Over time, I’ve talked at great length here about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices – the way we eat, move, think, rest, and respond to stress are key elements of lifestyle.
Science has undeniably backed this up with evidence that our lifestyle choices shape our environment, and it’s this environment our cells are exposed to that will determine the expression of our genes.
In other words, it’s what we DO consistently and expose ourselves to consistently that will determine whether or not we stay healthy, or lose that optimal healthy function.
Embracing and prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is the key to avoiding serious degenerative illnesses (a.k.a. “diseases of lifestyle”) like: obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart problems, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, and many additional disorders that plague a large and growing portion of our society.
You may recall the Dynamic Spectrum of Health being described here. Essentially, this spectrum demonstrates that our health (cell function) is in a state of flux; always responding to those aforementioned lifestyle factors. When we add more Pure & Sufficient lifestyle choices, we move toward optimal cell function… and Health. These choices are like “fuel” for our cells. When our lifestyle includes too many Toxic & Deficient choices, we move away from healthy cell function and open the door for serious health problems.
Although it’s of the utmost importance to make “big” lifestyle improvements when your health and life are way off track, I recognize that dramatic lifestyle changes can be intimidating and difficult to implement.
So, for now, let’s press the pause button on the BIG changes, like overhauling your entire diet and starting a 7-day per week workout program! Instead, let’s take beginner steps.
Whether this idea of living a healthy lifestyle is completely new to you, or you’re just finding your way back to health, here are 9 “beginner” or “minor” lifestyle adjustments that you can make starting today.
These don’t take the place of eating well, moving well, thinking well, resting well, and responding well to stress… but these beginner steps will help you gain momentum and move you in the right direction on that Dynamic Spectrum of Health as they add healthy “fuel” for your cells.
1) Stretch every day.
So, maybe joining a gym, signing up for a boot camp, hiring a trainer, or launching into an entirely new exercise routine feel far too overwhelming for you. Then let’s start simple. Stretch every day! Stretching helps you keep your joints, muscles, and bones healthy and strong. Regular stretching makes you feel GOOD, and it decreases your risk of injury when you do incorporate more challenging exercise.
TIP: As part of your daily stretching, focus on moving your spinal area. This directly fuels your brain for better function, increases the production of “happy & healthy” hormones, and will cause you to feel less pain.
2) Reduce your consumption of soda & “energy” drinks – replace with water.
Sure, those beverages may taste good – that’s why we call food & drinks like that “tasty toxins” – but these drinks are loaded full of various forms of sugar & artificial sweeteners, artificial colors & flavors, and a concoction of chemicals that really have no business in the human body!
Water, on the other hand, is vital for overall healthy cell function.
Maybe you’re not ready to eliminate EVERY soda, energy drink, flavored coffee, glass of conventional cow’s milk, or alcoholic beverage, BUT, even substituting ONE of those toxic drinks with water every day is a step in the right direction. Then substitute two… then three. You get the point! Drink more water and less toxic garbage!
TIP: If you thought you were making a good choice for your weight loss efforts by drinking “diet” or “sugar-free” beverages, think again! If you’re taking in toxins, you’re NOT going to effectively shed the excess weight and fat you need to! Toxins are housed in fat cells – so, more toxins in = bigger fat cells.
3) Place less emphasis on grains & sugar.
Sugar and grains (particularly our modern day refined processed grains) are dangerous catalysts for serious health problems. Why grains? Grains break down to sugar very quickly in the body, especially the more refined they are. Sugar increases inflammation and toxicity throughout the entire body, and wreaks havoc on our immune function – all risk factors for serious illness.
Not ready to go “grain-free” and “sugar-free”?
Start with breakfast. Considering that the Standard American Diet’s breakfast is typically focused on grains & sugar (cereal, toast, pastries, bagels, pancakes, waffles, French toast, etc.), it’s SO easy to make improvements here! Add a source of protein and healthy fats to your breakfast. For example, an egg, or avocado, or some almond butter, or using real grass-fed butter. If you have access to it, get yourself some grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat to add to breakfast.
Next step – try a day or two per week where you don’t have ANY grains or sugar with your breakfast. Trust me – you’ll survive!
Of course, you can implement the same changes for lunch and dinner, as well as snacks. We are completely overloaded with sugar and grains in our culture… and our health track record shows it!
TIP: CROWD OUT the sugar and grains by adding more clean sources of protein and healthy fats to your meals and snacks.
4) Just say “NO” to fast food, junk food, & ‘convenience’ factory foods.
When it comes to having a healthy diet overall, fast food and packaged “convenience” factory foods are the worst. Most fast food and factory food is criminally high in toxic fats, sugar, calories, and countless artificial and toxic ingredients. Many of the ingredients in these foods are addicting… and not by accident.
I understand that the food is cheap, quick, and convenient… and with our fast-paced lifestyles, it can seem like an acceptable choice. But, that’s not how health is created.
Anytime you can replace fast food and factory food with REAL, whole foods, you win! If you’re not ready to give it up all together, just be intentional about replacing one trip through the drive-thru with one trip to the farmer’s market.
5) Add more vegetables.
This goes hand in hand with the sugar & grains tip, and the fast & factory foods tip – we are a society sorely deficient in plant-based foods!Vegetables provide the fresh fiber, nutrients, and anti-oxidants are bodies thrive on. (It’s not that fruit is “bad”… but we do need to keep our consumption in check since. Consider it “God’s candy” – it’s higher in natural sugar content than vegetables, generally speaking.)
Thankfully, this one is easy to improve upon as well. Simply add more vegetables every day! Clearly, not rocket science!
Some argue that raw veggies are the only way to go, while others say we should lightly steam them. Really? If we’re taking beginner steps here, just eat more vegetables!! Have some raw, some steamed, some roasted, some baked, some in soups, some in juices, some in omelets, some in salads… just have some veggies!
Veggies aren’t just for dinner, by the way. Be sure to add them to your lunch menu, and even breakfast. Yes, breakfast!
TIP: Veggie omelets are an easy way to start your day with several of the healthy choices we’ve discussed, especially if you’re starting with quality ingredients like cage-free organic eggs, grass-fed butter, and organic veggies. This provides clean protein, healthy fats, and a big boost of fiber and nutrients from your veggies.
ANOTHER TIP: As you’re beginning to add more vegetables and plant-based foods to your diet, refrain from drowning those poor plants with toxic dressings, dips, and sauces! This will directly sabotage your healthy efforts!
6) Get outside… and breathe!
We spend so much time rushing around, driving everywhere, and sitting in front of various screens that we can become disconnected from the outdoors.
We also tend to forget to breathe! Sounds silly, I know. But very few people breathe properly… which means many people are not fully oxygenating their bodies and brains. We kinda’ need that fresh oxygen to sustain cell function!
The simple solution? Everyday, step outside and take some nice, deep belly breaths. Instead of the typical stressed out shallow breathing that comes from your upper chest (and moves your shoulders), take deep breaths – in through your nose – that expand your belly, then slowly exhale out through your mouth. Relax.
TIP: You get bonus points when you go outside, practice your relaxing & restorative belly breathing… barefoot… in the grass or even in the dirt! Connect, people!
Add one thing (regularly) that you just do for FUN! It might be active, it might not. It might be with other people, it might be just you. It really doesn’t matter too much… just make sure there’s something you do on a regular basis that’s just plain fun and makes you feel happy. Play with your kids, skip in the park, hoola hoop, play cards or board games, do a cannonball into the lake, swing on a swing, see a funny movie, dance… you get the idea. Life’s too short to make everything about goals, results, deadlines, routines, schedules, work, bills, and everyone else’s opinion!
Again, be intentional. If you don’t create the space in your life for this, chances are it won’t happen.
8 ) Get to bed at a “healthy” time.
Lack of sleep and chronic sleep deprivation is a form of toxicity AND deficiency, and therefore contributes to every serious (and not-so-serious) health problem – from immune disruption, hormonal imbalance, weight gain, mental fog, even deficits in our physical fitness and performance.
Most of us know that they need more sleep, but night after night, something seems to come up that gets in the way of that quality sleep.
Be intentional. Set a bedtime. Don’t watch the news, check your email, start a movie, or surf the web after a certain pre-determined time. Give your brain time to chill out before you expect it to provide you with quality sleep.
Getting to bed earlier is an intelligent lifestyle choice – much evidence points to the hours before midnight as being the “Golden Hours” of sleep. Plus, the earlier you can get to bed, the greater the likelihood you’ll cycle through the various cycles of sleep multiple times in any given night. That’s what’s most important – getting through all those cycles, a few times.
TIP: In addition to getting to bed early, set the stage for successful quality sleep by sleeping in total darkness, and removing the obvious obstacles to sleeping through the night. For example, having a full glass of water or a few alcoholic beverages shortly before bed is sure to wake up your bladder at some point! Disrupted sleep means disrupted health!
9) Count your blessings.
Having an Attitude of Gratitude shifts our cellular function to healthier cell function. It’s physiologically true. Your attitude, feelings, and response to stress play an enormous role in whether or not your genes will express health or sickness.
While it’s not always easy to see the glass as half full, it’s always important.
No matter what we’re facing, we have a choice in how we respond. We have a choice to be grateful. We can be intentional about looking for those blessings each day.
TIP: If the idea of becoming footloose & carefree seems a little too much for you to fathom at this point, pick ONE “trigger” that will remind you to smarten up, give yourself an attitude adjustment, and find something to be grateful about, dagnabbit! Maybe it’s every morning at sunrise or every night at sunset, or every time you’re about to drink your morning glass of water, or every time you stop at a certain stoplight, or every time you open the fridge, or every time you hear the sirens of emergency vehicles. WHAT it is that reminds you is not as important as remembering to be grateful.
Gratitude changes everything.
There you go! 9 rather simple things you can incorporate starting today… and everyday. Don’t underestimate the power of these simple lifestyle upgrades. They will add up to healthier function overall… PLUS, you’ll just feel GOOD, and that’s a very good thing!
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 19 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
For more information about working privately with Dr. Colleen and Dr. Marc in an Investigative & Functional Health Recovery Program for any number of metabolic and health issues, such as thyroid imbalance, weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivity & gut permeability, autoimmune conditions, cellular detoxification, mercury detoxification, and more, please contact Dr. Colleen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline. Personalized distance programs are available.