1) Break Unhealthy Habits, Behaviors and Patterns
The first step in health and wellness starts by stopping behaviors that are damaging to the body.
This is extremely important and often overlooked. Exercise and diet are not going to get the job done if you are smoking, inactive for most of the day, sitting for extended periods, stress eating by pounding junk and processed foods, and not getting enough sleep, among other things.
So in order to create a plan of health optimization for yourself, first outline the negative habits, and work to reduce and eliminate them for good over the long term.
2) Flexitarian, Plant Based Diet.
There is a wealth of research supporting the fact that eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes has tremendous benefits for health, longevity, and the reversal of chronic health issues. The word “Flexitarian” simply means adjusting your diet to meet your specific needs based on what is going on in your life depending on the day, week, or month of the year.
If you are very active and working/ working out a lot, then you should consume more food to fuel your body. On days that you are not busy and are not burning lots of energy, you can reduce your caloric intake. Watch a video on plant based eating.
“Flexitarian” also means eating the foods that are seasonally and locally available to you. So checking out the local farmers market is a great addition to your health plan. Finally, don’t let the fear mongering of meat advertisers confuse you, eating a plant based diet is not going to jeopardize your protein intake.
Plants have plenty of protein, and it is fiber intake that you should be worried about. Only 3% of Americans are protein deficient, while a staggering 97% have been shown to lack proper fiber intake! This is very bad news, especially considering the important role fiber plays in Gastrointestinal health and a well functioning immune system.
3) Most Nutritious Food Groups
I have a list of 10 food groups that I recommend everyone consume every day in order to fulfill their nutrition needs. These are:
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, chick Peas
- Cruciferous Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens like Kale, Spinach and Lettuce
- Other veggies such as carrots, beets, mushrooms (although Mushrooms technically don’t categorize as veggies, I keep them here for the sake of making things simple)
- Whole Grains and alternative grains such as sprouted bread, steel Cut Oats, millet and quinoa
- Nuts and Seeds such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds (peanuts do not fit, since they are highly processed and really not part of the healthy nut family)
- Berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
- Other fruits such as avocados, apples, bananas, and watermelon
- Herbs & spices such as turmeric, cumin, garlic, ginger, etc.
If you can find a balance of having each of these food groups in generous portions, you will be on your way to a fulfilling and disease free life! Watch a video on healthy food groups. View a checklist of healthy daily foods.
4) Stay Hydrated!
Ideally 3/4 of a gallon to a full gallon of water per day. That might seem like a lot, but if you space your drinking throughout the day, it is very possible. Keep in mind however, try to not mix water with your meals. Water and other fluids can dilute the stomach acids and not allow nutrients to be properly absorbed into the body.
Therefore as a general rule of thumb, do not drink any water 20 minutes before meals and wait until about 30-40 minutes after a meal before drinking anything. The only exception to this rule is if you are making smoothies and soups.
5) Train Smart, Not Hard!
When it comes to exercise, research has shown that short intense bouts of physical exercise are better than long moderate bouts. So make your workouts 20-40 minutes in length and focus on large muscle groups, low rest times, and high intensity as a general rule. A sample routine would be to do explosive jump squats, followed by pullups or assisted pullups, pushups, planks, lateral Stepping (side to side movements) and Rotational exercises like cable twists.
If you can perform a few sets of these exercises one after the other in 20-30 minutes time, you will attain much better and faster results than long arduous workouts like running on the treadmill for one hour. When it comes to low intensity workouts, there are great benefits if you are performing them on a fasted state.
There is a lot of buzz around fasting, and studies have shown that going for a slow jog, doing some light calisthenics, or simply a fast walk outdoors while fasting, helps to burn fat and reduce stress greatly. So find a balance of high intensity interval training, and low intensity/fasted workouts for your fitness routine.
6) Intermittent Fasting
While we are mentioning it, its good to realize the critical importance of fasting. Humanity operated on a fasted state for millennia before the dawn of civilization, mostly because we had no choice, food was scarce, so we often went about our days not having anything to eat, until we found plants and animals to subsist on. But the research on fasting shows lots of promise. It is good for longevity, anti-cancer, burning fat, among other things.
Doing intervals of 16-18 hours has shown to provide great results. So as a general plan, you can stop eating by 8pm and not eat until 1pm the next day, which is 17 hours, 8 of which are spent sleeping on average. And don’t stuff yourself when getting back to eating. Start slow, with small meals, and work your way up into bigger sized portions.
7) Get as much sunlight as you can.
In today’s modern world, most people rarely go out into the sun, since we are usually indoors for extended periods. This leads to many issues, such as Vitamin D deficiencies, low energy levels and depression. Contact with sunlight not only provides us with Vitamin D, but it also releases Beta Endorphins which are natural feel good chemicals that provide a smooth neurochemical balance to our bodies.
Do not be afraid of the sun! As long as you avoid getting sunburned and use common sense, you will be alright. The best times to get the proper wavelengths of sunlight are in the AM (sunrise to 11AM) and during sunset.
8) Stay Grounded!
Maintain bare skin contact with the earth as much as you can. The core of our planet emits a natural electromagnetic frequency to which all life is attuned, and research has shown that walking barefoot on grass or sand decreases inflammation in the body and is great for stress relief.
Just a few minutes a day can have great health benefits. Make grounding a part of your daily health ritual, preferably being out under the sun while you stay grounded and meditate. We must get re-connected back to nature, since we cannot cheat natures demands on our bodies for optimum health.
9) Myofascial Release and Corrective Work
We often don’t spend the time needed on self care and maintenance. The human body is like a machine, and like a car, it needs tuning and maintenance. Using foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and performing corrective exercises for balance, posture, and muscle integration is very important to having a fine tuned machine that can maintain itself into old age without pain or injuries.
This is a somewhat complicated area of discussion, however I suggest you look into corrective movements and MFR work for whichever body part is bothering you. There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet regarding this, so please use it! Watch a video on how myofascial release can help you sleep better.