I have learned over the years that thin and healthy are not synonyms - I was pretty skinny at my wedding, but I discovered that I had a hormone imbalance when I got back from my honeymoon. By contrast, health is inextricably linked to lifestyle choices.
Below are the five tenets of living healthfully:
- Minimize your exposure to toxins, including drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, chemicals, and processed foods. Don’t take recreational drugs. No, pot is not an exception, unless you are using it for a legitimate medical purpose, it was prescribed by a doctor, and you acquired it from a reputable source. Recreational use may be legal or decriminalized in some states, but smoking pot still kills brain cells. Don’t drink alcohol in excess. Excess means more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks per day for men. Cigarettes are vile. They smell repulsive and kill you slowly. Don't smoke them, ever. Avoid exposure to chemicals in cleaning products and cosmetics by choosing non-toxic alternatives. Wear protective gear if you are exposed to environmental toxins at work. Banish highly processed foods, like cured meat products, fast food meals, and sugary cereals, from your diet. Minimize your consumption of moderately healthy processed foods like whole wheat pasta, store-bought almond milk, and dark chocolate truffles.
- Adopt a diverse, whole foods diet that consists predominantly, if not exclusively, of plant based foods. Limit moderately healthy processed foods to 25% or less of your diet. I don’t really consider cooked or dehydrated foods to be processed, although raw food proponents would disagree. However, heating and freezing foods does cause enzyme and micro-nutrient depletion. When I say “processed,” I mean foods that don’t look anything like their natural sources.
- Stay active and stick to physical activities that you enjoy. Experiment with various options until you find a few activities that, when incorporated into a regimen, offer you diverse benefits (cardio, strength, and flexibility). My daily routine includes lots of walking, but I also enjoy using the elliptical machine, doing yoga, and taking spin at SoulCycle.
- Focus on stress reduction. Meditation and/or mindfulness practices can help relieve stress. Moreover, avoid emotional vampires, spend more time in nature, identify foreseeable issues and thoughtfully develop game plans for dealing with them, and take time to acknowledge everything for which you are thankful.
- Stop beating yourself up. Through my health coach training and personal development reading, I learned that there are actually biochemical reactions that impact brain function and sometimes make it difficult for us to make healthy choices. If you are self-aware enough to know you are making unhealthy choices, you are already headed in the right direction. The next step is realizing that you can do anything you want, as long as you make it a priority. We are all capable of determination and resilience. The third step is setting a realistic goal. When setting goals, it is helpful to consider: 1) your current status and the repercussions of failing to accomplish your goal, and 2) your ideal status and the benefits of succeeding. During the goal achievement process, cut yourself some slack if you fall off the wagon but do not let yourself off the hook entirely. Sometimes the only way to make progress is to take two steps forward for every step back. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.