How healthy are you? Do you have a healthy diet? Do you exercise regularly? Do you drink at least eight glasses of water a day? Do you get enough sleep every day? Do you live a healthy lifestyle?
Our body is our temple and we need to take care of it. Do you know that over 70% of Americans are either obese or overweight? That’s insane! Think of your body as your physical shell to take you through life. If you repeatedly abuse it, your shell will wear out quickly.
Life is beautiful and you don’t want to bog yourself down with unnecessary health problems. Today, your vital organs may be working well, but they may not be tomorrow. Don’t take your health for granted. Take proper care of your body.
Good health isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise — it’s also about having a positive attitude, a positive self-image, and a healthy lifestyle.
Drink more water. Most of us don’t drink enough water every day. Water is essential for our bodies to function. Do you know over 60% of our body is made up of water? Water is needed to carry out body functions, remove waste, and carry nutrients and oxygen around our body. Since we lose water daily through urine, bowel movements, perspiration, and breathing, we need to replenish our water intake. Furthermore, drinking water helps in losing weight. A Health.com study carried out among overweight or obese people showed that water drinkers lose 4.5 more pounds than a control group! The researchers believe that it’s because drinking more water helps fill your stomach, making you less hungry and less likely to overeat. The amount of water we need is dependent on various factors such as humidity, your physical activity, and your weight, but generally, we need 2.7-3.7 liters of water intake per day. Since food intake contributes about 20% of our fluid intake, that means we need to drink about 2.0-3.0 liters of water or about 8-10 glasses (now you know how the 8 glasses recommendation came about!). One way to tell if you’re hydrated — your urine should be slightly yellow. If it’s not, like it’s dark yellow or even orange, you’re not getting enough water! Other signs include dry lips, dry mouth, and little urination.
Get enough sleep. When you don’t rest well, you compensate by eating more. Usually, it’s junk food. Get enough rest and you don’t need to snack to stay awake. Also, lack of sleep causes premature aging and you don’t want that!
Meditate. Meditation quietens your mind and calms your soul.
Exercise. Movement is life. Research has shown that exercising daily brings tremendous benefits to our health, including an increase in lifespan, lowering of risk of diseases, higher bone density, and weight loss. Increase the activity in your life. Choose walking over transport for close distances. Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift. Join an aerobics class or a dance class.
Pick exercises that you enjoy. When you enjoy a sport, you naturally want to do it. Exercise isn’t about suffering and pushing yourself; it’s about being healthy and having fun at the same time. Adding variation in your exercises will keep them interesting. What exercises do you like and how can you include them in your routine?
Work out different parts of your body. Don’t just do cardio (like jogging). Give your body a proper workout. The easiest way is to engage in sports since they work out different muscle groups. Popular activities where you can get a good body workout are trekking, hiking, swimming, basketball, tennis, squash, badminton, yoga, and frisbee.
Eat fruits. Fruits have a load of vitamins and minerals. Do you know that oranges offer more health benefits than vitamin C pills? As much as possible, consume your vitamins and minerals through your diet rather than through pills. I eat a variety of fruits every morning and they energize me. Satisfy your palate with these nutritious fruits: Banana, Papaya, Kiwi, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Watermelon, Rockmelon, Honeydew, Peach, Apple, Grapefruit, Pomelo, Mango, Orange.
Eat vegetables. Vegetables are the source of many nutrients and minerals like folate, vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, manganese, and potassium, not to mention dietary fiber which is important for good gut health. There are two types of vegetables: Starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato, yam, and pumpkin; and non-starchy vegetables like kale, arugula, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, long beans, tomato, cucumber, and mushroom (technically a fungus). Some vegetables are slightly starchy and hence fall in the middle: Corn, green peas, carrot, artichoke, beetroot, cauliflower, and beans (technically legumes). All vegetables are important and enrich our diet.I typically have raw salads for lunch every day with a variety of vegetables, then a cooked dinner with grains, potatoes/sweet potatoes, and other delicious vegetables. You want to have a variety of vegetable intake to strengthen your immune system
Pick different-colored fruits/vegs. Always consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors. Firstly, fruits and vegetables with different colors represent different anti-oxidant content, which removes free radicals that damage our cells and fights inflammation in our body. Secondly, when we eat a large diversity of fruits/vegetables, it creates a wide variety of good bacteria in our gut, which creates a strong defense line between us and the environment, improves our immune system, and strengthens our long-term health.Eat fruits/vegetables of different colors: White (Bananas), Yellow (Pineapples, Mango), Orange (Orange, Papaya), Red (Apple, Strawberries, Raspberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon), Green (Avocado, Kale, Lettuce, Cucumber), Purple/Blue (Blackberries, Prunes). Here’s a full list under the color wheel. If you have existing gut problems, be careful about eating excessive amounts of fiber as it can cause digestion and constipation issues. For those with existing gut problems, excessive fiber intake can cause slow down colonic transit time (due to bulkier stools), make it more difficult to move your bowels, which leads to constipation, piles, anal fissure. It can also cause gas and bloating. Consume low-fiber foods to let your gut heal, juice your fruits/vegetables to get their nutrients, and then slowly build up your whole fruit/vegetable intake.
Cut down on processed food. Processed food is not good because (a) most of the nutritional value is lost in the creation of these foods, and (b) the added preservatives are bad for our health. Many processed foods contain a high amount of salt which leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease. In general, the more ingredients a food has on the label (ending with ‘ite’ or ‘ate’), the more processed it is. Go for less processed food such as a baked potato over chips, fresh fruit over canned fruit, and intact grains over white bread.
Choose intact grains over refined grains. Intact grains contain all the essential parts of the grain seed; in other words, they contain 100% of the original kernel, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Because these layers are intact, the grain contains a richer nutritional profile of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains (which are grains stripped of the bran and germ layers through processing).Go for intact grains like steel cut oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet. Refined grains include white rice, white flour, most types of bread, white pasta, quick oats, and cereals. The more processing a grain has been through, the more refined it is. If you’re starting out, there’s no need to 100% ban refined grains — moderation is the key. Transition to a more intact-grains-based diet by swapping refined grains with intact grains for 1-2 meals a week and increasing it from there.
Love yourself. Self-love is a crucial part of living a healthy life. When you have a negative self-image, it naturally weighs down on your mental outlook and health. How much do you love yourself on a scale of 1-10? Why? How can you love yourself more starting today?
Walk/Run barefoot. There are many benefits of barefoot walking/running, from having a better posture to less stress for your feet and joints. If the terrain in your neighborhood is too sharp, wear barefoot shoes. I’ve been running barefoot since May 2010 and loving it. Read:
Purge negative people from your life. Positive mental health is part of a healthy life. You don’t need toxic people in your life. If you feel that a friend is overly critical or negative, let him/her go.
Purge negativity from yourself. You don’t need negativity from yourself either. Listen to the thoughts that come up and get rid of your negative thoughts. One great way to remove your negativity is to brain dump when you feel frustrated. I do this with my clients, where I ask them to write out their deepest thoughts so that we can address them. Don’t keep these thoughts pent up inside you — it’s not healthy. Watch:
Avoid trigger foods. Trigger foods are the foods that make you go berserk and binge after you eat them. Everyone’s trigger foods are different (mine used to be doughnuts, pastries, and chips), but generally trigger foods are candy bars, chocolate, confectionery, chips, cookies, or anything with a high level of refined sugar, salt, or flour. These foods cause a blood sugar imbalance, hence triggering one to eat more. What are your trigger foods? Identify them and remove them from your diet.
Breathe. Deeply. Oxygen is vital for life. You may know how to breathe, but are you breathing properly? Most of us aren’t breathing properly — we take shallow breaths and breathe to 1/3 of our lung capacity. Athletes are taught proper breathing techniques to get their best performance. A full breath is one where your lungs are fully filled, your abdomen expands, and there’s minimum movement in your shoulders.
Improve your posture. Having a good posture improves your breathingand makes you look smarter and more attractive.
Address emotional eating issues. Do you eat when you feel stressed, bored, or frustrated? Emotional eating is eating to fill an emotion rather than real hunger. However, emotional eating will never make you feel happy because you’re trying to fill a void that has nothing to do with food. Food doesn’t give you love or happiness; it’s just food. Get to the root of the issue and address it.
Eat small meals. Choose several small meals over huge meals as it evens out your energy distribution. It’s also better for your stomach as it doesn’t over-stretch from digesting a huge volume of food at one go. In general, eat when you feel hungry and stop when you’re full you don’t need to wait until official mealtimes before you start eating. Listen to your body and what it tells you.
Stop eating when you feel full. Many of us rely on external cues to tell when we’re full, such as whether everyone has finished eating or whether your plate is empty. These are irrelevant: you should look at internal cues, such as whether your stomach feels full and how you feel. Don’t eat just because there’s food on the plate. I stop when I feel about 3/4 full — if I eat till I’m totally full, I feel bloated. Listen to your gut and learn when it’s time to stop!
Follow food-combining principles. Food combining is a term for a nutritional approach that advocates specific combinations of foods. After following food-combining principles, my digestion improved greatly. In general you should (1) stick to simple meals, (2) eat fruit as the first meal of the day, (3) never eat fruits after cooked food, even if many hours have passed, (4) only mix grains/starch with vegetables in a meal (it’s okay to add some fat), (5) never mix protein with starches in a meal, (6) only mix protein with non-starchy vegetables. I recommend reading David Klein’s book Self-Healing Colitis & Crohns — it has important information on improving gut health, including sections on food combining principles. I don’t subscribe to all his recommendations but I find that his overall recommendations are excellent to anyone who wants to have good gut health, not just people with colitis or gut disease.
Live a life of purpose. Blue Zones are regions of the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives. There are nine shared characteristics of these regions (many of which are in this list), and one important characteristic is to have a purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Are you living a life of meaning? Are you living in line with your purpose each day? Since I started living my purpose, I’ve never been happier. And you can experience that too.
Cut down on deep-fried food. Deep-fried food contains acrylamide, a potentially cancer-causing chemical. According to a BBC report, an ordinary bag of crisps may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO)! When I consume oily foods, I feel sluggish. Go for food prepared using healthier methods instead, such as grilling, steaming, stir-fry, or even raw food. Reduce your intake of fast food, fries, doughnuts, chips, wedges, and deep-fried food.
Cut down on sugary food/drinks. Sugary food consists of your candy bars, pastries, chocolate, cookies, cakes, and jelly donuts. Not only do they not fill you, but they trigger you to eat more due to the sugar rush. Eating once in a while is okay, but not daily. Go for healthy snacks instead. Sugary drinks are unfortunately sold everywhere today, namely in the form of soda and sweet drinks. These drinks are unhealthy and cause weight gain. Go for plain water, green tea, or vegetable juices instead!
Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it drains water from your body. Not only that, but alcohol is repeatedly proven to have negative effects on our body and health — impacting the proper functioning of our brain, liver, lungs, and other major organs. If you drink alcohol regularly, it’s time to cut it out, or at the very least, reduce your consumption.
Go organic (where possible). Organic food is food produced without synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers; that does not contain genetically modified organisms; and that is not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. The organic movement is slowly catching on with more stores offering organic options. While organic food tends to cost more, would you rather save some money and feed your body with pesticides or pay a few extra dollars for a cleaner, healthier body? I try to buy organic where possible (depending on budget).
Beware of vegetable oils. Over the years, I began to learn more about healthy vs. unhealthy food. I learned that many vegetable oils, which are basically used in many food products and almost all restaurants today, are toxic. This includes all refined oils such as canola oil, rapeseed oil, soybean oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, and even olive oil. Despite the whole “heart healthy” branding surrounding vegetable oils, oil is not a natural food. It’s an extremely processed food stripped of all the nutrients/fiber/protein/etc. of the original food. Many commercial oils are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fat which is inflammatory. In fact, the current prevalent use of vegetable oils was practically non-existent before the 1900s, and it was from a strong marketing push in the 1910s that vegetable oil began to be used in a widespread manner. Today, corporations use vegetable oils in food because (a) they are cheap and (b) they lengthen the shelf life of food, but they are not healthy in any way and create a lot of toxicity to the body. The best way to cut down on oil (because oil is everywhere) is to (a) prepare your own meals , and (b) be conscious of oil-free / less-oil menu options when you’re out. When consuming salads, opt for no dressing as most commercial dressings have oil. I recommend to do your own research —
Prepare your meals. Whenever I can, I prepare my meals. When you prepare your meals, you control what goes into them rather than choosing between sub-standard options in a restaurant. Get quality kitchen equipment — it will be your best investment ever. Having a blender makes it a breeze to make your fruit/vegetable juices! Having an instant pot and an oven makes cooking much easier too.
Learn to say no. Don’t eat just because you’re out with friends or because other people offer you food. Simply say no and say you’re not hungry if you don’t feel like eating.
Bring a water bottle when you go out. That way, you can drink whenever you want. It saves you money and you don’t need to resort to bad alternatives like soda.
Eat what you need. It is better to eat less and in line with your energy needs, rather than eat excessively and work off excess calorie intake through exercise. When you eat excessively, you strain your digestive system by making it digest more food than you need, and when you exercise excessively, you strain your body.
Stop smoking. Smoking is detrimental to health, severely increases the risk of lung cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer (of our gullet), heart attack, and more. Smoking “lite” cigarettes do not decrease health risks either. If you’re a smoker, quit not just for yourself, but for your family and friends. If you don’t smoke, stay that way and don’t start.
Avoid passive smoking. Second-hand smoking (breathing in air from smokers) causes many of the same long-term diseases as direct smoking (Wiki). Did you know? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there is no risk-free level of passive smoking; even brief exposure can be harmful to health. Get away from smokers and avoid cigarette smoke where you can.
Have healthy snacks. If you’re hungry at work, eat healthy snacks like fruits, vegetable juices, and yogurts. These are nutritional and don’t give you that sugar rush. Have them readily available so that you can get a munch and stop when you have your fill. Stay away from cookies and candy bars.
Try juicing/blending. Juicing/Blending is a great way to get vitamins and nutrients from fruits/vegetables quickly. Juicing is where you extract the juice using a juicing machine, removing the fiber. With blending, the fiber is not filtered away so you’re drinking the juice and fiber. For fruits, I recommend using a blender as juicing removes the fiber and creates large sugar spikes due to the loss of fiber. If you have a lot of vegetables, juice as it’s a great way to get the nutrients without munching through a huge volume of fiber. Juices and smoothies complement each other — juices give our digestive system a break while blending retains the fiber from fruits/vegetables which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut.
Get regular checkups. Some diseases don’t show up as symptoms until it is too late. Get regular blood tests for blood sugar, vitamins, and minerals, along with urine tests. More elaborate tests like mammograms (for women), PAP smear (for women), colonoscopy, etc. should be done at the recommended intervals. If the test results are not optimal, that means that you can quickly take corrective action. If they are great, that’s fantastic and you can have peace of mind!
Try a vegetarian diet. To be clear, being vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean better health as there are tons of unhealthy vegetarian food out there (mock soy patties, white-carb heavy meals, fried vegetarian food, meals rich in dairy, sugary desserts). Trying a vegetarian diet is about being healthier — meat has been linked to inflammation— and if it interests you, playing a role in reducing animal cruelty. When done right, there are many proven health benefits of a vegetarian diet. You don’t have to go on a vegetarian diet forever — you can just try it out as an experiment, or just go vegetarian for two days a week.
Try a vegan diet. A vegetarian diet excludes animal products. A vegan diet excludes consume animal and animal-derived products. This means no eggs, dairy, honey, cheese, or milk. So in that sense, being vegan seems like a very strict diet in our meat-heavy food culture, but it is said to have even more positive benefits than a vegetarian diet! Learn more about veganism here, here, and here. Once again, trying out a vegan diet doesn’t mean going on a permanent switch if you’re not ready for it — simply experiment, try it out for a few weeks, or just go vegan for two days a week. Do note that if you’re 100% vegan, there are certain vitamins and minerals essential for body function that you should watch out on, specifically vitamin B12, omega 3 (DHA/EPA), and possibly iron and zinc. These can be easily added by eating the right fortified foods and supplements