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.
- "The China Study"
- "Forks Over Knives; The Plant-Based Way to Health"
- The 'Engine 2 Diet'
- Food Matters
- What Makes You Sick?
- President Clinton's Health Transformation
- Hungry For Change
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.
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,