I’m so happy that people are starting to consider how to improve their health right now!
Sad that it took a freaking global pandemic and shutting down of the world’s economy to make it happen, but happy, nonetheless.
So, if you’re among the millions of humans interested in improving your health right now, what does that even mean?
I know there are people heading off to expensive health retreats and others hiring in-home chefs or yoga instructors…
But what’s a normal, everyday Joe or Jane to do? You might not have the kind of dough to shell out for these shee shee options or you may have kids you are still home-schooling or you’re worn out from zoom meetings since telecommuting started in March…
Well, there are 4 simple things to think about when you’re thinking about improving your health: exercise, nutrition, hydration and sleep/stress reduction.
Let’s break it down.
If you are anything like me, I need to exercise so I don’t lose my ever-loving mind. Here is the deal…you have to move your body at least 30 minutes every single day. More if you want to maintain your weight without caloric restriction and still more if you’re trying to lose weight.
Moderate exercise is perfect. This means you need to get your heart rate to 70% of its maximum rate. How do I determine 70% of my max heart rate you ask?
Take 220 as the maximum rate your heart is estimated to get to, subtract your age and multiply by .70 for the quickest calculation. There are more complicated ways to get there but this is a good start.
Personally, I try to push mine a little more, but if you’re new to exercise, this is a good place to hang out and not overly tax your system.
What kind of exercise should you do?
Well, what do you like and what do you have access to? Voila! Your exercise regimen.
I try to vary mine everyday: a little yoga, a little running, walking, peloton (try the peloton app…it’s awesome and has so many different kinds of workouts), calisthenics, even jump rope!
There are also many free apps and online classes you can participate in…truly, the variety of what’s available is amazing!
What to eat? Well, in the words of best-selling food author, Michael Pollan: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.
Most people think they have to have some kind of animal protein at every meal and this could not be further from the truth.
In fact, there are many experts who feel that if we don’t give up our obsession with eating the flesh of animals, we are doomed to continue to introduce “novel” viruses into the world. They point to the correlation between so many of the new viruses that we have been exposed to that have come from animals: swine flu, mad cow disease, avian flu and now, the last virus believed to have been transmitted by a bat.
When we consider some of the deplorable environments that we raise animals for food in, it’s no wonder. Most factory farms should be viewed as perfect breeding grounds for disease…but I digress…
I was talking about what we should be eating. My best advice is to plan your meals around how to get more plants into them. Let’s look at some examples.
Berries, mango, apples, stone fruits, bananas are all great topping for any type of cereal you may want to have. For extra points choose oatmeal. For even MORE points make my friend Joy’s famous muesli. You can get the recipe here.
Having a piece of toast on the fly? Slice bananas length wise on top of some almond butter. This way, they stay on as you’re running out the door.
Craving yogurt but trying to ditch dairy (smart!)? Try many of the alternative milk yogurts on the market. My favorite is unsweetened vanilla coconut milk yogurt and I’ve even learned to make my own! Check out our friend Jake & Joy’s cooking show (Cook with Jake & Joy episode) to learn how to do it yourself.
Smoothies are another quick option you can make and take with you, if you’re in a hurry. We recommend using the plant based, vegan, non-GMO mix that we’ve been using for 13 years! I’ve never found one better.
I love breakfast because there are so many ways to make it delicious AND nutritious.
Once again, think of how you can get as many plants into this meal. I love the idea of “bowls”.
Bowls can be based around salad or a grain or beans or roasted veggies or even a soup.
There are so many great recipes out there for adding different flavors to these basic ingredients.
What flavors do you and your family love? Mexican, Indian, Italian, Asian? The possibilities are truly endless.
Can be another theme on the “bowl” or you could get the family involved in some planning.
One of our favorite meals is a plant-based burger wrapped in Tower Garden butter lettuce with fresh tomato, avocado and onion with a baked sweet potato on the side. So many plants in one meal!
I also love to make casseroles like vegan, spinach and mushroom lasagna or veggie & black bean enchiladas. You can pair a casserole with a delicious side salad and you are set!
Taco Bars are a big hit with our whole family and it’s easy to set them up with loads of veggies, guacamole, fresh salsa, corn, beans, etc. Just make sure to ditch the cheese and sour cream…you won’t be missing it with the flavors of all the other ingredients. You might use corn-tortillas or even rice or lettuce as a base. You can even do the same thing with baked potatoes.
I really recommend that you get a repertoire together of “go-to” meals that your family likes and put them into a rotation.
If you’re looking to grow some of your own food, Heather and I can’t recommend the vertical growing system we use enough. It’s simple, fun, doesn’t take up much space or use much water, you can completely control the safety of your food and it’s good for the environment! We hope you consider “growing your own” for your sake the sake of the planet.
It is thought that much of what ails us can be traced to hydration.
Got a headache? Feeling lethargic or hungry? Getting leg cramps? Have gas or constipation? Having trouble focusing?
Yup! All this, and more can be attributed to being dehydrated. Wow!
How much water do you need? There are a lot of different opinions out there. The easiest one to stick to is ½ your body weight in ounces plus an additional quart for every hour you exercise, travel or are outside in heat.
That sounds like a lot! Usually, people are resistant to drinking this much water because they are worried about having to pee all the time.
First of all, your body will adjust to this new intake.
Second, it’s not bad to take a break from your work more often than you probably do, right now.
Taking a “pee-break” might be a great way to get up and move around every hour.
Lastly, you want to consider that every time you pee, you’re excreting toxins from your body. It’s kind of like taking shower instead of just a sponge bath. Drink up!
Sleep (& stress reduction):
I don’t know why sleep is such a highly charged subject. People seem to wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor. I often hear people trying to outdo each other: “you get 6 hours every night?! Wow, I wish I could get that much!”
I know we might laugh about this but it is a very real health concern.
Not getting enough sleep can make us age faster, lose focus during the day, prevent us from losing weight and develop muscle mass, contribute to weight gain, and simply wear us down.
Not getting enough sleep actually takes time off of our life-span.
How much sleep do we need? Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night. Some of us need more and a small number of us need less.
It’s funny, whenever I talk about this, so many people think they fall into this category. What happens when we don’t get enough sleep but have to function is that the hormone cortisol increases and can make us feel invincible…for a while.
This hormone has many deleterious effects, causing many of the issues I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
One way to tell if you’re not getting enough sleep is if you’re tired! Seriously!
Napping can help but getting in those solid z’s at night will do a lot to improve your overall health. So, make it a priority. I know that watching an extra episode of your favorite show is oh so tempting or getting some work-related activity accomplished before a deadline or even catching up on laundry or other chores.
It’s really not worth it. No one will ever, on their deathbed, have a regret of not seeing the final episode of Tiger King, or not working more or not keeping their house tidier, but I bet there are many who do and will regret not taking better care of their health.
In addition to getting the proper amount of sleep, I also suggest that everyone have some form of stress reduction activity like meditation or prayer or a mindfulness practice.
It’s easy to think that veg’ing out in front of Netflix all weekend is your relaxation but it is actually not. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and get a daily practice. It doesn’t have to be long; 10 or 15 minutes should do the trick. There are lots of resources available to help you with this, the one our family uses is called “Insight Timer” on our phones.
Challenge yourself to do a little better in each of these 4 areas, especially now. Your immune system is depending on it.
Yours on this adventure of life,
Amy & Heather