I have always been the go-to person about health in my family, and more-so now that I am a Health Coach in training. Over and over again, I get asked about how to get healthy. Here are the 6 simple-but-major things that I always recommend:
1. Reduce Stress
Reducing stress in our daily, modern lives is the most important thing you can do for your health, in my opinion. A little stress is necessary and shouldn't be eliminated completely, but the chronic stress of modern lifestyles causes inflammation, which is a driver of many diseases. Reducing constant stress is the goal.
If you do experience a highly stressful moment, consider doing a Cortisol Flush. (Cortisol is the stress hormone that gets released in the body to help aid in the fight or flight response. Constantly having a surge in cortisol without releasing it can cause long-term issues. Read this article to see how to do a cortisol flush)
2. Eat More Vegetables and Fruit
Most people feel like they need a complete overhaul of their eating habits in order to be healthy. This isn't true! Simply adding more fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet can have a major affect. They can be frozen, canned, fresh or organic*. Important is to add them in. This will also help you to crowd out other, less nutritional foods.
*While buying organic is definitely better for some foods, it isn't in everyone's budget. The most important thing is to add vegetables and fruits to your diet. Frozen, canned, fresh or organic - start with whatever you can. If you find that you have the capacity to move to organic later, then do it, but first focus on simply getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
One easy way to get more vegetables is to simply integrate them into your current recipes. Try adding spinach to your bolognese sauce (my toddler prefers creamed spinach). Add some carrots and celery (chopped into small pieces) along with some canned corn into your chili. Slice up some leeks and throw them your favorite quiche recipe. Tip: If you struggle to use vegetables before they go bad, start with frozen vegetables and move to fresh when you find yourself using them up quickly.
To add more fruits to your diet, try cutting some up while you're preparing dinner and place them on the table with the rest of the food. This natural dessert is a nice way to cap off the meal. (You don't need to see this as a dessert replacement. It is simply a way to get more fiber, antioxidants and other nutritional things that fruit offer into your diet - as well as a way to crowd out other, less nutritional foods like ice cream or chocolate).
3. Make Sure Your Diet Isn't Causing You Stress
A lot of people find changing their diet stressful, especially if they are trying to follow a strict plan. Stress can counteract any positive effects of a good diet, so if your new diet goals are causing you stress, then lay them aside for a while. It's best to approach integrating new eating habits little by little, working your way up to the full plan.
If you find that the full plan isn't working for you, then lay it aside and look for another one that does. We are all biologically different and need different things to function well. Just because your friend is living her best life on a ketogenic diet, that doesn't mean that you will too. And that's okay. Focus on yourself and what works best for you. Your body will let you know.
Forgiveness is also highly important here. If you "cheated" or ate something that isn't prescribed by the diet, accept that you needed it in that moment for some reason and that's okay. Then move on.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is integral to overall health. Getting enough sleep (6-8 hours for adults) is necessary for things like digestion and hormone regulation.
I have intentionally placed exercise after sleep. That's because sleep is more important than exercise. If you aren't getting enough sleep, then the benefits of exercise will be lost. Constantly going to bed at midnight and waking up at 5am to go for a workout will work against you in the long-run. Make sure you are getting the sleep that your body needs (your body will tell you on what amount of sleep it feels best.)
* I have used the word exercise here, but I prefer the word movement. It is extremely important that you are moving throughout the day. The negative effects of sitting on your bum for 16 hours a day cannot be reversed by 1 hour of exercise. If your job requires you to be in front of a computer screen, make sure you are taking a few short breaks throughout the day. Any movement that you can add to your day will be beneficial. Smoking breaks used to be a thing - let's replace them with walking breaks.
Movement can be anything from running to weight lifting to yoga to dancing. There are all kinds of ways to move - find out what works best for you! A special note to all of my female readers that menstruate: the fluctuating hormones throughout our cycles means that we need and react differently to exercises throughout our cycles. Try low-impact yoga or stretching during your menstruation and higher-impact activities like running and cycling during ovulation.
6. Reduce Inflammation
As I discussed before, inflammation is a major cause of illnesses. Your body is really good at getting rid of inflammation on it's own, but there are things you can do to help it out. Firstly, you can prevent extra inflammation by reducing stress and cutting out inflammatory foods like alcohol - the occasional drink won't get you caught out, but a night of drinking or having a drink with dinner every evening is very taxing on the body. Work to reduce and eliminate alcohol wherever possible. There are also a lot of tasty anti-inflammatory foods like berries and certain spices like tumeric (the spice that makes curry yellow) and cinnamon which you can add into your diet.
There are a lot of resources on anti-inflammatory foods on the internet. I would suggest that you get yourself to a place where you are comfortable with my first 5 suggestions and then explore this one. And always remember #3.... if your food goals are beginning to cause you stress, set them aside for a while and pick it up again when you are better able to openly explore them without pressure.
If you have any questions or need help integrating these steps into your life, click here to book a health history with me - the first step in my 6-month program.