For most of us, our health is cluttered. Not necessarily cluttered by stuff, mind you, but cluttered with information. Too many new diets, new must-have supplements, or new workout plans. Too many opinions on how much water to drink, which must-have supplements to take, and how much sleep you need.
Enough. Caring for your health starts with the basics we all know well: eat nutritious food, break a sweat every day, get enough sleep, and take time to meditate. But, if you’re asking for tips to follow, this is where I would start:
1. Get rid of the diet books
You don’t need them! Think about it: how many times have you seen or heard about a new cure-all diet plan, rushed out, bought the book, skimmed the first 40 pages, and then shelved it?
Now, how often do you think back, and say to yourself, “I really need to follow that XYZ plan…it makes so much sense!”?
You’re cluttering your mind with information that, frankly, is only made to sell books. Yes, there’s tons of research being done on various methods and strategies of eating. But that’s all they are: strategies. No one system is going to work for everyone, and unless you’re a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist, you’re not in a position to do the experiments yourself! Mass-market diet advice is designed to sell copies to as many people as possible, not solve problems for individuals.
It’s okay to read a blog post explaining what keto or paleo or vegan is. But beyond that, are you really going to change your lifestyle every time a new book comes out?
2. Get rid of the supplements
You don’t need them! Yes, I recommend supplements to my clients. But they are (ready for this?) Supplements.
The research tells us that most people in North America are deficient in some or all of the micronutrients. But the people in those studies are also deficient in plain old healthy food. Supplements make up for deficiencies in nutrition, which may result from a poor diet, a medical issue, or extreme training. Outside of that, if you’re a relatively healthy adult who eats well and gets regular exercise, you probably don’t need much or anything for supplementation.
A multivitamin may help, but anything you’re not deficient in will just get peed out anyway. So, don’t waste your money. Start with food, and have your doctor or nutritionist review your blood panel for gaps or symptoms. Then tweak only what you need.
And don’t obsess over “cure-all” herbs either. While they can be nice to add support, no illness was ever caused by a lack of ashwagandha in the diet.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep the mind strong and clear.” – Buddha
3. Simplify your food
You’re really overthinking your food. Somewhere along the way, we got to thinking that we need to be constantly entertained by our food. Do you sit there, scratching your head wondering what to make for dinner because you had chicken and broccoli last night? So what?! Eat it again if that’s what you have on hand.
Research shows that even though we have this notion that constant and ever changing variety is necessary in our routine meals, most people default to the same four or five go-to meals every day anyway. It’s in our nature.
We evolved eating what was available when it was available. But too much variety, and the self-imposed pressure of constantly changing things up, actually leads to increased stress and anxiety. What if you choose the wrong thing? Is kale healthier than spinach? What if it’s not what you really wanted? Will you be disappointed?
Don’t stress over cluttered piles of cookbooks and an overstuffed pantry. You know what’s healthy and what’s not. When you’re not working on a specific goal, formulate four or five consistent go-to meals so you don’t have to stress about having the ingredients on hand. Then on the weekend have some fun with something new.
4. Simplify your training
What’s best: cardio or strength training? Walking? HIIT? Yoga?
Stop it. Unless you’re training for a specific goal or sport, my 5-4-3-2-1 recommendations are very easy to follow:
- 5 times a week (minimum), internal and breath work. That means meditating, at least 10 minutes a day.
- 4 times a week (minimum), mobility and internal work. That means yoga, taiji, qigong, or some other stretching routine (this CAN double with breath work).
- 3 times a week, resistance training. That means weights, bands, bodyweight, whatever.
- 2 times a week, cardio training. Whatever you like doing, or whatever your trainer prescribes. I like burst training because it’s usually 15 minutes or less and metabolically active.
- 1 day a week (minimum), playing. That is, go for a hike, zipline, go to the park with the kids, swimming, or skiing. Make it fun and outside of the house.
These are minimum guidelines just for healthy and active living. If you’re behind in any of these areas, or you’re not sure how to fit them all into a busy schedule let me know.
5. Simplify your water
Argh!! Water drives me crazy!! No, you’re not constantly dehydrated. Remember, the vast majority of these nutrition and health studies came out in the 80s and 90s, and were based on a very different health paradigm than we’re living now.
In truth, new research tells us that yes, you do get water from your tea, coffee, juice, fruits, vegetables, protein shakes, etc. And yes, you do probably get enough during the day that keeping a little timer to make sure you get your 72 glasses every day is maybe just giving it a little too much brain space.
On average, aim to finish a glass of water over the course of every two hours. The rule of thumb is that if you’re peeing 5 to 6 times a day, you’re plenty hydrated. Stop tracking it.
And taper off closer to bedtime. Overnight dehydration is a thing, but disrupting sleep to go to the bathroom is actually worse.
6. Go to sleep
You don’t have to be a member of the 5 a.m club to be successful. But you do need a good night’s sleep.
Think about when you need to get up, and calculate 8 hours back from there. That’s bedtime. If it feels “too early,” tough. You need sleep more than you need late-night talk shows (and they certainly don’t need you…they’ll be fine).
Two hours before bedtime, kill the phone. Just put it away. You don’t need it, except maybe to text a good night message to someone special. Just get some sleep.
“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
7. Simplify your morning
Following on from the previous night: in the time you have left before bed, get yourself set up for morning. Once you know your morning ritual (let me know if you need help planning one of those), you’ll know what you need laid out.
- Get the coffee maker set up.
- Get your pre-workout set up (if you’re using supplements…see #2).
- Get your writing tools set up.
- Get your top three morning tasks set up.
- Get your workout gear set up.
- Get your clothes for the day laid out.
When your feet hit the ground in the a.m., you shouldn’t have to delay or think about any of these steps. They’re ready to go, so you can own the morning and control your day.