So, you’ve heard about the benefits of drinking lemon water first thing in the morning and you know that you should be exercising x number of hours per week, because such-and-such a doctor or healthcare professional advised you so.
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Not to discredit any of those recommendations — after all, I make those similar, if not those exact, suggestions to my best clients (and as a reminder to myself). But, what about the healthy living tips and advice that force us to navigate and better understand our individual health and well-being — information that is often left undiscussed, because it requires a bit more unpacking and consideration?
These are the talking points, which, rather than demand you get so many hours of sleep per night for optimal energy levels throughout day, they encourage you to consider your own unique sleep routine and discover what adequate rest is for you, as an individual.
As a nutritionist, I love discussing these broader topics with my clients (and whoever wants to talk about them!), because I find that in doing so, we’re able to form much more personal, deeper connections and conclusions to our overall health. It personalizes the experience, rather than prescribing one-size-fits-all approach to great health.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for healthy living, which don’t just have to do with eating well and exercising regularly (although, there’s some of that, too).
1. Get Back To Your Roots
Take a page out of your gran’s book and get back to your roots. What approach to health did your ancestors take? How did they eat, and how did they spend their time? If you were to track back generation after generation within your family tree, I can bet your great grandparents weren’t munching on Oreos and frequenting fast food joints. They also probably weren’t spending hours on end checking their email or Instagram account. When it comes to eating like our ancestors, it’s about simplifying what we eat. So much of the standard diet has become overwhelmed with processed and packaged foods, which are high in trans fats and refined sugars, not to mention toxic additives and preservatives. These foods have been specifically engineered to make us buy and eat more. Furthermore, our relationship to technology, namely that which we have with our cell phones and computers, has us living more sedentary lives. In turn, we are aging more much more quickly and encountering more health issues than ever. So, eat and move like your great-grandmother, and forget the rest.
2. Move It Or Lose It
Move it or lose it: I’m talking about your body, your strength, and your overall health and longevity. Most of us think we need to move more, simply to shed those last few pounds leftover from the holiday season; or so that we can maintain our figure as we age — needless to say, many of our efforts to stay active have to do with achieving or maintaining a certain aesthetic. I get it. We’re a vain culture. But here’s the thing most people aren’t aware of: moving our bodies can actually increase our lymphatic circulation. Lymph is a fluid in the body, which helps to remove bacteria, cancer cells, and toxins, as well as transport fats from the digestive system. However, the only way for lymph to move is via muscle contraction and relaxation. Therefore, you need to move your body in order to rid it of excess toxins and fluids. So, the next time you’re exercising, maybe consider all of the toxins you’re helping your body get rid of, in order to build more resilience and improve overall longevity.
3. Make Your Own Food (Most Of The Time)
Taking the time to purchase and prepare quality ingredients for use and consumption throughout the week can be incredibly beneficial for your health. I know, we’re all busy. But it’s really important that we fuel our bodies with the proper nutrition to keep us energized and on top of our game. By preparing your own food at home, you have complete control over what you consume; you get to vote for what’s going to provide you with the best energy (or not). In this case, the internet is at your disposal, boasting millions of healthy recipes. Set aside a few hours each week to research recipes that you want to prepare and get messy! Not only will you start to feel better about what you’re consuming, but you’ll also gain more confidence in the kitchen.
4. Don’t Play Dumb
The fact that you’re reading this article is proof enough that you’re a smarty pants, trying to educate yourself more about health and fitness. You clearly care about your health, and are hoping to learn something from reading this. But, don’t stop here. I can’t stress enough the importance of taking responsibility for one’s health, and I think a lot of that starts with you learning as much as possible about your own health. This can mean regular checkups with your doctor, your nutritionist, or another healthcare professional. It also means reading books, and news articles, and staying up to date on research, and simply being aware of your surroundings and any information regarding your health and wellness.
5. Get Outside
Run around barefoot in the grass; better yet, sink your bare feet into a pile of dirt! Get your hands dirty in the garden, go for a hike in the woods, or take a swim in a lake. We’ve inherently become a culture that’s so deeply immersed in our virtual realities, that it can sometimes be difficult to detach from our multiple electronic devices and social media platforms. Unplugging from technology has become a kind of luxury. So, get luxurious and take time out of your day to enjoy the great outdoors. As cliche as it may sound, we need to reconnect with Mother Nature, and one of the best ways to do that is by practicing “grounding” or “earthing,” which is literally walking on grass in bare feet. In doing so, we absorb the earth’s energy through the soles of the feet — studies have shown that “earthing” can actually help reduce inflammation and pain in the body, as well as improve sleep and overall calmness.
6. Choose Sleep Over Everything
Sleep is one of the most important aspects in maintaining great health and a strong, resilient body. Without proper sleep, your body is unable to repair and regenerate. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can lead to severe adrenal fatigue, cortisol imbalance, and more long term neurological and endocrine damage (which is all code for exhaustion, unhealthy cravings, and low energy levels). Sure, when it comes to achieving great health, diet and exercise are important pieces of the puzzle. However, if you’re trying to build a stronger, more resilient body (and maybe even lose some weight in the process), consider prioritizing sleep over most things. This doesn’t necessarily mean more sleep, but just better quality sleep. Some simple tips for getting a great night’s rest? Establish a bedtime routine to help you wind down in the evening, which includes avoiding any electronic devices within 1 hour before going to sleep. Catching zzz’s in a cooler, pitch black room generally allows for a deeper sleep.
7. Talk It Out
Get a therapist — or someone, who you trust and can talk to. Form real good, meaningful relationships. I can’t stress this one enough. As a type-A individual, and someone who has developed increasing anxiety over the past few years, it has become imperative that I have someone with whom I can talk to on a regular basis, who can listen to my many qualms (and great ideas, obviously!). Yes, I have a therapist, but when she isn’t available, I also have a few core friends and family members, who I trust unconditionally. Having someone you can reach out to when the going gets rough (and for all of life’s celebrations, big and tiny!) is not only great for boosting self-esteem and overall confidence, but nurturing these kind of connections can also help make us more resistant to stress.
8. Poison Yourself (Sometimes)
Perhaps one of my more controversial recommendations, what I mean by this is not to overindulge in cupcakes or your latest vice. Rather, it’s a suggestion that makes space for mess ups and failures. Every once in a while, stress yourself out. Nobody is perfect, especially when it comes to maintaining good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle — nor would I recommend striving for perfection. What happens when our regimes are too rigid, our bodies adapt to a certain level of care, wherein it can become difficult to step outside our comfort zone and live a little.
As someone who has tried numerous diets and lifestyles over the past several years, I’ll be the first to tell you that much of my efforts to eat a certain way or follow a particular regime backfired as soon as I wanted to step out of that structure. More important than ever is adaptability and the willingness to change. Our bodies are changing every day, and we need to honour that. What worked for you last week might not work today. By introducing new foods, even new exercises, and indulging every now and then, we invite our bodies to build strength and resilience.
9. Invest In Your Health
Once and for all, just do it and really mean it! While you could say that all 10 points that I’ve included here are inherently ways to invest in your health, it’s time that you really make your health a priority. And here’s your friendly reminder. Whether you’re in your late teens, your 30s, or your 50s, great health isn’t achieved overnight. We have to invest time and care in our bodies. This can be something as simple as exercising every day or preparing healthy meals to fuel you. That being said, because you’re investing in a healthy future, what you do today should be something that you can maintain for years to come (and which you can change and adapt to in time). So, while you’re investing in your health, take baby steps. Achieving great health isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
10. Shake It Off
Give yourself a dang break every now and then. This is my favourite tip for healthy living! And the one that I need to remind myself to practice the most. I tend to be a workhorse (as many of us are). But that, on top of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? The two don’t jive that well together. For longevity and a lifestyle that we can maintain, it’s important that we find a harmonious relationship between work, play, and rest. For me, that means taking the time to really give myself a break. As an entrepreneur, my business never really leaves my side. I’ve had to purposefully schedule my weekends and leisure time, because those days don’t occur the same time each week. My schedule is constantly changing and I’m always having to adapt. It’s very easy for me to bite off more than I can chew, and so actively making an effort to give myself a break every week, and not just once in a blue moon, is super important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, mentally and physically.
Food Rules, Michael Pollan
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch
The Bulletproof Diet, Dave Asprey