What is a healthy lifestyle and what is the easiest most painless way to achieve it? Living a healthy life can mean different things to different people and it’s often about perspective; and by this I mean we are all at different stages of our lives and have different levels of knowledge about food.
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.
Some people believe they are living a healthy lifestyle by adding an apple to their lunch, or 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 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 ‘healthier‘ (especially if your main diet consists of junk foods, such as refined sugars and trans fats), because in this case eating the odd piece of fruit isn’t going to cut any 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. It’s 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 ‘old’ belief systems can be challenging:
This is exactly why it’s good to start with small changes to give your mind a chance to not only form new habits, but change its deeply embedded belief systems and build new neural pathways in your brain.
The changing of old belief systems is the key here, and like with many other new journeys and 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.
Where To Start:
In this post I am going to give you some tips on changes you can start making today that will start you off on your amazing journey to health. And you will start to feel good within days, and every day better and better after that.
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 us in the modern age. I’m talking the BIG FIVE, which are diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression (and other mental illnesses), and degenerative diseases.
Below are my top tips for starting your healthy journey. 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.
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 really shouldn’t let a lack of funds be the reason for not giving your body good wholesome food and regular exercise.
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 and high sugar foods you have. 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.
Free Sugars – The Bad Guys
The average person is consuming more than double the ‘safe’ amount of sugar than the recommended guidelines. I say ‘safe’ because it is in fact dangerous to repeatedly consume more than our bodies can assimilate – too much sugar causes a high blood sugar spike, which triggers an insulin response, and when this happens on a continuous basis things will eventually turn ugly.
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 chances of many other diseases such as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and many cancers.
So knowing all 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 but then I don’t make up the rules. Anyway, 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 The Two:
Free sugars are so called because the origonal food source has had its sugar extracted from it, and so it is then a ‘fractured‘ food. The extraction process of many foods turns them high GI, making the sugars hit the bloodstream quickly because their fibers and nutrients have been removed – both of which would have otherwise ‘slowed down’ those sugars. This is done with many foods and not just sugar but for now we will just focus on sugar.
Example:- Good old-fashioned white table sugar is a ‘free sugar’ because it has been extracted from its fibrous cane, and then 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 more slowly, as it has already been done in the processing process . As sugar gets broken down and refined even further (as in the case of syrups and fine icing sugars) it becomes even higher GI, and even MORE unhealthy. Think high fructose corn syrup!
FREE SUGAR FOODS:
Are all basic white sugar and derivatives of, such as syrups, sugar powders, sweets, confectionery, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, soda’s AND fruit juices. Yes even fruit juices, this is 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 2 minutes like you can when it is juiced. This means your body will be hit with an unnatural amount of fruit sugar; remember our body was designed to eat the ‘whole fruit’.
This process also applies to refined flours, white rice, white pasta, and white bread etc, though ‘technically’ not a sugar they are still high GI and therefore have all the same after effects on the body, and still in fact act the same in the body as any other sugar. 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 fruits such as bananas, mangoes, pineapple, papayas and grapes.
- Dried fruits
- 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.
Now you have an understanding of sugar and the bad sugars in your cupboards let’s move onto 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 baddies here, and these include almost anything deep-fried – and 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, but this process makes them very bad for our bodies.
You will find these trans fats on your food labels under the term ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil‘. A trans fat is also produced when oils are heated more than once for cooking purposes, like in most fast food joints, where the same cooking oil 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, like pizza, frozen chips, burgers, and anything deep-fried.
These are the fats that you should be using in the future to cook with, and also to pour cold onto salads and dressings
- Coconut Oil
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin oilive oil (for using cold only)
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
Need Help Clearing the Junk From Your Cupboards?
If you have lots of items to swap and change from your cupboards then please read ’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.
‘ADDING IN’ HEALTHIER FOODS:
Once you’ve sorted all the rubbish out 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.
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.
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 are superfoods?
The word ‘Super Food‘ 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 process both inside and out.
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, not just for anti aging, but all the other healthful effects. As they all have different nutritional profiles it’s worth investigating further which would be best for our specific needs.
Check out my list of green superfood benefits and see for yourself the powerful effects these powders can have on your health in a very short space of time. In fact some work within half an hour by giving you a boost of energy and making your skin glow.
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 come across them every day, such as the beach for running, and hills for climbing.
A physically fit body is MAJORLY important to a healthy lifestyle, as the fitter you are the stronger your heart will be, and the less chance you’ll have of sickness and disease. Having high amounts of muscle mass on your body will also help you to burn calories even when you’re resting. Don’t forget, muscle burns more calories than fat just to maintain itself, which is amazing news for those wanting to either lose or just maintain a healthy weight.
For tips on how you can incorporate regular exercise into your life, and how to find the right exercise plan for you then please read my post ‘The Importance of Physical Exercise’, which will help you to get started.
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.
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 is the deep REM sleep that is most important, and we need 2-3 cycles of that a night which we can only get if we get a good 7-9 hours 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; this is due to blood sugar levels being thrown completely out of whack.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS
You cannot escape many of these but you can some, such as the chemical cleaners you use in your home, and the lotions, potions, soaps, and make up that you put onto your body. Your skin is highly absorbent and everything you put on it makes its way in.
Sounds quite awful when it’s put like that, but really makes you realise just how much junk your body has to detoxify you from every day. The least we can do is give it a helping hand by cutting down this chemical assault as much as possible.
There are all sorts of organic and chemical free cleaning products, make up, shampoos, and soaps on the market so it is pretty easy to find swaps for most of your regular things.
The importance of keeping toxic load down:-
Keeping our toxic load down is very important as when the body starts to get overloaded with toxins (which it often does in our highly polluted environment) it will gradually break down, then accelerated aging and sickness will eventually occur. This brings me to another great side effect of the alkaline plant based diet, and especially the super food green powders, as they ALL help to neutralise and flush toxins from the system.
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 great for teeth whitening.
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. And on the other end, it can lead to heart disease, heart attack, cancer, plus accelerated aging and inflammation, both of which are thought to be the root cause of almost every modern day disease and illness.
You can probably now start to see the connection of all things in the body, and 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 another perspective you can see how it’s actually a hundred times EASIER in the long run just to keep yourself healthy in the first place!
Ways to reduce stress:
- 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 and get inspired!
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 that stop you) OR, start your own blog as I have, sharing your interests and experience to help others.
The world really is your oyster when you start realising that anything is possible, and that in every second you are in fact creating your own reality.