how to improve your health and wellbeing

With the onset of summer and the beautiful weather that comes with it I thought it might be helpful to some if I wrote about simple things I believe anyone can do that will help you feel great and have the best, most health-filled summer ever!

1. If you are not a vegetarian, try to reduce meat consumption to once or twice per week

I could go on for hours about why I believe that consuming meat is bad for your health - but I am not going to do that today. Instead I am going to try to compromise by making a reasonable and simple suggestion: Make eating meat a once or twice per week treat.

When I was initially in the process of transitioning from 'meat-eater' to 'vegetarian', I went down a lot of different paths in order to get there. Not long ago I was like most Americans, and meat was a staple of almost every meal. But the more I learned about what meat actually does once it is inside of us, the less appetizing it became for me. Slowly but surely I began to phase meat out of my diet and replaced it with healthier (and frankly more tasty) alternatives.

So all that I am suggesting is that if you are anything like I was and you consume meat at almost every meal, why not try to cut down a bit and explore the exciting and delicious world that exists outside of meat? Who knows, you might even grow to love it?

If you would like to learn more about how I have come to understand the health issues surround meat and dairy, please feel free to check out the following links.


2. Move your body 30-60 minutes each and every day

I've said it before and I will say it for the rest of my life: God gave us the ability to move around; therefore it does a body good to move around. It does not take a genius to understand that the more active you are, the more healthy and vibrant you will ultimately feel, right? There have been numerous scientific studies done in recent years conducted by brilliant individuals that all back up what I am suggesting, but the long and short of it is simple: Daily movement (i.e. exercise) of at least 30-60 minutes can:

  • significantly reduce and even eliminate stress.
  • help you sleep more soundly.
  • help to maintain and/or even reduce body weight to 'normal' levels.
  • make you feel happier.
  • improve self esteem/confidence.
  • help regulate blood pressure.

I am not even a doctor and yet with a little bit of research and a lot of personal life experience, I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that these kinds of results can be expected if you just make the conscious decision to intentionally move around for about 30-60 minutes each day. I have experienced these results myself so take it from me and please give exercise a chance.

3. Try hard to reduce (or even eliminate) dairy from your diet

After all the major changes I have made to my lifestyle and to my diet over the past three years, this is the change that I have been struggling with the most I think. The reason I have been struggling is because of my inherent love of cheese. Meat was easy to give up once I understood what it did to my body and how it negatively affected my health. However, for some reason - even though I know that cheese is not good for me - I continue to eat it now and again.

Cheese, for now, is my conscious unhealthy cheat. And honestly I think its okay so long as I keep it under control. To be fair, I have practiced what I preach here and have reduced my dairy consumption significantly over the past couple of years and like anything else worth doing, it has not been easy.

Once I did my research and learned about all the diseases and health complications that consuming the milk of another species can cause human beings, I took a long and hard look at my diet and decided that I would do my best to reduce as much as I could. (Cow's) Milk was actually really easy to give up once I learned about all the pus (yes, pus!) and bacteria that can be found inside the average cup. I also learned more about how dairy is highly acidic and over time can cause calcium deficiency along with a host of other harmful diseases and ailments once it enters your system.

Knowing all of this about dairy has helped me to monitor and make more conscious decisions when it comes to the kinds of food that I allow into my mouth. Just like it was with myself and meat, dairy is one of those diet adjustments that has just taken some time to eliminate from my diet completely. And like I said before, I feel like I am on the right track. I no longer drink cow's milk or eat yogurt, and I very rarely eat cheese - maybe once or twice in a given week. And just like with meat, it is only a matter of time before I completely eliminate it from my diet. So my advice to you would be to simply consider what I have to say and then if it intrigues you, please conduct your own research and educate yourselves about whether dairy is right for you.

4. Get rid of television

Another classic suggestion but definitely worth mentioning: The more television you watch, the more sedentary you become. And just like any other bad habit, it is a lot easier to quit once you've eliminated the temptation to partake in said habit. For example, people who smoke have significantly better chances of not smoking if they do not have access to cigarettes.

The same can be said about television addiction so do yourselves a favor and nip the television habit in the bud before it becomes a problem.

5. Eat more organic fruits and vegetables

For those of you who are not familiar with the health benefits of eating organic produce, let me put it as plainly as I can so it can really sink in: Organic produce has almost 17 times the amount of vitamins and minerals compared to its non-organic counter part. So what does that mean to you, the consumer? Well essentially what it means is that the soil that the plant has been cultivated in has 17 times the amount of nutrients and therefore the plants that grow within this soil soak up these essential life-giving nutrients and produce a much stronger, healthier plant for us to eat.

Non-organic - nutrient deficient - produce on the other hand requires the assistance of man-made chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides to prevent the plant from dying or being eaten by bugs. Organic produce is naturally strengthened and is able to defend itself from the threat of pests without the interference of man-made chemicals and toxic pesticides.

So to summarize: Organic produce contains 17 times more life-giving vitamins and minerals that our body needs minus all the chemical agents and pesticides that are typically found in their non-organic, nutrient deficient counter parts. What conclusions can I draw from this information? Organic is an all around better and healthier product.

6. Prepare more of your own meals

What home cooking and bag lunches provide are reliable, healthy meals that you can really depend on to give you adequate nutrition without the excess junk that you would find in your typical fast food meal.

Along with those benefits, I have found that by making my own meals I am more appreciative and have more respect for the meals I eat. When you eat fast food, you kind of have this disconnect between the food you eat and what it took to make it. On top of all that, I'm sure you all understand by now that preparing your own meals at home can save you boat loads of money compared to the cost of eating out.

So if you are the kind of person who eats out regularly, my advice to you would be to try to make it more of a once and a while treat instead of the 'norm'.

If you would like an idea of what you can cook at home (especially without meat and dairy) check out this link - 'The Engine 2 Diet Recipes.'

7. Mediate for five minutes every morning

This one is rather simple but it takes a while get into the routine. First off, why should you meditate at all? Well, from my experience, what mediation does is essentially takes me away from the hustle and bustle of my busy life and brings me back to a peaceful and balanced state of mind. I don't know about you, but my life can get pretty hectic at times. What with cell phones, facebook, email, wireless and mobile internet access, I easily become distracted. So by meditating in the morning, I am purposely taking time out of my day to turn off all my distractions and reconnect with my inner self and my physical body. There are numerous methods in which a person can meditate, so if meditation sounds like something you might want to try I suggest doing a web search for mediation techniques that most resonate with you.

8. Spend more time outdoors!

Easy to say but not so easy to do, huh? I know that in the winter time, certain areas of the country can be almost unbearable to be outside for longer than the walk to and from your car. So with the warmth of spring and summer now upon us I would like to suggest that we all try to purposefully spend more time outdoors this season. Like exercise, being outdoors has an almost therapeutic effect on the human body. The fresh air, the sun on your skin, the peacefulness of nature; the entire experience of being outdoors reconnects you with your natural heritage and has innumerable positive effects on your overall health and well-being. So do yourselves a huge favor and try to get outside as much as you can this summer!

9. Drink more water!

I was reading an article the other day about the role that water plays in the lives of human beings and needless to say, it was fascinating stuff. For example, without enough water:

  • we would die within 3-4 days.
  • we wound not be able to go to the bathroom.
  • our liver and kidneys would not be able to dilute and eliminate toxins.
  • we rapidly lose the ability to think clearly (since our brains are made up of about 80% water)
  • we could not sweat and would then overheat.
  • our joints and muscles could not stay lubricated and would deteriorate quickly.
  • we would not be able to produce offspring.

The list went on and on but the more I read this, the more I understood the importance of water in our daily lives and how much I had personally been neglecting it. So my hope is that this message influences you to pay closer attention to the amount of water you consume each day. In this past month especially, I have been much more conscious about the amount of water I have been drinking and I have noticed a big difference in my energy levels and in the amount of 'waste' my body has been removing. Stay hydrated and you'll stay healthy!

10. Try to reduce or eliminate the stressors in your life

It is truly remarkable the effect that stress can have on the human body. Just a few weeks ago for instance, I was in line to run a major endurance race (marathon, half marathon and then a 25k) back-to-back, and the amount of stress I was under the weeks and days leading up to each event was enormous. Even though I believed in my own mind that I was maintaining quite well, the effects of my stressing out over each event had become clear the day after my final race when I noticed my bathroom habits became much more regular. Little did I realize, but the stress of having to run back-to-back races had essentially clogged me right up.

It wasn't until after the races were behind me that I was able to take a deep breath and not stress so much. Now granted, this probably is not a typical situation that the majority of you will likely ever face in life; but it is more a lesson that each of us can learn about the damaging effects of stress and how important it is that we learn to keep what stresses us out under control.

Every now and again try to honestly evaluate your life and assess what might be causing you undue stress. Like any problem, we must first identify and admit that we even have one before we can go about the business of solving it. If there is anything in your life that is causing you stress, what can you do today to help reduce or eliminate that burden?

Maybe you're in need of a change of scenery? Perhaps it is time to have a heart-to-heart with your boss about that raise that you earned and never received? Or maybe you just need to find someone who can help you cope with your overloaded plate? For me, my two biggest stressors were my dissatisfaction with my career path and my former addiction to food and drugs. I don't know what your stressors might be, but what I do know is that whatever they are, you're going to have to deal with them. Having a bunch of pent up stress and anxiety is not conducive to a health-filled life.

Final Thoughts:

These are just a few of the many different things that I have personally done in my life that have caused dramatic improvements in my overall health and well-being. My advice to you would be to take whichever recommendation that most piqued your interest and for about a month or so try it out and see how it makes you feel. Maybe even keep a journal so that you can have a record of your progress.

In my experience, integrating just one of these principals into my life caused a kind of chain reaction that ultimately lead to more and more positive change. Who knows, maybe my suggestions will help you too?

Peace and love,

Corey Barton

10 tips to get you through a race

In light of the approaching summer running/racing season, I thought it would be helpful (and kind of fun) if I shared with you a few tricks that I have picked up over my past three years of running that will hopefully be of some use to you in your current and future running endeavors.

So please enjoy and happy running!

1. Picking Apples

I don't know about you, but when I run I build up a lot of tension in my shoulders. What I've learned over the years is that if you have this same problem, all you need to do is – while you're running, mind you – lift both of your arms up in the air and pretend like you are picking apples off an apple tree for about ten seconds. Then – again, while you are still running – drop both arms below your waste as if they suddenly went numb and shake out all the built-up tension.

I can't tell you why this works, all I know is that it has done wonders for me.

2. Tie your key to your shoes

This one is really simple but it took me about a year before I learned about it while getting ready for a race and I saw someone else doing it.

Pretty self-explanatory! If you are in a pinch and you don't have anywhere to hide your car or house key, simply just loop your shoelace through the top and tie your shoes. For those of you who did not know about this, you are welcome! Now just pass this on to the next person.

3. Reeling people in

This is a fun little trick I learned one day while watching a running documentary. It's really easy: while you are running, pick out another runner that is ahead of you and imagine throwing a lasso around them. After you have the lasso securely fastened, just pretend like you are "reeling" that person toward you so that you can speed ahead of them! I know it sounds kind of silly but for me it's fun and it works!

4. Start slow and finish strong

With everything that goes on during race day, it is really easy to get over excited and start your race off going faster than you had originally trained for. I made this mistake once and I paid the price by running out of energy toward the end.

The simplest way I have found to avoid this common mistake is to know your pace and the finish time you are aiming for. Then at the start of the race just find whatever pace group you belong to and stick close to them. That way you will know for sure that you are not going to fast at the start of the race and that you will more than likely have enough energy to finish strong.

5. Drink at every aid station

Now that it is getting warmer outside, it is especially important to make sure that you stay hydrated during your race. So do yourself a favor and take advantage of the fluids they provide at each aid station.

6. Your arms help move your feet

This may differ slightly from person to person but I believe the fundamentals are pretty much the same for everybody: in order to run it really helps if you move your arms in a way that is comfortable for you. For me, I hold my arms close to my hips and at a 90-degree angle when I run. For you it might feel more natural to keep your arms higher up, closer to your chest.

There has been a lot of great studies done on this subject and if you would like to learn more I would highly recommend you checking out this link from RunnersWorld.com regarding "The Perfect Running Form".

7. Play music in your head

You might not know this but for safety reasons many races these days will not let you to listen to music. For a lot of people this is a challenge. For me it is kind of a double edge sword because I enjoy hearing the crowd cheer me on yet I realize there are going to be those moments during each race where it can get kind of boring. This is why I think it is important for you to know how to listen to music in your head. Maybe this will help you, maybe not. I just wanted to throw that out there in case you didn't know.

8. When you start to feel weak, focus on your cadence

I've touched on this before but I actually just learned today that whenever you start to feel tired during a run it can really help if you focus on your steps per minute (cadence) rather than on the pain or fatigue you might be feeling. Ideally what you want to shoot for is a count of 90 strikes on your right foot every minute of your run (which equals out to a cadence of 180 steps per minute). I tried it out today and it actually helped me out a great deal, maybe it will help you too?

9. Do some research on how to avoid hitting the wall

I was reminded the other day that in spite of my burning desire to help people, I need to make it much clearer that I am not qualified (yet) to dole out specific nutrition advice since I am not a certified nutritionist (yet). That being said, I really want to encourage everyone to do their own research to figure out their own nutritional strategy to avoid hitting "the wall".

I can tell you that personally, eating a lot of carbohydrates the days leading up the race have helped me out a lot. But just because that worked for me does not necessarily mean it will work for you. So don't be afraid to dig until you find a plan that works best for you.

10. Have fun!

I know that nerves and self-doubt have a tendency to creep in the days and hours leading up to the big race; that's only natural. But a great way I have found to alleviate all that pressure and anxiety is to just remind myself to have fun out there! What's the point of doing it if you can't enjoy it right?

Final Thoughts

Please remember to take my advice with a grain of salt. Yes I am an avid runner, but at the end of the day I am really just a normal guy on my own journey. All I want to do is share what I've learned so that it can hopefully help you out on your journey.

Take care and thank you for spending your time reading my article!

Corey Barton


how to eat healthy on a budget

When it comes to the matter of eating healthy food, a lot of people have developed this knee-jerk reaction where they throw down a flag and declare out loud that it is just way too expensive to eat healthy, organic food these days! Well, I am going to do my best to explain to you why I believe this way of thinking is silly and tell you what I believe you can do to overcome this seemingly impossible dichotomy of eating healthy on a budget.

Why I believe the bulk of the population feels that healthy food is too expensive:

I believe that the main reason people bitch and moan about the high cost of healthy food is because they have a completely inverted value system. I used to be one of these people so trust me, I know! Typically people like this live in a place that is eating up more than 35% of their take home pay and drive around vehicles which eat up roughly 30%. The remaining 35% is usually blown on things like: restaurants, entertainment and cheap boxed or canned foods from their local big league supermarket.

People who live like this are usually the first to complain about having to pay an extra dollar or two for organic produce while they arrogantly stand there with a $5.00 cup of coffee, a $2.00 can of soda, a $6.00 pack of cigarettes or a $17.00 case of beer sitting in their cart...

Does anybody see the problem here? People are complaining about having to pay an extra dollar or two for the "healthy" stuff (which will in turn make them healthy), yet they won't bat an eyelash when it comes to blowing $2.00-$5.00 for a drink? Like I said before, we have a major values inversion happening here.

The individuals who gripe about "overpriced" produce are typically people who overextend themselves and live a lifestyle that is beyond their means. Again, how do I know this? I was one of them! Rather than making the adult decision to scale back on my living/lifestyle expenses and invest more of my money into eating a healthier diet, I just complained about it.

For those of you who find this offensive: I sincerely do apologize, but I am not sorry. I apologize that it took having to read this article for you to realize that your ability to budget effectively is simply not up to par. If it makes you feel any better though; when I first learned this lesson I was damn-near homeless and getting assistance from my brother (who was on food stamps) in order to just survive from week-to-week. So take a deep breath, punch a pillow if you have to, suck it up and lets fix this.

Getting your values in order:

This part is really all up to you. Why? Because I can't possibly sit down with each and every one of you and help you figure out what you might need to cut out in order to make up for your current lack of grocery money.

I can however give you some examples of things my wife and I have decided to get rid of so that we can afford to spend more of our money on the things that truly matter to us and make us healthy and happy (i.e. delicious, healthy food).

Gosh, where to start? Throughout our relationship and well into our marriage, my wife and I have been on a seemingly never-ending cycle of downsizing the amount of financial obligations we have so that we can spend more of our money on whatever the hell we want. For starters: we live happily in a small studio apartment right now so that we don't throw our money away on stupid space to house useless junk in. We believe in living a very simplistic and minimalist lifestyle. Together we decided that all we really "need" right now is just a place to eat, sleep, shower and shit.

Living in such a small space yielded a lot of unexpected advantages and has actually been tremendously beneficial for us. By living in a studio we are sort of forced to make as much use out of our tiny space as humanly possible -- and it has actually been quite fun coming up with new ideas on how to do it. It has also forced us to constantly take inventory of the stuff we have accumulated and determine right away whether or not that particular item is necessary for us to keep -- unlike some who have so much space that things inevitably wind up getting tossed in a corner or on a shelf to be forgotten.

Other things that we have decided are unnecessary expenses are things like cable television. Instead of paying 50 plus dollars per month just to sit on our butts and get bigger, we now only spend $8 per month to have Netflix. Since we only watch maybe one hour of television per day at best, this has worked out very well for us. Also, instead of driving around all the time we occasionally decide that we aren't going to drive for a few days per week when it's nice out and we walk instead.

When it comes to things like our cell phone bill, I have done extensive homework and found a couple of loopholes that allow us to get the most service for our buck while also saving 25% off of every phone bill.

And finally; when it comes to our grocery budget, just because we have extra money to spend from our careful financial planning does not mean we go on a spree every time we hit the supermarket. As a family, we believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. That being said, we allow our frugalness to flow into our grocery buying habits as well. We shop at discount stores like Aldi for most of our basic food staples and toiletries, and then we drive to the big league grocery store down the road (Meijer in our case) for things like: organic produce, almond milk, organic cereals, etc. While we are there, we do our best to take full advantage of any specials they have going on and we are incredibly mindful of how much we are spending so that we don't go over our budget.

Now that it's summer and farmer's markets are going to open up we certainly will be upping our budget and springing for the higher quality local foods that you find there -- but we still have fun and try to be as frugal as we can be. What's fun about farmer's markets is you can sometimes barter or finagle your way into a really great deal once you get to know the people you are buying from week after week.

Final Thoughts

The main idea I want you to take away from this article is that you have all the control when it comes to what you spend your money on. Do you really want to be the kind of person who spends more money on your home, car and entertainment than you do on your health and well-being? These are serious questions you need to ask yourself and answer honestly. If after all of this you find that your budget is a little (or a lot) out of balance, stay calm and just take it one step at a time.

If you need some help, feel free to read my previous article on how to take control of your money.

Spend some time figuring out the unnecessary expenditures that exist in your life today and then figure out what you can do to get rid of them so that you can spend more of your hard earned money on the things that truly matter to you.

Remember, how you do anything is how you do everything. Set a good example now and watch it flow into every area of your life.

Cheers!

Corey Barton