Practice makes perfect, and as we enter a new year, it’s always great to create some new habits to make our lives healthier ones. Here are just a few – but keep in mind, if they’re new ones to you, it’s gonna take about 21 days of focused work to turn them into healthy habits! And what’s 21 days for a lifetime of goodness?
Wear a step-tracking device to promote an active lifestyle A sedentary lifestyle is one of the top 3 contributors to chronic disease, so find news ways to get out and move everyday! A step-tracking device is a helpful tool to remind you to get up and go. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but somehow when it’s on your wrist, you just become more aware of how you move! And moving – NOT how you choose to move – is the key to a non-sedentary life! Whatever it is for you – walking, running, stepping, dancing, skipping, playing with your dog, vacuuming to music – get your move on! And aim for 10,000 steps a day. I like to play games with myself to keep myself going – like doing pushups or jumping jacks during commercial breaks of a ballgame. By the end of the game, I’ve racked up a lot of extra effort!
Drink water, and make it filtered Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy built-in device or a pitcher with a filter that you bought at your local Target, water hydrates your body and is vital to good health! Water removes harmful toxins from the body, helps the body metabolize essential nutrients, and plays a critical role in almost every bodily function and is the lacking of it is the top trigger for fatigue, a fuzzy short-term memory, and focus. Because of the serious concern about hundreds of unregulated and regulated chemicals showing up in the tap water of over 42 states (yes, New York and California are on the top 10 list), it’s just safer and healthier to drink water that has been filtered.
Get to understand your food choices by reading labels and ingredient lists Americans spend an awful lot of time looking at fat and calories, when in reality, we should be looking at the quality of the food we are putting into our bodies by reading ingredient lists. The general rules to live by – 1) if it has more than 5 ingredients, question its value as a real food, 2) if you can’t easily pronounce an ingredient, why would you want to put that into your body (your temple, and yours alone), 3) consider the number of real foods that you eat each day – you know, the ones that don’t come with ingredient labels – vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds (from the bin – not the can, and especially unsalted raw or roasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews), olive oil, brown rice, quinoa, oats and true, unadulterated whole grains, 4) consider what the real nutritional value is of the ‘food’ you are about to consume 5) Caveat Emptor, Latin for ‘let the buyer beware’ – understand that food marketing is a BIG industry with lots of money tied to it. A food marketer’s job is to make you buy something. For example, ‘Zero Trans Fats’ on a label really means that the product contains lower than the regulated amount of trans fat per serving (0.5 grams) – not ZERO trans fat. And trans fats (also known as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’) are 100% tied to heart disease. Food marketers use lots of pseudonyms to trick us into believing a product doesn’t contain unhealthy ingredients. Also, ‘gluten-fee’ may also make up for gluten by adding more of something else, like sugar, which leads us to the next practice.
Eliminate the sugar It’s as simple as this – large amounts of sugar (sugar is made up of good glucose and not good at all fructose) in the liver turn to fat in the body. Sugar – not fat – makes us fat, and is the number one cause of most disease in Western culture (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many cancers). It is scientifically addictive (no really – it causes resistance to the very substance that tells your brain to stop eating – so you actually want to eat more of it), and includes zero nutrients beneficial for sustaining life. Keep close attention because sugar is hidden in so many of the processed foods we eat – often by a different moniker aimed at confusing the consumer – and there are many (ex: beware of high fructose corn syrup, and here are more examples)!
Eat the GOOD fat! I repeat – FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Actually, your body needs fat, and by choosing the right fats in your daily diet, they can actually help you to lose weight because your body needs fat in order to function properly. Fat makes skin glow, hair shine, is vital for the absorption and efficacy of vitamins A, E and D (all critical to keeping organs and bones strong and youthful), and positively effects the nervous system. So do away with ‘fat free’ (in fact, read the labels of those things anyway because they are a chemical catastrophe), and up the ante on good-for-you fats everyday! What to choose? Choose monounsaturated fats eliminate plaque on arterial walls, and some say help to eliminate belly fat. These include olives and olive oil, avocado, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, seeds. Also do choose polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6) like those found in salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, tofu, eggs, grape seed oil, grass-fed chicken, are critical for brain function, immunity, healthy skin and eyes. Go ahead – load up on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your daily diet. You’re doing your body good! LIMIT saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease and raise cholesterol (such as fat from most dairy products and red meat), and SAY NO to trans fats used in packaged foods that are completely tied to heart disease, diabetes and inflammation (found in shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, and other processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes).
Eat the rainbow – and especially the green part Veggies and fruits are the most nutrient dense of foods, meaning they have the most nutrition value per calorie. This means that they provide the real forms of vitamins and minerals we need to sustain all of the functions of life that our bodies have to offer! Aim to get a variety of veggies and fruits in your daily diet (aim for the rainbow for to maximize nutritional value), and make sure to include as many leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard, arugula (there are so many) as well as cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower as you can – as these are key foods for fighting off disease and keeping your blood and cells full of life! Rule of thumb: fill half of your plate at each meal with green veggies and other colored produce.
Find your daily way to eliminate stress Stress is a proven killer and key contributor to health-related issues such as heart disease, anxiety, weight gain, sleep and digestive problems, memory and Alzheimer’s, stroke… Everyone copes in different ways, but it’s important to find what works for you. It could be yoga, meditation, sitting in a dark and quiet room for 10 minutes of deep breathing each day, a walk in nature… Whatever it is, those who find what works and practice it daily have healthier relationships and ultimately, a healthier life!
Push beyond your perceived boundaries for success Our mind is a very powerful thing and all too often we allow it to limit us from growth and that sense of achievement. In fact, most of the time that devil voice in our heads tells us we can’t do something that in fact, we absolutely can! Day in and day out we come across obstacles, immediately think that we ‘can’t’ do something, and we don’t even stop to think, ‘well, what if I just pushed myself a little farther?’ For example, lets take a physical challenge, such as a set of 25 pushups. The biggest challenge is that many think that if they can’t do all 25, they won’t even try 1. But, what if you stopped to think: ‘how many CAN I do without collapsing?’ And who said this had to be a competition against others who can? Why not make it a competition with YOU? Even if it is only 1, if you do that 1 pushup with consistency and focus each day, and in a few days push to 2 pushups, and so on – before you know it, you’ll look back and have done 25! I have seen this happen – and then some. Mind over matter. It’s all about stepping back for a moment and considering, am I really unable to do ‘this’, or have I let my mind win? It’s up to you to conquer your mind in order to achieve greater success and to push beyond your own perceived (but perhaps not even real) boundaries.
Buy more organic and non-GMO foods Real health and wellness isn’t about what’s on the outside. It’s about what’s going on inside that really matters. They say, you are what you eat. And in a time when our food source is intoxicated with manmade chemicals, preservatives, hormones, even steroids and tranquilizers, do you ever stop to think about what you might be putting into your body that isn’t so healthy for your insides? Alternatively, DO stop to think that the more pure the food choices you make, the more valuable the food is for your health, your organs (the largest of which is your skin), your blood, and your overall long-term well being. Short term, choosing organic can be a bit more expensive so when choosing produce, know your dirtiest more than a dozen full of pesticides and if you use them, choose the organic version: apples, strawberries/blueberries, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers. Make this a year to take pause before eating and consider the value of each ‘food’ – for better or worse. Longer term, healthcare is very expensive, so consider this food for thought.
Everyone needs a little chocolate in their life The marketers tell you it’s good for you – but you need to know what to choose and how to eat it. Indulge – because chocolate IS a high-magnesium (important for regulating blood pressure and absorption of calcium and other minerals), antioxidant rich food. There are so many cool options you can find – like ones with cayenne pepper or ginger or even exotic things like real lavender flowers or mushrooms – buy a big bar of dark chocolate made with 70% cacao (or higher) at a specialty store and keep it in the fridge. Look at the ingredient list and sugar quantity. Should be about 5 grams or lower per serving for high quality dark chocolate. And while it might be tempting to eat the whole bar, take a square or 2 as a daily treat instead of a donut or ice cream.