Too often we hear about popular diets or schemes that promise the world to anyone who follows them. Usually there are numerous strict rules and steps you must follow, and if that’s the case, it’s your first sign that this isn’t something you can do for very long – and certainly not the rest of your life. It’s just not sustainable.
Living and eating healthy shouldn’t be hard, and it shouldn’t come in phases in your life. It shouldn’t require rigid schedules, inconvenient measuring, and it shouldn’t make you feel like you’re missing out on the good things in life. It should, above all, make you feel good, energetic, and happy.
If your life choices followed these 15 guidelines below, you are doing virtually everything you can to ensure you live a full life free of the common nagging illnesses that are plaguing our society today. Kelli and I call this the “Live Til You Die” diet. No products to buy, no schedules, just a simple way of eating that anyone can do every day.
1. Eat lots of vegetables, and about half that in fruit.
No scientist has yet created a product or pill that can equal the nutrient value and healing properties of fresh produce. On top of the plethora of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients, eating whole, fresh produce benefits the body in ways we have yet to fully understand. The nutrients interact as a whole in ways that are much more beneficial than when taken individually as supplements.
Make vegetables the center piece of your meals. Enjoy fruits as a healthy dessert, or paired with a protein like almond butter or a few cashews as a healthy snack during the day. Without exception, eating more vegetables every day will the best first step you can do for your body. You’ll feel full, your body will have the tools it needs to repair its self and eliminate toxins, and you’ll notice other benefits like clearer skin, mental clarity, and feeling energetic after meals. Does it have to be organic? No. Is organic better? Yes, but don’t worry about it if it’s not in the budget yet.
2. Move your body.
Our bodies were meant to be active. Every system in the body performs better when we move throughout the day. It strengthens the immune system, clears the lymph nodes of stored toxins, burns off the tension of stress, and strengthens our bones. Stretching your muscles allows for more detoxification as well as lubricates the bones, making the bones and joints last longer. Exercise doesn’t need to happen at a gym (it’s been years since I’ve been to one). Just find something you enjoy doing that makes you sweat, and sweat at least once a day.
Be sure to include some resistance training as well. You’ll prevent muscle loss and release beneficial hormones. Thirty minutes of exercise in the morning is great, but if you sit at your desk for the rest of the day then watch TV all night, you’ve barely gained any benefit from that morning routine. Set reminders using your phone or a timer to stand up and stretch during the day, walk outside, do a few yoga poses, etc. Avoid the elevator and create excuses to take more steps. Whatever you do, be sure to get of your chair and move around at least once an hour.
3. Include protein in every meal.
Protein will help you feel full longer, reducing snacking between meals. More importantly, protein is needed for the body to repair damaged tissues and to eliminate toxins. It’s simply a must-have, and both plant and animal sources will do the trick. My personal meat favorites are wild salmon, turkey, bison, and lamb. On the plant side, beans, lentils, tofu, and protein powders like pea, rice, and hemp are fantastic sources of protein.
As with produce, it doesn’t have to be organic. But is that better? Yes, in fact I’m less lenient in my meat choices than produce because in the case of meat, you’re talking about living creatures that need to be treated better than what is done in conventional ranching practices. Wild caught and pasture-raised/pasture-finished meats have always proven to have more nutrients and fewer toxins. Choose your meat wisely and humanely.
4. Drink lots of water.
You’ve probably heard the idea of drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water every day. That’s a very arbitrary number and no one’s really sure where it came from. But evidence shows that amount isn’t enough for most people. What the right amount is depends on your body, but I can say for me, I’ll drink that 64 ounces by the time I get to work in the morning. Insufficient water can cause a number of health issues, from headaches, constipation, and other serious illnesses that result from poor elimination of toxins. Bottom line, you have to find a way to enjoy water. Squeeze in a little lemon or add a couple drops of orange essential oil. And I’d say as a rough rule, drink at least one of those glasses every hour. Just do it.
5. Get plenty of sleep.
Few things that are as helpful as sleep get pushed to the side so easily. I assume we all do it. We’ll fight to stay awake long after our bodies have told us it’s time to lie down. We all have a little two-year old inside us don’t we? The right amount is different for everyone, but be sure to pay attention to the signs. Lack of sleep can lead to a depressed immune system, meaning more colds and flus. And we all know about the general fatigue and poor concentration that comes after a couple nights in a row of rough sleep. Push it longer and you increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Recharge your batteries!
6. Take a high quality multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D
Even as you’re eating all those vegetables and healthy proteins, it’s still possible to not get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs, whether it’s from just not eating enough variety, or due to the fact that today’s produce simply doesn’t have as many nutrients as it did 30 years ago. It’s well established that our soil has lost much of its nutrient content and therefore has less to provide to plants. And with conventional farming, what’s lost is replaced with a woefully inadequate macro nutrient fertilizer of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium with no thought to the unknown quantities of other nutrients that healthy soil has. Think of these three simple supplements as your back up insurance.
7. Exercise your brain.
Working out your mental muscles is just as important as your other muscles. The same “use it or lose it” principle applies. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” should be eliminated from your reality. Learning new skills will continue to create new neuropathways in your brain and keep your mind sharp, warding off mental decline as you age. Study subjects you’re curious about, learn a new language or instrument, take ballroom dance classes at a local studio, or *gasp* learn how all this new technology works. Have you ever “pinned” something to a “board” online? Me neither. Time to learn.
8. Consciously search for ways to relax and unwind every day.
If it takes adding it to your daily calendar then do it, but make sure to take the time to relax every day. If you’re like most of us, this is something you’ll have to learn how to do. We’re not very good at relaxing, and it’s not often encouraged. We allow ourselves to feel guilty at the thought of doing nothing when we “should” be doing something. But that time to unwind pays huge dividends such as lowering cortisol (which will in turn lower blood pressure), improving digestion, and strengthening your immune system.
It doesn’t have to take long and can be something you enjoy. Yoga and meditation are great options. Going for a jog after working or spending time in the garden are fantastic ideas. One thing I’ve enjoyed lately is eating my lunch outside then lying on my back on the ground, soaking in the sun. Sometimes I’ll listen to a relaxation or meditation track on my phone, or I’ll just focus on deep breathing for 5 to 10 minutes by myself. It’s a fantastic way to reset and recharge, setting me up for a much more productive afternoon.
9. Avoid processed and packaged foods as much as you can.
Prepackaged foods can be convenient, but they’ve inconveniently added to our nation’s waistline and medical bills over the years too. Most packaged food has been stripped of nutrients and fiber, processed in countless ways, then in some cases those nutrients artificially added back to the “food” in ways that don’t remotely mimic how they were found in the original plant sources. The famous nutrition and muscle man Jack LaLanne went as far as saying, “If it has a label, don’t eat it.” Well, frozen veggies and blueberries from the store is one thing. But frozen dinners, cookies and chips, and just about anything found in a typical vending machine would certainly be off Jack’s shopping list.
10. Avoid starches and sugars.
For some reason, 100 years ago people thought food was better if it was really white. Turns out, all that white food has literally destroyed our nation’s health. White flour, rice, sugar, pasta, bread, cereal, and starches all translate into one thing – sugar. Because the fiber was removed as the hulls and germs were removed to make it white, these foods are digested very quickly and hit the blood stream as a rush of sugar. Elevated blood sugar spikes like this are a major contributor to many diseases including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Eat your food as close to its original form as possible, still intact, the way it was grown. Ditch the sugar.
11. Eliminate fried foods and trans-fats.
When you read “fried” on a menu, think trans-fats, the most harmful type of fats known to science. Always read ingredient lists. The minute you see the word “hydrogenated” you can stop right there and walk away. Hydrogenated oils of any type always mean trans-fats are present. On top of that, oil heated to the temperatures required for frying destroy the oil and oxidize it, creating free radicals that are a contributor to cancer. Baked, steamed, broiled, poached, etc., are all better choices.
12. Control your portion sizes.
This is still one of my biggest challenges. If it’s on my plate, it’s hard not to eat it. I’ve gotten better, but not great. Be mindful of what it really takes to feel satisfied. Forgo the second trip to the buffet line. Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, and give your stomach time to tell your brain it’s full. Restaurants are a common pit fall. One trick you can do is order your dinner and ask for a to-go box at the same time. As soon as the meal arrives put half of it in the box and save it for a meal tomorrow.
13. Ditch the addictions.
Alcohol, nicotine, and drugs (prescribed and illicit) all interrupt the body behaving how it should. For every benefit ever associated with alcohol there are a hundred other sources that provide those same benefits with none of the downside. Smoking can be addictive after just a few cigarettes. Your body will have to devote much of its healing and detoxifying efforts to the damage smoking causes, leaving fewer resources to ward off other diseases. And as you can see, eventually the body loses that fight.
And for almost every prescription drug out there and nearly every ailment, there are safe and natural alternatives. In 2009 there were 2.3 million visits to the emergency room due to adverse reactions to prescription medications taken exactly as prescribed. In addition to your health, you’ll be doing your part to keep addictive drugs out of the hands of experimenting teenagers. Do what you can to keep them out of your house.
14. Wash your hands often
Health 101. It’s one of the most simple and basic things you can do to avoid common, and debilitating, illnesses. I read an article today that said 35% of men and 20% of women admit to rarely washing their hands after using the restroom. Guess what that means? They’re sharing it with you. Wash your hands regularly to keep them from sabotaging your day.
15. Don’t go at it alone. Develop loving relationships and give plenty of hugs.
There is proven healing that comes along with close social connections. Life is more meaningful, and your health will be better, if you walk this journey with close loved ones and friends. Connect on real levels. All of us need to spend time with friends. Don’t have friends close by? Get regular massages. Close body contact keeps stress in check and keeps you connected to the human race. Remember, we’re all in this together.
No, we can’t guarantee that we’ll never get sick or have a major illness, but we can sure do our part to make those possibilities far less likely. None of these steps are difficult. Following them benefits you, your family, and our nation’s economic stability. Take control of your health and help others do the same.