For almost 30 years of my life, healthy meant being thin. At all of 5’1” I believed, the more I exercised and the less calories I ate, the more weight I would lose. Or the less weight I would gain, the healthier I would be. What I did not realize at the time is that true health is much more than that. It is more than food and exercise, calories in and calories out. It is about having more energy, preventing disease, thriving, and feeling alive in all aspects of my life.
If you want to live a life with less illness and more energy, the key is to create an environment that will help your body to heal, get well, stay well, and thrive.
Here are my top health foundations that may help you navigate the waters and discover the healthiest version of you. Some of them may seem redundant, boring, and not so sexy. However, I promise if you try each one of these and commit to building these into your daily routines, you will begin to see the positive changes in your health.
Increase Sustainable Nutrition
No matter what else is at play, nutrition heals. Begin simply with the goal of eating real, whole, nutrient-rich foods. Explore and document what you are working on to try and what you love. Where possible, focus on positive additions versus a lot of restrictions, especially upfront. Restrictions = Not Fun + Lots of Rules. Understand clearly what you are typically consuming daily. If needed, try using a food log (~3 days at most). Don’t try to be ‘good’; just be honest and detailed.
Introduce more vegetables
Include vegetables at every meal, even breakfast. Not only do we need nutrients such as vitamin A, C, D, E, magnesium, potassium, calcium etc. We need more of Vitamin J(Joy) and Vitamin L(Love). The importance of daily, unapologetic, guilt-free joy. Do not ask permission from or explain to others. Do not just save joy for the weekends. Every single day find joy in something you genuinely connect to. Ask, “If you knew your life would be over in 5 years, what would your chosen, daily routine look like?” Are you part of something larger than yourself that lifts your heart and inspires your soul?
Move in the direction of more clean water. Primarily in between meals.
Good eating hygiene is important for digestion. Treat eating as sacred/meditation. Do not eat while distracted, not in the car, not at your desk while answering phones and emails. Sitting down, at a table, with no TV or cell phone, take 5 minutes to express gratitude for your food, smell it, look at the colors and textures, and fully chew your food. Chewing your food at least 20 times will help your body to break down the food so that your body can digest and absorb the nutrients needed for your unique body. Connect to how the food you have chosen to eat makes you feel during, immediately afterward, and2-3 hours later.
Rest does not just mean sleep. It means finding activities during the day to help the body to reset. Relaxation walks for fun and fresh air (vs. “exercise”), naps, freedom to just be. Just like eating, bedtime rituals are important to quality restorative sleep. How is the temperature in the room? The lighting? Is it dark enough? Removing all electronics, including the TV will help the body’s nervous system to enter a state of “rest and digest”. Identifying things in your life that you are grateful and writing them down in a journal before bed, is a great way to clear negativity from the day.
Stress Relief and Mindfulness Solutions
Make an honest effort to take inventory and define tangible actions to change the major stressors in your life. This includes your thoughts and those “ANTS”, automatic negative thoughts. This is the place to bring in more joy and laughter. Laughterstrengths your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protectsyou from the damaging effects of stress. Turn off the news and accept the“present” moment of what-is. Take a walk-in nature and notice the colors, the scents, and the sounds that surround you. Include other forms of movement throughout your day, begin a gratitude journal, and breathe. Taking deep breaths when you feel anxious and tense, will help your nervous system to immediately go from an “anxious and excited state” to a relaxed state that will help you feel more grounded in the moment.
A sedentary lifestyle – all by itself –promotes dis-ease. Your physiology is stimulated by movement and activity. It is not about how many minutes or hours you spend in the gym. It is about incorporating movement into the normal course of your life. Instead of fighting someone for the closest parking spot to the entrance, save yourself the stress of getting annoyed and aggravated and park at the end of the parking lot. Incorporate movement while you are watching TV and do a set of squats during the commercial breaks. Set a timer at your desk for 25 minutes and when that alarm rings, move; jumping jacks, march in place, stretch for just 5 minutes. The key is to build on what you already enjoy, ensuring sustainability. It is ok to start low and slow.
Cultivating Love and Care of Self
Celebrating and honoring your truths. Including what makes you unique. What makes you happy and not what others are telling you should make you happy. Becoming aware of what “your” body needs, what your body is telling you. See symptoms as a gift. It is your body calling to you. To listen to it and cultivate an awareness and desire to respond lovingly with change until there is relief. Honoring when your body is asking for an earlier bedtime or a day off from work.
What are you really hungry for? Are you desiring more adventure, acceptance, freedom, touch, and affection? Maybe it is more movement, spending more time outdoors, experiencing something new, finding and expressing your artistic side, or just being “naughty.” Explore behaviors that will celebrate your unique and wonderful self, instead of suppressing your true needs by self-medicating with numbing activities.
Your skin is your biggest ‘mouth’. Consider your personal hygiene products, lotions, makeup, hair care supplies. The skin absorbs the chemicals directly into our body. Do not put something on your skin that you would not eat. Medications can be blessings but are all toxins, so avoid unnecessary ones. Go through your home and look at items that contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals (e.g., glyphosate, BPA), home cleaning products, cookware, and heavy metals.
Create an environment so your body can become well and stay well. That environment needs to be created based on ‘your’ unique body. Do not let others tell you what you should do. Do not get caught up in social media and the success stories of quick weight loss. Look at this list and choose one area you feel you can start to become curious about to try and explore. It is not about trying and failing, it is about experimenting until you find what works for your body, mind, and soul.