t last – after the initial burst of motivation wears off, the new habits are so different from your old ways that it takes too much energy to sustain them and you slide back. Starting small – for example with 5 or 10 minutes of exercise rather than an hour – helps your brain to rewire itself for lasting change. Unfortunately, it’s harder to get excited about 5 minutes than it is about a huge overhaul, so you don’t get the same surge of motivational energy and it’s harder to get up the enthusiasm to start. Quite the conundrum.

This is where a health ally can make the difference between success and failure. A health ally, whether a friend or a professional, helps give you the initial motivation and accountability when that motivation flags. One of the big reasons why health coaching has become so popular, and why I’ve now incorporated it into my practice, is that a good coach can devise a plan that will lead to lasting change and help you stick with it until it becomes second nature. Committing to a program with a health coach gives you that exciting burst of motivation that is often missing from a habit change approach, and the ongoing support makes you much more likely to succeed at changing your health habits, even when you’ve failed in the past.

Health Allies Enhance the Placebo Effect

One of the reasons that I struggled to heal myself without outside help is that caring for ourselves feels very different from being cared for by others. The compassionate support of a trained health professional gives you the reassurance that you are being taken care of, which helps to relieve some of the stress caused by being ill. Once that stress is relieved, your body is much more likely to heal itself. This is often referred to as the placebo effect, which gets a bad rap but is actually a wonderful thing. This is our ability to heal ourselves, given the right circumstances. When we feel safe and supported, we can relax and heal.

A trusted health-care provider can make a big difference in the healing process.

A trusted health-care provider can make a big difference in the healing process.

Our culture highly values self-sufficiency and independence, and many of us, myself included, default to thinking that we should be able to fix everything ourselves. But when we’re unwell, especially if we’re suffering from chronic symptoms or facing a scary diagnosis, we often feel overwhelmed and it gets harder to know what to do or to make the right choices. When we’re ill, vulnerable, and afraid, we need the nurturance and support of a health ally more than ever. Finding someone to guide us through the process of healing frees up our energy – instead of worrying about what to do, we can relax and focus on getting well again.

Health Allies for Every Situation

If you’re pretty healthy right now and just want encouragement in creating healthier habits, start with friends and family. Think about what kind of lifestyle you want to live and, if you don’t know anyone who wants that too, go out and find them. Make new friends online or at a yoga studio. When you make plans with a friend, choose an activity that supports your health instead of depleting it.

For people with chronic or severe health issues, or if you’ve tried many times to exercise more or eat better without success, it’s time to reach out for help. Find a practitioner or coach that you feel comfortable with and who shares your values. Invest in your health, because health is the foundation for everything else.

Unfortunately, while many people need the one-on-one support of a professional health ally, not everyone can afford it. How can you find the ongoing help you need if you don’t have the money? This crucial issue is what led me to create online programs that teach people how to change their health habits and give them the daily support they need, in a way that’s more affordable. Next week, I’ll be launching my first online course, Rebalancing the 5 Elements for Lifelong Health. This is a 5 day program that you can cycle through as many times as you need, and teaches practices that transform our bodies and create good health. If you know you need help with your health but can’t afford treatment, an online course like this can give you the tools you need to change.

Wherever you are in your health journey, remember that we all need help sometimes. You don’t have to do it alone, and the internet has made it so much easier to connect with people. As much as possible, spend time with people who want to live a healthy lifestyle, and caring for your health will become so much easier.

Your health ally,


Moss Andrewes is an acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, specializing in women’s health and chronic illness. Originally from the UK and now residing in Canada, she is a writer, speaker, and event organizer, focusing on health, sustainable living and community. Her lifelong passion for making the world a happier, healthier place has led her through many adventures, including off-grid sustainable living, disaster relief, and various community health projects. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with her partner and two cats.

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