What is a healthy lifestyle, and what is the easiest most painless way to achieve it? Often bad health is a result of bad conditioned thinking patterns around food and exercise. Maybe you over eat for a number of reasons be it comfort, contentment, or simply because you just love your food. Whatever your reasons, if your eating habits are making you overweight, sick, or miserable then it’s time to get out of your food rut for good.
A healthy lifestyle is a journey, you learn as you go and you will never stop learning and this post is your ultimate guide designed to help you get started on the path to a beautiful, healthy, vigorous life.
Some people believe they are living a healthy lifestyle by adding an apple to their lunch, and taking the stairs instead of the escalator every so often – while others go to the extremes of only eating organic raw foods, drinking lurid green drinks (which I am actually a big fan of, but more about that later), and getting up at 5am to get in that hour long training or yoga session before a days work (which for the record, I am not a fan of).
The road to ultimate health is a ‘journey’
The former of the above isn’t really going to do anything for you in terms of getting you healthier (especially if your main diet consists of junk foods, refined sugars, and trans fats): in this case eating the odd piece of fruit just isn’t going to cut the mustard. But by the same token you probably aren’t yet in a place on your healthy lifestyle journey where you fancy getting up for a 5am workout.
The reason why I call a healthy lifestyle a ‘journey’ is because that is how it feels; the body and mind need time to change, adapt and grow, which is a process, and if you were to jump straight in at the deep end chances are you would fall off the wagon very quickly.
Changing stubborn belief systems is a challenge
This is exactly why it’s good to start with small changes as it will give your mind a chance to not only form new habits, but also change its deeply embedded belief systems AND build new neural pathways in your brain.
The changing of old belief systems is key here, and as with any other new journeys or paths in life this is no different: the mind needs time to adapt, and making small changes by taking things one step at a time is the best and most proven way to form new habits for life.
Where To Start:
The tips and strategies in this post are changes you can start making today that will start you off on your amazing journey to health. You WILL literally start to feel good within days, and every day after that, better and better – yes food really is that powerful!
By the time you’re a year down the road you will feel totally transformed, be bursting with energy and vitality, your skin will be clear, your eyes bright, and most awesome of all you will be helping to protect yourself from ALL the major diseases that affect 4/5 of people in the modern age. I’m talking the BIG FIVE which are diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression (and other mental illnesses), and degenerative diseases.
Make a couple of changes a week and stick to them; don’t try to do too much at once and give yourself a chance to get used to this different way of living. Keep in mind the word ‘journey‘ – you really don’t need to do everything at once.
If you’re on a tight budget do not fear:-
I know not everybody can afford fancy superfoods and gym memberships so I have made allowances for that. You can live a healthy lifestyle on ANY budget and you shouldn’t let a lack of funds be the reason for not giving your body good wholesome food and regular exercise that it needs.
WHAT IS A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE? – YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE
1. CLEARING OUT THE JUNK
Start by taking a look in your kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer, and take note of all the high fat/high sugar foods you have lurking in there. If you look at labels then you can see at a glance how much sugar is in a food – it is under the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars‘ section. Anything over 22.5g per 100g is considered high, and anything under 5g is considered low.
Sugar can come disguised under many different names (there are over 50 different names for what is essentially just sugar, find a full list here) and they are hidden like dangerous little assassins in almost everything you buy if you aren’t meticulous about checking.
Free Sugars – The Bad Guys
The average person is consuming more than DOUBLE the safe amount of sugar than the recommended guidelines, and when you start to realise where your hidden food sugars are coming from it is easy to see why. It is in fact dangerous to repeatedly consume more sugar than your body can assimilate – too much causes a fast blood sugar spike which triggers a high insulin response, which then leads to more cravings and weight gain, plus risks of other diseases.
Type 2 diabetes:-
An insulin response is quite normal and natural after a meal, BUT an unnatural amount of sugar on a consistent basis will more than likely cause insulin resistance. This then leads to type 2 diabetes, and also increases your chance of many other diseases such as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and many cancers – all of which come with their own risks and complications.
So knowing this should be the incentive you need to start eating less sugar which really is the NUMBER 1 thing you need to do to for your healthy lifestyle. Below are the amounts of ‘free’ sugars’ in grams that is considered safe by medical professions for you to consume per day.
- Men – 38 grams (9 teaspoons)
- Women – 25 grams (6-8 teaspoons)
- Children under 8 years old – 12.5 grams (3-4 teaspoons)
This isn’t much, and seems mean when you consider that one can of soda is 10 TEASPOONS of sugar in itself, but I don’t make up the rules and if I did then chocolate cake would rule the world… obviously :). However there is light at the end of the tunnel for all you sweet toothed ones out there because this only applies to free sugars and not whole sugars.
The Difference Between ‘free sugars’ and ‘whole sugars’:-
Free sugars are so called because the origonal food source has had its sugar extracted from it, making it is then a ‘fractured‘ food. The extraction process of many foods turns them high GI, which means their sugars hit the bloodstream quickly due to the fact that their fibers and a lot of nutrients have been removed, both of which would have otherwise ‘slowed down’ the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
This process is actually done with many foods and not just sugar. Free flowing oils have been extracted from their origonal source too, but this doesn’t necessarily make them bad for you. The same with sugars – maple syrup and honey are both free sugars, but still have nutrients in them making them preferable to refined white sugar, BUT they still need to be treated the same and added to your sugar allowance.
How free sugars affect the body:-
Good old-fashioned white table sugar is a ‘free sugar’ because it has been extracted from its fibrous cane, and further more, in the refining processed all of its nutrients are inadvertently removed.
This means the body doesn’t have to work to break down those sugars as it would if that food still contained its fiber and nutrients as this has already been done for it in the refining process. And as sugar gets broken down and refined even further still (as in the case of syrups and fine icing sugars) it becomes even higher GI, thus even MORE unhealthy. Think high fructose corn syrup!
FREE SUGAR FOODS:
So, free sugars come under white sugar and derivatives of, such as icing sugar, syrups, syrups made from other plants such as corn, brown rice and agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, soda’s, AND fruit juices. Yes even fruit juices because they have had their fiber taken out and juiced down for an easy but unnatural consumption of fruit.
You could easily drink the equivalent of 10 oranges in a juice, but you would never eat 10 whole orange in the space of a couple of minutes as you would when it is juiced. This means your body will be hit quickly with an unnatural amount of fruit sugar promoting a huge insulin response – remember our body was actually designed to eat the whole fruit.
This process also applies to refined flours, white rice, white pasta and white bread, though technically not a sugar as we know it they are still high GI and act the same as a sugar when inside the body, causing the same insulin spike effects. So thinking you’re safe because you’re ‘not sweet toothed’ isn’t necessarily the case.
WHOLE SUGARS THAT CAN BE EATEN SAFELY:-
Whole sugar’s are sweet things that haven’t been fractured in any way and are still in their whole form such as:-
- All fruits – the lowest sugar being berries (of all kinds); and the highest sugar are tropical or other high sugar fruits such as bananas, mangoes, pineapple, papayas and grapes.
- Dried fruits – in moderation as it’s easy to eat too many!
- Slow roasting sweet vegetables – such as parsnip, butternut squash, beetroot, sweet potato, and carrots really brings out their sweetness.
- Sweeteners – such as xylitol, stevia, date paste, and brown rice syrup are all the lowest GI substitutes, but should still be eaten in moderation.
THE BAD FATS:
Now you have an understanding of sugar and the bad sugars in your cupboards let’s move on to FAT. Often fat is demonised unfairly, but we still need fats on a healthy diet – just the right kind of fats.
Trans fats are the bad guys here, which include almost anything deep-fried; plus pretty much ALL junk foods contain trans fats as their primary source of fat for the simple fact it is cheap. These cheap fats are made in a factory process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid (a process that is technically illegal but there are ways around it, so it’s a grey area), but the result of this process makes them very bad for your body.
Where to find trans fats:-
You will find these trans fats on your food labels under the term ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’. A trans fat is also produced in another form when oils are heated more than once for cooking purposes as it is in most fast food joints where the same cooking oil is used to deep fry foods over and over again.
Foods in your cupboards that will contain either trans or unhealthy fats will be things such as biscuits, cheap commercial chocolate, cakes, pre-made frosting for cakes, ready meals such as pizza, frozen chips, burgers, and anything else deep-fried.
These are the fats that you should be using in future to cook with, and also to pour cold onto salads and dressings:-
- Coconut Oil
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil (for using cold only)
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Flax oil
- Hemp oil
- Grapeseed oil
Need Help Clearing the Junk From Your Cupboards?
If you have lots of items you need to change or remove from your cupboards and you think it will be a big arduous task then please read my ’10 Easy Steps to Eating Clean’. This will explain in more depth how to go about replacing food products over a period of time. Remember you don’t have to do it all at once, small changes stick, and this also gives you time to adapt.
ADDING IN HEALTHIER FOODS
Once you’ve sorted all the rubbish from your cupboards you can start to think about going for more healthier options when shopping. As well as the above healthier versions of sugars and oils, you should add in lots of plant based foods such as:-
- Fruits – especially dark berries.
- Vegetables – especially leafy greens and orange coloured veggies. It is good to eat a ‘rainbow’ of colours to get the full spectrum of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
- Pulses – including lentils, beans, such as cannellini, borlotti, soy, kidney, butter, aduki, chick peas, and green peas.
- Nuts of all kinds
- Seeds of all kinds
- Wholegrains – such as quinoa, brown rice, brown pasta, amaranth, pearl barley, millet, buckwheat.
- Green superfood powders
Adding specific superfoods to your diet will be the most important thing you can do if you want to boost your health completely into the stratosphere. The difference this makes to how you feel can only be experienced and not explained, and the effects will just get better and better as your body detoxifies and heals itself.
Super foods don’t need to be obscure and bank breaking products, they can come as some of the most budget friendly and easily available foods. Check out these Top 10 Budget Superfoods and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
What exactly are superfoods?
The word ‘Superfood’ is the term given to a food or group of foods that have high amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals and nutrients. Antioxidants in particular act as free radical scavengers in the body and can help prevent, and even reverse the aging process. Yep, you heard that right, antioxidants are THAT important and will slow down the aging on both the inside and outside.
You can go to whatever level you wish with your healthy eating lifestyle, but I do recommend if nothing else that you take a shot of green juice every day, such as wheatgrass, barley grass, chlorella, or best of all buy a blend of all of them.
Green superfood powders:-
Green superfood powders are a brilliant and easy way to make sure you are getting all the greens you need into your diet, and not just for anti aging, but all the other myriad of healthful benefits. They also give you an energy boost and make your skin glow, literally within about half an hour of drinking them ( which is one of the reasons I can’t live without them myself).
Fortunately, you don’t actually need to pay for expensive gym memberships in order to get fit as you can either do it in your own home, or better still use nature’s very own fitness facilities. Opportunities for fitness are everywhere and you probably come across them every day, these include the beach for running, hills for climbing, or even just a power walk to work instead of using transport.
A physically fit body is MAJORLY important to a healthy lifestyle: the fitter you are the stronger your heart and immune system will be, meaning less chance of sickness and disease in the first place.
Fitness and weight loss:-
Having high amounts of muscle mass on your body will also help you to burn calories even when you’re resting. This is because muscle burns more calories than fat just to maintain itself – amazing news for those wanting to either lose weight, or just maintain their physique.
So get your exercise in at least 3 times a week, and make sure you combine resistance training, such as weight lifting, HITT training, boxing, and power walking; with cardio such as running, cycling, skipping, or even lots of sex (wink wink – but no seriously, it’s great for fitness), or do whatever else floats your boat. Just make sure you get moving!
Getting enough good quality sleep is another absolutely vital part of a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t get enough then you slowly start to fall apart in both body and mind.
This is because your body is healing and rejuvenating itself while you sleep, and doing all the repair work it can’t do during your waking hours when it is busy using its resources elsewhere. It’s the deep REM sleep that is most important and we need 2-3 cycles of it a night, which is only possible if we get a good 7-9 hours of good quality kip in.
Lack of Sleep Can Literally kill You!
Not sleeping enough on a consistent basis can lead to serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes (due to blood sugar levels being thrown completely out of whack).
If you have problems sleeping, or getting off to sleep, then you should maybe look at some natural sleep remedies to try and help you, or even try CBD oil. I’ve heard some people say that it was the only thing that cured their insomnia after trying everything else, including nasty sleeping pills.
With CDD oil recently becoming legal it is bringing with it many testimonies of its truly awesome benefits, and a relief from insomnia is one of them. Read this inspiring blog about how one man found this to be the ultimate cure for not only his life destroying insomnia, but also other other problems such as depression and anxiety.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS
You cannot escape many of these but you can some of them, like the chemical cleaners you use in your home; also the lotions, potions, soaps, and make up that you put onto your body. Your skin is highly absorbent and everything you put onto it makes its way into it.
Sounds pretty awful when it’s put like that, but really makes you realise just how much junk your body has to detoxify from every day. The least we can do is give it a helping hand by cutting down on this chemical assault as much as possible.
There are all sorts of organic and chemical free cleaning products, make up’s, shampoos, and soaps on the market and so it is pretty easy to find swaps for most of your regular things. Or you can also make your own out of much cheaper items such as lemon juice and white vinegar.
TOP TIP – Extra virgin coconut oil is the ultimate multidimensional product: it can be used not only in cooking, but as a skin moisturiser for face and body, a make-up remover, a deep conditioning treatment for hair, and it’s also great for teeth whitening.
The importance of keeping toxic load down:-
Keeping your toxic load down is very important because when the body starts to get overloaded with toxins (which it often does in our highly polluted modern environment) it will gradually break down and accelerated aging and sickness will eventually occur. This brings me again to another great side effect of the alkaline plant based diet, especially the green superfood powders which are one of the best things to help neutralise and flush out toxins from your system.
Stress is another potentially life threatening disorder, but luckily one that we have complete control over if we’re willing to put in the time and effort. Stress (when out of control) is a big killer, if not the biggest killer of our time.
On one end of the spectrum stress can cause headaches, low immunity, frequent infections, palpitations, loss of sexual desire, and insomnia. On the other end it can lead to heart disease, heart attack, cancer, plus accelerated aging and inflammation (both of which are now believed to be the root cause of almost every modern day disease and illness).
Keep your body in a state of homeostasis
You can now start to see the connection of all things in the body, and see how everything has a knock on effect on everything else to eventually bring about ill health and disease. When you start to see things from this perspective you can see how it’s actually a hundred times EASIER to keep your body in a state of constant homeostasis in the first place which will prevent these problems.
Easy ways to reduce your stress levels:-
- Breathing exercises
- Exercise – especially weight bearing
- Healthy Diet
- Getting enough good quality sleep
- Talking about your troubles
- Switch off all phones/internet/TV distractions and read a book
- Take up a hobby you know you’ll enjoy
- Exercising or walking in nature
- Visualisation techniques
For some tips and techniques on relaxation please check out this YouTube video for inspiration
6. KEEP ON LEARNING NEW THINGS
No matter what your age, keeping yourself in a continual cycle of learning new things about the world around you is so important to an all round healthy lifestyle. Learning keeps your brain sharp, which slows down the aging process, and also gives you a sense of achievement and worthiness.
You can keep your brain active by reading books, starting a new hobby, enrolling on a course that could send you down a new and exiting career path (you can do this at any age so don’t let being older stop you, there are no limits these days), OR start your own blog as I have and share your interests and experience to help others.
The world really is your oyster the moment you realise that anything is possible and that in every second you are in fact creating your own reality.