My health journey has been a long one. Reflecting on it now, I can think back to health issues starting as far back as elementary school. So let’s start there. Growing up I was raised on the typical American diet, which consisted of significant amounts of sugar. Bread, cereal, and other cheap carbs were the norm. It was easy to become addicted and that has carried forward throughout my life. I believe that this one thing has been more detrimental to my health than anything else. So if you are a parent, you may want to think about this one a bit. Look around your cabinets and you will not believe how much sugar is in everything.
In my adult life I see that sugar is the root cause of some health issues, but have learned that it is even more than that. We drink water full of chemicals. We eat food full of pesticides, and we are a laboratory experiment with GMO’s. Anything processed has little nutrition so vitamins are added. Hooray for human kibble! So I switched things up a few years ago and started eating real food. I cook all my own meals and use fresh local ingredients whenever possible. I’ve limited sugar as much as possible as well, although I tend to find excuses to splurge here and there. I think there is a healthy balance of treating yourself, but if the consequences outweigh the benefits it just isn’t worth it. When you go without it long enough you don’t miss it or desire it as much. Although it is hard to get past the initial withdrawals. Sugar sounds like a drug and it might as well be.
I believe that health is more than just food though as that is just one piece of the possible. Our society is very sedentary with all of our modern conveniences. Many of us work in cubes sitting down all day. We get up for a few breaks, but the deadlines keep us chained to the chair. Without movement we waste away without optimal digestion and circulation. So if you are in this type of situation, try to get up more. Honestly those few minutes of walking around energize you and you may accomplish even more when you get back to your desk. Make exercise outside of work a priority and routine. Find a way to make it fun. Treadmills are boring, if you can get outside and play tennis, basketball, or just go for a run in a beautiful area it can work wonders for you.
Sitting in front of screens and putting out fires constantly in a job can create a lot of stress. After work you get to sit in traffic and go home to a different set of fires. Being stressed all the time impacts just about every area of your life (sleep, eating habits, exercise, relationships). I am working towards entrepreneurship to break these chains and do something more meaningful with my time. I would rather be writing this blog relaxed in my living room than in an office. You could also find a line of work where you are happy with what you do every day. Life is too short to do something you dislike or hate. Please see Taking Back Passion for more on this.
Next in the chain reaction is sleep. Being stressed out all day, reaching for sugar to cope and possibly even drinking leads to sleeping problems. Sleep gives your brain a chance to cleanse and be ready for action. Without it, you build up toxins in your brain. This leads to poor memory, concentration, motivation, and deprives you of happiness or feeling. Sleep is impacted by what you eat or how well you digest your food. If you have poor digestion, you wont sleep well and if you don’t sleep well you will have poor digestion. It feels like a never ending battle.
What I have done to improve sleep is watch what I eat before bed, turn off electronic devices an hour before bed, and create a relaxing environment to settle down that last hour before bed (reading, meditation, etc.). Blue light is emitted from most screens and stops melatonin production, which is a hormone that puts you to sleep. I bought these glasses to wear at night to eliminate blue light. Blue Light Glasses. There are more stylish ones, but these are cheap and do the job. This article from Chris Kresser goes into some very good suggestions around improving sleep. Sleep More Deeply
Lastly, having a social life and regular friends have been beneficial to my health. You need a place to vent your frustrations or celebrate your successes. Friends or groups are a great place to fill this need. If you have trouble meeting new people or making friends, I have found success on meetup.com. There you can find groups that suit just about any interest and if you don’t see something you like, you could also start your own group.
In summary, these are the key areas of focus to health:
- Eat Real Food! Limit eating out of boxes and cook. Pressure cookers and crock pots are great for making this easier with bulk meals.
- Exercise! Get up from your desk throughout the day. Find a way to make exercise enjoyable so you stick with it and even look forward to it.
- Sleep! Create a good environment, eliminate blue light and shut offex electronics at least an hour before bed.
- Stress Management! Stress is unavoidable, but by doing the last three items you prepare yourself to better handle stress as it comes. If the way you live is creating too much stress, find ways to prevent it or do something different all together.
- Social life! The human connection is critical for happiness and health. Nourish it by finding people who like to do similar things and have regular friends.
Good luck! I am currently fighting my way through this and writing this blog keeps me going with it. I would love to hear any comments about your own experiences or advice.