Increase the good in these 4 aspects of your life to optimize your health.
1. Nutrition: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” — Hippocrates. Food either helps us to grow and heal or it is toxic. Work towards a whole foods plant-based diet. Start by increasing vegetables, cooked or raw. Fill up your plate more with plants and see how it makes you feel. If you do not tolerate raw yet start with cooked and then slowly increase raw, chewing well. You can use a blender to start getting more raw into your diet with a green smoothie. Try raw kale or spinach with frozen fruit of choice and some fresh ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. Switch from dairy milk to non-dairy. As you slowly increase the ‘essential’ foods you may find your cravings for the ‘fun’ foods decreases. What are the ‘fun’ foods? Processed foods, cheese, animal flesh, ice cream, etc. Joe Cross, the creator of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead puts it nicely this way: We all like to have fun but we all know that if we spend too much time in the fun part of town it will not be much fun anymore, we may get into a bit of trouble. So we need to spend more time in the essential part of town. We need to eat more of the essential foods: vegetables and fruit. Very importantly, make sure you are enjoying these essential foods. Find plant-based recipes that you enjoy. Believe it or not they can be fun too! Go to Forks Over Knives website or Happy Herbivore for recipes to get the ball rolling. And remember to drink plenty of water in between meals. Sips of water throughout the day is better than big gulps.
2. Exercise: Move your body! This will increase the circulation and oxygenation of every cell in your body and help remove waste products though activation of your lymphatic system. Start slow. Walk. Stretch. Try Yoga. Swim. Find what is practical and enjoyable. You don’t need to kill yourself to get results. Forget about the no pain, no gain logic. It is not necessary. When exercising we should be able to carry on a conversation with someone. We should be able to breath through our nose. Remember to do this and you will best prevent injury and burn out. Read Born To Run and learn about proper mechanic barefoot running. That book got a non- runner like myself into running. Now running is my primary exercise and I am training for my first marathon. If you want to try running, check out the Couch to 5 K app for your smart phone. Try to increase to 30 minutes of exercise 4 times a week and maintain that regimen for at least 6 weeks before adding anything more.
3. Stress Management: See my recent post on abdominal breathing. Make breath work your foundation for stress management. Always start with the breath. Return to the breath when in a jam. Observe your breath, then change from a stress chest breath to a soft belly breath. Maintaining observation of your breath for a few minutes will kick start your re-training of the nervous system. You can create new neuro-pathways in your brain by observing the breath, then your sensations in the body. This is also called meditation. We all should know how to work with the breath as a starting point in stress management, mindfulness training, and learning to live in the present!
4. Sleep: Most of us need to sleep more. Go to bed early and wake up with the sun. Avoid late night TV. Avoid caffeine after lunch time. Exercise in the morning before you start your day so the evening can be a peaceful warm and cozy time. Read at night. If your muscles are achy and tense, make sure to stretch before bed. Practice some breath awareness and soft belly breathing. You can try magnesium citrate before bed to help relax the muscles if needed.
So take a personal invitatory of how much you are doing in these 4 areas of your life. If you are not feeling optimally well, then chances are one or more of these areas are not getting adequate nourishment. Start small and increase the right kind of medicine into these areas and watch the magic happen.
“Eat food, not too much and mostly plants” – Michael Pollan
- Watch Forks Over Knives, available on Netflix or on Amazon for 3.99 to rent or purchase on iTunes for 9.99 or check out at your local library, or buy DVD at Forksoverknives.com
- Ask yourself before you put something into your body: Is this a whole food or refined? Know the difference.
- Work to increase vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils & peas, non-GMO soy), fruit and whole grains.
- Non-gluten whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth are recommended.
- Buy in bulk: legumes, whole grains. Buy local. Direct from farmers (look for CSA options). Stick to the periphery in the market. As for organics, be mindful of the ‘Dirty Dozen’
- Start the morning with oatmeal and berries using almond milk or try a green smoothie. My favorite is raw kale with frozen berries and chia seeds.
- Add raw seeds to your diet: Chia, flax (fresh ground), sunflower, pumpkin, etc for essential fatty acid support.
- Have up to one handful of raw nuts daily.
- Cook staple foods (legumes & whole grains) in larger batches so you can reheat for future meals.
- You can have some egg-free pasta: rice pasta (no wheat) or whole wheat but don’t overdo it.
- If you are craving something sweet try to go for whole fruit or 1 small square of dark dairy free chocolate
- Avoid all white flour products, refined sugar and processed foods (AKA “food-like” products or junk)
- Get the junk out of the house! Or at least don’t buy it again so there are no easy temptations lying around.
- Avoid or minimize all dairy and animal products especially if from factory farms.
- Drink plenty of water in between meals. Wean off sodas, diet or regular.
- Start every morning with a glass of water, add fresh lemon and cayenne if you like to help with cleansing
- Move your body daily: Pick what you enjoy most or try something new: walking, yoga, cycling, swimming, tai chi, barefoot style running.
- Practice breath awareness and meditation, this will help with your cravings and stress management
- Sleep 8-10 hours a day, this is when the body heals. Trouble sleeping? Then avoid caffeine after lunch, avoid late night TV, do not over eat and try to eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Take Vitamin D3 in the winter months, 2000 IU daily with food to strengthen immune system and prevent the winter blues (seasonal affective disorder)
- Take a Vitamin B12 supplement or eat more organic vegetables without washing them too well. or B Complex daily (without standard synthetic folic acid)
- Eat 3-4 servings of seaweed weekly for adequate iodine which is needed for thyroid function. My favorite is Dulse, or try Nori sheets used for sushi. Or can take 1 kelp tablet daily
- The leading causes of death in this country are heart disease and cancer, both of which are for the most part, preventable if you follow a whole foods plant-based diet. And now we know that heart disease can be reversible on a strict low fat completely plant-based diet (vegan) (Read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD )
- H=N/C (Health = Nutrients/Calories) The Standard American Diet (SAD) is nutrient poor and calorie rich. Increasing the nutrients increases our health. Decreasing the calories increases our health. Focus on nutrient dense foods that are naturally lower in calories over calorie rich and nutrient poor foods. (Read Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD)
- Practice eating to 80% fullness. (‘Hara Hachi Bu’) Eat slowly & mindfully. Take a few soft belly breaths before each meal to help you slow down and chew well. Caloric restriction increases longevity (Read The Blue Zones Dan Buettner)
- Be mindful of the P/a ratio = Plant to animal ratio. Increasing plants and decreasing animal products has been shown to increase longevity and prevent chronic disease.
- Avoid the Pleasure Trap: We are designed to seek pleasure, avoid pain and be as efficient as possible in this process. What killed humans most often during most of the time on this planet is famine (starvation). Our brains are still designed to survive famine. It does this by rewarding us when we eat more caloric dense foods. (fat, sugar) That is why we feel temporarily pretty good after eating meat and cheese. This is because of increased levels of dopamine in the brain. (Heroin does that too!) In modern times what kills most humans is EXCESS not starvation. Too much fat and sugar! And we can get a hold of it without any work at all (very efficient), just driving to the market to purchase compared to the day when humans would walk/run on average 10 miles a day gathering and hunting for food. (Read The Pleasure Trap)
- The Gabriel Method: Diets don’t work. Instead of thinking I can’t have this, I can’t have that. Think I can have it but I choose not to. Increase the good in your life! Increase the healthy foods, let them take up more of the plate and the good will eventually win over the bad. You will put your body in a better position to heal itself. Your cravings will decrease. Your taste buds will change and you will enjoy your food more. (Watch Hungry for Change!)
- Acid/Alkaline: Processed foods: white flour products, sugar and animal products including dairy are acid forming in the body. Vegetables, beans and fruit are alkaline forming. Too much acid forming foods causes inflammation, and chronic disease.
- Don’t worry about protein! As long as you are eating mostly whole foods you will likely meet your protein requirement. If you feel you are not getting enough, increase beans, try tempeh! Add hemp seeds. Your requirement for protein is 0.8 grams/body weight in Kilograms. Do the math.
- Remember oils are processed and don’t exist in nature for consumption. It takes 44 olives to make 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 16 ears of corn for 1 tablespoon corn oil and 3 feet of sugar cane for 1 teaspoon of sugar! Keep it whole and unprocessed and your body will respond. Check out eatunprocessed.com for whole plant based recipes and information from Chef AJ.
Other documentaries to watch: Hungry for Change, Food Inc, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Forks Over Knives:The Extended Interviews.
Other books: The China Study by T. Collin Campbell, PhD, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs, The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness by Douglas J. Lisle, PhD, The End of Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman, MD, Diet for a New America by John Robbins
Recipes: forksoverknives.com, happyherbivore.com, plantbaseddietrecipes.com
Getting started: pcrm.org/kickstartHome, mindbodygreen.com, search PlantBased-Diet-for-Beginners-How-to-Get-Started For the science behind plant-based diets in short educational videos: nutritionfacts.org