When you want to make the switch to a healthier life style, it can be difficult trying to figure out where to get started. It takes a lot of brainpower, all that overthinking, reading, scrolling, watching how other people are doing it, researching macros and different diet plans. It can exhaust you before you even begin.
The simple answer, that few people want to hear is. Just start. Start anywhere that is a step up from where you are. You really don't have to make super dramatic changes to enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. As someone who LOVES to jump into the deep end and approach things in an "all or nothing" fashion, I hear you. I know, I know, I know.
"I just want to do it right."
"I want to feel better as soon as possible."
"I'm not sure what diet is right for me."
"I can't give up sugar/coffee/alcohol/carbs."
"I'll do good for a week or two and then get down on myself and stop trying."
"I hate vegetables."
"I hate drinking water."
"I don't like working out."
"I don't have the time to commit to a daily routine."
These are just some of the things I have heard from clients, friends, and some I have even told myself.
So, now that we are all in agreement that we are human and trying new things is hard, lets get into it. Where do I start on my health journey?
I am aiming to keep this post as simple as possible but there are a couple of things I want to at least give some recognition to.
Not everyone is the same. We are all bio-individual. What that means is what works for me may not work for you. This includes food, exercise and spirituality.
Some people are sicker than others. I was one of the very sick people and needed a very structured diet + environment to see improvements, I understand.
It's incredibly common to want to "re-start" every Monday, you are not alone. My goal with myself and with clients that I coach is to be gentle + understanding but also dig a little deeper to find out what's behind the waning enthusiasm or a habit you just can't break.
Now that that has been taken care of, let's dive into it.
There are a million different diet plans, experts, nutritionists and blogs about how and what to eat, however there are a few main key points that everyone can agree on.
Hydration. Everyone benefits from drinking more water. Ideally you should be drinking HALF your body weight in ounces of water. For example: I weigh 150 pounds, so I should be drinking 75 ounces of water DAILY. Personally, I like to drink out of 32 ounce mason jars using a straw. Trust me, the straw will make you want to drink more water. It is very important to filter your water. I could do a whole post on why tap water is toxic to the body but needless to say, it's loaded with heavy metals, antibiotics, chemicals and other drugs that get flushed down the pipeline. If you're curious about the quality of your water, I encourage you to check out the Environmental Working Group's website here. Adding lemon or lime is a great way to add flavor and vitamin C to your water, stimulate digestion and even help with elimination.
Eat your vegetables. All diets across the board from vegan to keto incorporate vegetables. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. They are also a rich source of dietary fiber which can help you have better bowel movements as well as lower blood pressure and your risk for other diseases. I can't emphasize how important vegetables are, not just for your gut but for your teeth as well. Due to the over processed Standard American Diet, many people are experiencing more cavities as well as weaker teeth and jaw bones, sinus problems and even smaller mouths. Our ancestors ate a much "tougher" diet through foraging and eating many foods raw. Because of this they developed stronger jaws which increased their airways and helped them breathe better! I highly recommend reading "Breath" by James Nestor for more information on this, it is fascinating!
Movement. Exercise is vital for our bodies and minds. It doesn't matter what kind of exercise you do, it's just important that you do something. Weight bearing exercises offer a multitude of health benefits, especially for bone health. You can check out more exercise varieties and benefits here. Daily movement can be a brisk walk, yoga, lifting weights or even golfing. We need to move our bodies in order to generate critical fresh oxygen to our blood cells for tissue and organ health, not to mention, we feel better about ourselves overall when we're moving. Start with getting 3,000 steps in daily. That's about a 30 minute walk around the block. Next, work up to 10,000 steps and go from there! Movement is critical for our mental health as much as our physical heath. When we get our bodies moving we release endorphins which literally give our brains happy drugs. In fact, the word "endorphin" is a combination of the word "endogenous" meaning, from the body and "morphine" which is an opiate pain reliever. Check out more on endorphins here.
Stress Reduction. Stress affects ALL AREAS OF YOUR BODY. It may even be the most important factor that is often ignored or downplayed when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Stress affects everything from cardiovascular health to digestion and most importantly, these days, your IMMUNE system. Yes, stress can actually lower your immune system. So if it's that important then why do we often skimp on stress management in our wellness routine? I have some thoughts on this. Stress is often linked to many of our essential daily rituals and bad habits. It is also commonly associated with jobs, relationships, children, finances, trauma and other uncontrollable aspects of our daily life. These aspects of our daily lives, really our entire being cannot always be washed away with a 3 day juice cleanse or a couple celery sticks. They are often intangible, repeated and unconscious behaviors or thought patterns that can silently keep us locked in a stress cycle without us even being conscious of it. Of course there are ways we can address our stress. Meditation is a simple yet powerful tool for bringing our bodies into a state of relaxation and switching our bodies from a sympathetic or "fight or flight" to parasympathetic or "rest and digest" mode. My personal favorite apps for meditation are InsightTimer, Headspace and Calm. Other stress reducing tips include: turning off the news, avoiding stimulants (sorry coffee/spicy foods), walking barefoot, getting sunshine, laughing, hugging and eating a healthy diet and exercising.
Reduce or eliminate processed foods. This one might be hard for people to hear but it is important for many different reasons. Yes, processed foods are convenient and delicious. They are also highly inflammatory and contain added oils, sugars, salts and preservatives. If it comes in a package, it is processed. There are definitely "healthier alternatives" but even these should be avoided and scrutinized when consumed. Big brands pay big bucks to have their foods marketed as "healthy" when in reality that couldn't be further from the truth. If you've ever been to the "health food" section of the grocery store and actually read the food labels, you may not find them to be all that healthy. Not to mention, if grocery stores have a "health food" section, what the heck are they selling in the rest of the store?? The reality is, sometimes packaged foods are necessary and may not be able to be avoided completely. This is coming from someone who spent about 2 years making all of their own food and carrying it around with them wherever they went. It's a lot of work and sometimes added stress, I understand. If you are going to eat processed foods, try for those with less than 5 ingredients and ones you can pronounce. Avoid "natural flavors" (aka MSG in most cases) "canola oil" and "high fructose corn syrup" and "added sugar." There are more but this is a great place to start!
Now that we have covered the basics, it's time to get started! Even just doing 1 of the 5 things on this list can make a huge impact on your health and how you feel during the day. If you are struggling with low energy, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances, mental health, high blood pressure, weight gain or anything that is robbing you of your joy, I encourage you to try incorporating one or more of these foundational health habits! You may surprise yourself and learn a few things along the way!
Information and links contained in this blog are for educational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice.