Kathleen Bohné Lowenstein
Living the good (and healthy) life in San Miguel de Allende
How do you define health? This is one of those words we all use a lot and think about little. Perhaps you would answer with the primary definition: absence of illness or injury. Others may use it to describe physical fitness or condition. Or is health defined by our biomarkers: blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart rate, HbA1c? The World Health Organization defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Does this holistic, almost aerial view of health resonate with you and your daily life? As a health coach, I contemplate this question and ask my clients to do the same. One way I like to think of health is as the balance between biological fate and individual choice. We are each endowed with a unique genetic makeup at birth, but this isn’t the only inheritance we bring with us into the world. We all carry our evolutionary past, the hardware that nature has been tinkering with for millennia. Our health as individuals is of course influenced by these biological and social forces beyond our own control. But today, some scientists estimate that only 20% of modern chronic disease can be attributed mostly to genetic factors, so where does the other 80% come from? Our environment and our choices, both of which can bend the course of biological destiny. In the womb we are all exposed to environmental influences via our mothers and even as we are birthed, so is our microbiome. As we grow, we carry our own genes and those of bacteria, viruses and fungi and create our own individual bodily ecosystem. We are also born into circumstances that may affect our environment and its positive or negative impact on our health.
But choices matter too. What and when we eat, how much we move, how much we sleep, how much we stress, how we engage in our community and in our relationships—all of these daily decisions add up incrementally to shape our health. These are the modifiable factors driving that 80% of chronic illness.
If our choices contribute so much to our health and longevity, how does living in San Miguel de Allende impact our “healthspan”? Let’s begin with food. We are blessed in San Miguel with an abundance of fresh local food as well as a rich gastronomic tradition. Whatever your inclinations—paleo, vegan, omnivore—you can find vibrant and nourishing food here. San Miguel is not only one of the premiere restaurant destinations in Mexico, it is a locus of sustainably farmed and foraged foods from grassfed, grass-finished beef to wild mushrooms to artisanal cheeses.
Whatever your inclinations—paleo, vegan, omnivore—you can find vibrant and nourishing food here.
How about movement and fitness? The historic Centro of San Miguel is a walking town. At nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, the altitude may affect some who are not accustomed to it, but it’s also a good place to train if you enjoy running or cycling. San Miguel’s mostly dry and temperate mountain climate lends itself to outside living year-round and encourages an active lifestyle.
I will have a hard time arguing that San Miguel is a good place to sleep since we all have experienced waking up to “cohetes” or roosters or late-night fiestas. But let’s be honest, most of us suffer more from voluntarily disrupting our sleep with Netflix binging than we do from nighttime noises. And you can always use ear plugs!
What San Miguel lacks in encouraging slumber it more than makes up for in terms of stress reduction and community involvement. The pace of life here can be adjusted as slow or fast as you like, though most find it an easier tempo than other parts of the world. Commutes are usually short, comidas are long and rushing gets you nowhere fast.
As a long-time resident, I believe this alluring energy flows from the town’s warm and diverse community.
San Miguel is often described as a magnet, an irresistible attraction. As a long-time resident, I believe this alluring energy flows from the town’s warm and diverse community. Opportunities abound not just for developing new friendships and socializing, but for contributing in an area of interest— whether that be supporting the local arts scene or one of the many non-profits devoted to public health and environmental causes. The depth of communal culture in this colonial Mexican city brings out our appreciation for public life, shared spectacles and cyclical celebrations of life and death. This may be the most vital of the foundational elements of health: filling up your psychological and emotional apothecary.
You will find that San Miguel has so much to offer as a place to explore your healthy, adventurous and fulfilled life.
By Kathleen Bohné Lowenstein
Certified Health Coach, Entrepreneur, & Writer