When did being healthy become so darn complicated? It seems like every month there is a new diet trend coming out. And every diet trend has this new research to back it up. How is that even possible?
“Nutrition is the only field in which you can prove two opposing theories”- Joshua Rosenthal. The first time I read this quote made me think: it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Health is a human being’s natural state, not some unachievable way of being. The problem is, with a big portion of the people living in our industrialized world being sick, health has become a huge industry. Don’t get me wrong I’d much rather support the health care system than the sick care system, but I still think we need to demystify health.
Health is not something to achieve but rather something you build everyday. And yes, we may as well say it now, diet IS important. But it is far from the only factor involved in a healthy life. Health is a whole, and we need to look at all of its parts.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
- Eat less junk and eat more real food. While this may seem pretty obvious, I couldn’t right this article without mentioning it. I could also just say this: Just eat real food! What do I mean by that? The short answer is; eat one ingredient foods. Anything that your ancestors wouldn’t know what to do with, don’t touch it! If it comes in a box, there’s a pretty good chance it’s crap. If there’s an ingredient list: read it! If ANY of the ingredients is unrecognizable, google it! There’s a pretty good chance that ingredient is some kind of chemical used as a preservative or emulsifier. And I beg of you: don’t let clever marketing fool you. Even if it says gluten-free, low-fat (actually you should be worried especially when it’s labeled low-fat), organic, natural, or any of these unregulated or confusing terms; you still need to be careful. Many of these so called healthy foods are loaded with fillers, sugars and chemicals. I’m going to repeat this one more time: READ YOUR LABELS! Eat foods that don’t require one, aka, vegetables and fruits. Notice how I said vegetables and fruits instead of fruits and vegetables. Because you should eat wayyyy more vegetables than fruits. Fruits are delicious, and some of them (berries and other low GI fruits) are even pretty healthy, but most of them have nowhere near as many phytonutrients as vegetables annnnnd they have a lot more sugars. I’m not saying fruits are evil, I’m just saying, eat them in moderation. Instead, load up on veggies, especially the green leafy kind: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, dandelion greens, mizuna, etc. Or sulphur rich vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks, garlic, cabbage, etc. These vegetables are not only loaaaded with disease-fighting anti-oxidants but are super rich in fiber which helps digestion and is amazing for your gut health. When it comes to eating veggies, try to eat as local and seasonal as possible, and don’t be afraid to mix it up, your gut loves bio-diversity! And allow me to let you in on a little secret….By simply eating more vegetables you will inevitably eat less junk, that is just a fact! Also, the more real food you eat and the less junk food you will crave. Trust me you will be so full and satisfied that you are not going to want all the crap you usually eat! On that note I encourage you to find some veggies that you do like and to learn to prepare them in a healthy and enjoyable manner. You are much more likely to stay on the vegetable track if you are enjoying it than if you are trying to force some kale down your throat. What do you say? Sounds easy enough right?!
- Drink more water. I cannot emphasize this one enough. People today are so massively dehydrated and have no idea of how profoundly it can impact their health and their energy level on a daily basis. In fact many studies report that anywhere between 60 to 75% of adults are significantly dehydrated. That’s a scary percentage. That number means YOU are probably dehydrated too! So I invite you, next time you have a headache or you just feel tired or have brain-fog, to drink a tall glass of water. And then 15 minutes later, drink another one. You might be shocked to find out you feel a lot better afterwards. Just as a reminder, you should aim at drinking 2 litres of water a day. Notice how I said water? Not pop, not juice, not coffee. Just pure H2O. Find ways to make it a habit by carrying a bottle with you and knowing how many times you have to fill it to get your 2 litres. If you stay at home have a 2L container full of water either in the fridge or room temperature and make sure it’s empty at the end of the day. These little tricks will probably show you two things. First one is you will realize how little you were drinking. And secondly you will feel so much better. Just do it, it’s a total game-changer!
- Sleep. I know this one is a doozy, because most of us don’t get nearly enough. We all know that we should be getting 8 hours a night, but yet most of us rarely get that. Yet sleep is probably more important for your general well-being than the food you eat, or at least just as important. Research shows that sleep improves your memory, supports weight loss, increases longevity, improves your mood, reduces inflammation, reduces stress and keeps hormones at a healthy level. I’m just giving this to you in a nutshell but the list of benefits is long, and you shouldn’t underestimate the positive impact that proper snoozing has on your health. You might be one of those people with super-human powers who can function on 5-6 hours a night in which case I have something to tell you: It will catch up to you one day. And honestly even if you can function on that little sleep, imagine how you would do on 8. I don’t know about you but “functioning” is not my ideal state. I like to thrive, and move through my day feeling full of energy and focus. Yeah, sleep does that. If you are reading this and thinking you’re simply not a good sleeper, I implore you to not give up. All of us a naturally good sleepers, but some of our daily habits might interfere with that. For example: I know that having caffeine after about 2 in the afternoon will most likely mess up with my sleep. For some people, that’s not a problem, but everyone’s body doesn’t react the same, and it’s up to you to be aware of your own patterns and how they affect you.
- Get moving. It can be really difficult to get started on an exercise routine, trust me, I know. You know how some people just seem like they were born athletes? I was never one of those people. I was always that kid in Phys Ed who pretended to be sick just to avoid doing whatever we were supposed to do. True story. I just hated exercise. At some point in my life I started feeling guilty about being so inactive so I signed up for the gym and went almost every day for a while. In all honesty, I really despised it. It was dreadful. Running on a treadmill, lifting weights, jumping ropes, ugh, boring! Needless to say it didn’t last very long. But as boring as it was, going to the gym had the benefit of giving me that little boost of hormones called endorphins (aka happy hormones) and when I stopped going, my hormones weren’t happy. I needed the boost again. I wanted to find something that would be enjoyable and therefore become somewhat effortless. A friend of mine dragged me to yoga, and long story short I fell in love. See being active shouldn’t be a chore or something you have to force yourself to do. It should be your favourite moment of the day. Try to see it as your down time or your reward for working so hard, instead of seeing it as a punishment for eating a box of cookies. Changing your perspective on this is really important. “Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate”. You’re getting my gist? Find something that you can enjoy instead of torturing yourself. I am not saying that being active and exercising is always a walk in the park. Sometimes you are out of breath and sweaty and disgusting and wonder why the hell you are doing it. But the reward is so worth it. That feeling of pride and satisfaction is so amazing and will become addictive very quickly if you just suffer through the first little bit. So go ahead and try something new, you might just become one of those people who love exercising too!
- Stress management. This one is by far the most overlooked component of a healthy life, yet it is just as important (or perhaps even more) than everything else we talked about. We ALL deal with stress. I don’t know one single human being on this earth that can say that their life is completely worry-free. Of course stress could be measured on a pretty wide scale and some situations are more difficult than others, but the only thing that really matters is how you manage it. And I’ll let you in on something; three of the four points we just covered may just be your best allies when it comes to dealing with tension. That’s right, what you eat, the quality and length of your sleep, and exercise are all super important tools to help you deal with everyday problems. Now these 3 points are just the foundation for better stress management but we all need to incorporate more ways to de-stress into our lives. For some people that may be meditation, for others it might be signing or writing, whatever that thing may be for you, find it! I call that therapy. Everybody could use some. My favorite forms of therapy are yoga and being in nature. What are yours?
- Create your happiness. When people think about their health, they mostly think of anything related to their body; nutrition, exercise, sleep,etc. Yet if you take a look around you, you may notice that the individuals with the best health, the ones that are rarely ever sick, are often the ones that seem to be the happiest. Think that’s a coincidence? Happiness is not something that you find or that finds you, it’s something you create. Happy people know that. In each and every situation you encounter every day, you have a choice. You can see the good, or the bad. You can smile or frown. You can be kind or you can be rude. You can feel grateful, or entitled. Have you ever noticed how each one of these small decisions has a snowball effect? Or how much better you feel physically when you feel happy? The mind and the body might be two separate entities but they work as a whole. A Harvard study “suggests that certain personal attributes—whether inborn or shaped by positive life circumstances—help some people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression.” In other words, instead of waiting to have the perfect body and flawless health to be happy, try cultivating happiness in everyday situations and observe how it changes your health.
Well, I think we covered our basics. See? It’s no rocket science. No need to get all scientific or to read every new study on diet that comes out. Health can be simple. It IS simple. Eat real food, drink lots of water, sleep well, move as often as you can, find a way to manage stress, and cultivate happiness, every, single day. 🙂