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 completely miserable then it’s time to get out of your unhealthy food rut for good.
Living a healthy life is a journey; you learn as you go, and you will never stop learning, and this ultimate guide is designed to help you achieve a healthful and abundant life whilst also living to your full potential.
How exactly do you live a healthy lifestyle?
Some people believe they are living a healthy lifestyle simply by adding an apple to their lunch and taking the stairs instead of the escalator every now and then when the situation calls for it. 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 squash in that hour long training or yoga session all before a full day’s work (which for the record, I am not a fan of).
In this post I will go over the many facets of healthy living. There are actually many factors involved that need to come together in harmony if you want to enjoy great health for a lifetime, and there are no guarantees, but hopefully with a few tweaks and changes you can lower your risk of disease and add years to your life.
The road to health is a journey
Mediocre attempts at staying fit and healthy like those mentioned above, will not yield you great results (especially if your main diet consists of junk foods, refined sugars and trans fats), in these cases eating the odd piece of fruit just isn’t going to be enough to balance out all the bad stuff.
You need to proportionately balance out your bad habits with good habits, and ideally cut the bad out completely. If you smoke 40 cigarettes a day then there is nothing you can do to counteract that damage, so this rule has its limits. “Everything in moderation” is a saying that has stood the test of time for good reason, and I live happily by it myself every day.
The reason why a healthy lifestyle a ‘journey’ is because that is how it feels; the body and mind need time to change, adapt and grow – all of 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.
How to Change Ingrained Belief Systems
The reason why it’s good to start with small changes is because 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 one step at a time is not only the best, but also the 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 supreme health. You WILL literally start to feel the healthy lifestyle benefits within days, and every day after that you will feel better and better – yes food really is that powerful!
By the time you’re a year down the road you will feel totally transformed and bursting with energy and vitality, your skin will be clear, your eyes bright, and most awesome of all you may be helping to protect yourself from disease.
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’ as it will be your best friend when things get tough, and it will remind you that you don’t need to do everything at once.
All these changes can be made on a budget
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 physical exercise that it needs.
1. CLEARING OUT THE JUNK
Start by taking a look in your kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer, and take note of all the high sugar and fat foods you have lurking in there. If you look at the labels you will be able to see at a glance how much sugar is in a food; it is under the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars’ section.
Anything over 22.5 grams per 100G is considered high, and anything under 5 grams is considered low.
Sugar can come disguised under many different names (there are over 50 different titles for what is essentially just sugar, please check out the full list here) and they are hidden like dangerous little assassins in almost everything you buy if you aren’t meticulous about checking.
What are Free Sugars?
Free sugars are any sugar that has been extracted from its original source such as in the case of granulated sugars – be they white or brown, honey, fruit juices, agave syrup, maple syrup or any other kind of syrup. Yes, some are considered healthier than others, but they are still free sugars and so need to be eaten in moderation.
The average person is consuming more than DOUBLE the safe amount of sugar than the recommended guidelines, and when you start to clear out your cupboards and realise where your hidden food sugars are coming from it is easy to see why.
It is in fact, downright 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, in turn leading to more cravings, weight gain and risk of many 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 may eventually cause insulin resistance. This can then lead to type 2 diabetes, and also increases your chance of other diseases such as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and even some cancers – all of which come with their own risks and complications.
SO, cutting down drastically on sugar really is the NUMBER ONE thing you should start doing for yourself today. Below are the amounts of ‘free sugars’ (in grams) that is considered safe by medical professions, and that you should try your best to adhere to as much as possible.
- 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 I know, 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 obviously be healthy (although, I do make my own healthy chocolate cake, but that’s for another post). For now, there is light at the end of the tunnel for all you sweet toothed ones out there, as this rule only applies to free sugars and not whole sugars.
Difference between free and whole sugars
Free sugars are so called because the original food source has had its sugar extracted from it, making it what is known as a ‘fractured’ food. The extraction process of many foods automatically turns them high GI, which means their sugars hit the bloodstream quickly due to the fact that most of their fibers and nutrients have been removed. Fibers and nutrients that would have otherwise ‘slowed down’ that release of sugar into the bloodstream, thus giving a much slower energy release.
Free sugars are very high GI
This process is actually done with many food and not just sugar. Free flowing oils have been extracted from their original source too, but this doesn’t necessarily make them bad for you. The same goes for sugars – maple syrup and honey are both free sugars, but still have nutrients in them so therefore making them preferable to refined white sugar. However, they are still a high GI free sugar, and therefore need to be treated the same as any other sugar and added to your daily 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, during the refining process has had all of its nutrients removed.
This means the body doesn’t have to work at breaking the sugar down like it would have to do if it still contained its fiber and nutrients. ALL THIS has already been done for you 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, and even MORE unhealthy – just think high fructose corn syrup if you want a good example of such a case.
FREE SUGAR FOODS
Free sugars come under the terms of white sugar and derivatives of, such as icing sugar, syrups, syrups made from other plants such as corn, brown rice, agave, honey and maple syrups; also sodas and fruit juices are free sugars. Yes, you heard that right, even fruit juices are not healthy as not only have they have had their fiber taken out, but have been juiced down for an 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 in the same way you can when it’s juiced up . This means your body will be hit quickly with an unnatural amount of fruit sugar thus promoting a huge insulin response. Remember, our bodies were actually designed to eat the whole fruit and trying to mess with nature always leads to trouble.
This process also applies to refined flours, white rice, white pasta and white bread – though technically not a sweet kind of sugar as we know it, they are still high GI and act the same as a sugar inside the body, causing the same insulin spike. So thinking you’re safe because you’re not sweet toothed isn’t necessarily the case.
Whole sugars that can be eaten safely
Whole sugars are sweet foods 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 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 helps bring out their sweetness.
- Sweeteners – such as xylitol, stevia, date paste and brown rice syrup are all the lowest GI substitutes, though not technically whole sugars, they are still a much healthier alternative but should only be eaten in moderation.
Now you have an understanding of sugar and the sugars hidden 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.
Trans fats are the bad guys here, and these 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’s cheap. These cheap fat’s 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 as it’s a grey area), but the end result of this process makes them very bad for your body.
Which Foods Contain Trans Fats?
You will find these trans fats on your food labels under the term ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’, but a trans fat is also produced in another form when oils are heated more than once in the cooking purposes. You will find examples of this in most fast food joints where the same cooking oil is used to deep fry foods over and over again.
Food’s in your cupboards that will contain either trans or unhealthy fats will be items such as:-
- Cheap commercial chocolate
- 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 for either cooking. or to pour cold onto salads, vegetables, or in cold dressings:-
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil (for using cold only)
- Sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Flax oil
- Hemp oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Coconut oil
Need Help Clearing the Junk from your Cupboards?
If you have lots of items you need to swap, or even completely remove from your cupboards, and you think it will be an arduous task, then please read here my 10 steps to eating clean. This will explain 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 are much more likely to last, and will also give you time to adapt to your new lifestyle.
The Plant Based Diet
Once you’ve sorted all the rubbish from your cupboards you can start to think about going for more healthier options when out shopping. As well as the above healthier versions of sugars and oils, you should also add in lots of alkaline plant based foods rather than animal products as much as possible. Make them a staple and main part of your diet, and if you have to eat meat and dairy then keep it to a minimum or in very small portions.
Plant foods should steal the show on your healthy plate as they are full of antioxidants, fiber and a whole array of nutrients to keep your immune system strong, your weight down, and your skin glowing.
Foods you should eat every day
Eat the below foods as much as possible, and try to swap unhealthy foods for some of these plant based alternatives. When you first start out eating lots of nutritious plant foods you will need to learn the art of correct food combining to be sure you put together a nutritionally complete meal that includes proteins, fats, and low GI carbohydrates together.
- 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 starts to detoxify itself better.
Superfoods don’t need to be obscure and bank breaking products, they can come as some of the most budget friendly foods when you know what you’re looking for and are available in most supermarkets.
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 sure heard that right – antioxidants are THAT important and will help slow down the aging process on both the inside and out.
Green Superfood Powders
You can go to whatever level you wish with your healthy eating lifestyle, but you should also take a shot of green juice every day such as wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina, moringa, chlorella, or best of all buy a blend of all of them. I do this every day at the same time as having a big spoonful of my homemade turmeric paste and they work fantastically well together. The fats and powerful anti inflammatory antioxidants in the turmeric work in harmony and help the absorption of the fat soluble nutrients in the superfood powder.
This is the one major thing that I know helps keep my skin looking amazing and my brain firing on all cylinders. In fact, I often muse myself with the thought that it’s my turmeric and superfood combo that powers me through endless hours of blog writing when I also have a full time job to contend with.
Check out these Amazon reviews on these awesome green superfood powders as they are also simple way to make sure you are getting all the greens you need into your diet, not just for the anti aging benefits but all the other myriad of healthful benefits that go with it. They give you a noticeable energy boost (which is great before a workout or the mid-afternoon slump), and did I mention they also make your skin glow? Yes they really do – literally within about half an hour of drinking them!
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 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 – so great for those wanting to lose weight, or just maintain their physique.
Get your exercise in at least 3 times a week, making 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 (I’m serious, it’s actually great for fitness) Or, you can just 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 but surely start to fall apart in both body and mind, and it can be truly painful. This is because your body is healing and rejuvenating itself whilst 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 the 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 shut eye in.
Can lack of sleep be harmful?
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 either sleeping or getting off to sleep, then you should maybe look at some natural sleep remedies to help you out. Or even try CBD oil as some people have amazing result with it. I’ve even heard some say that it was the only thing that cured their insomnia after trying everything else, including sleeping pills.
With CDD oil recently becoming legal it is bringing with it many testimonies of its powerful benefits, and a relief from insomnia is one of them.
5. ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS
You cannot escape all of these, but you can some of them, such as the chemical cleaners you use in your home and the lotions, potions, soaps and make up that you put onto your skin. Your skin is highly absorbent – meaning everything you put onto it eventually makes its way into it.
Sounds pretty awful when it’s put like that, but really hammers it home just how much junk our bodies have to detoxify from every day, so the very least we can do is give it a helping hand by cutting down on this chemical assault as much as possible.
Using chemical free products in the home
There are all sorts of organic and chemical free cleaning products, make ups, shampoos and soaps on the market making it is pretty easy to find swaps for most of your regular things. Or another option – you can always also make your own at home out of much cheaper items such as lemon juice, baking soda 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.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and green superfoods will all help to neutralise and flush out heavy metals and other toxins from your system, which happens to be another great side effect of a plant based diet! The most powerful detoxifying foods include:-
- Broccoli sprouts
- Psyllium husks
Stress is another potentially life threatening disorder, but luckily one that you have complete control over if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Stress, when left 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 – of which studies are showing to be the root cause of many modern day diseases.
Keep your body in a state of homeostasis
You can now start to see the connection of all things in the body, and also 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 help prevent all of these problems.
Ways to reduce stress levels
- Breathing exercises
- Exercise, especially weight bearing
- Eating a 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 more great tips and techniques on relaxation please check out this YouTube video for inspiration!
7. 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 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, as there are no limits these days), OR start your own blog as I have and share your interests and experiences in order 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.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what a healthy lifestyle actually is, and if there is something I haven’t covered here that you need help with then please do not hesitate to give me a shout in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
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