1. Eat a real food diet
We all know that we should eat healthy, but this is easier said than done. Try to see food as fuel for your body. Ask yourself, Is what I’m eating going to help my body run the way I want it to? If the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
2. Get enough sleep
Insufficient sleep is a problem that many of us have. Some people struggle with motivation to go to sleep and are easily distracted by smartphones, laptops or the TV. Other people can’t sleep even when they try to. But this is a problem worth working on. Most of us can’t function properly on less than seven hours of sleep. Sleep helps our memory, our digestion, our focus and our performance throughout the day. Try putting down your devices an hour before bed. Instead, listen to a podcast, read a book, or have a chat with your partner. The idea is to wind the brain down, preparing it for sleep.
3. Practice Intermittent Fasting
Sometimes, many people think that fasting is simply starving yourself – but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Intermittent Fasting is a health practice that can be used for weight loss but also is used to reset metabolism and maintain a normal weight. Having three meals a day at set times is not necessarily natural or beneficial. Our ancestors often went for long periods of time without eating and did fine. Fasting gives the digestive system a rest break and can actually help cells repair themselves. There are many different ways to fast. Some people choose to do one or two days a week, other people choose to eat within an eight-hour period, then fast for the rest of the day. Experiment to see what works for you.
4. Eat slowly and chew food properly
Living busy lives encourages us to eat quickly – wolfing down breakfast while running out the door, grabbing a sandwich on our lunch break, and trying to squeeze dinner in between laundry or evening classes or getting the kids to bed. Eating shouldn’t be a rushed affair. There are many reasons to slow down and eat mindfully. Chewing food properly and eating slowly can relieve indigestion and bloating as well as help us not to overeat.
5. Cook your food at home
It is no secret that restaurant food isn’t the best for you. It tends to be full of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and additives that can be addictive. Go ahead and eat out occasionally, but don’t make it a habit. You can make much better food at home (and save money too).
6. Don't drink your calories
Sugary drinks cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels – not good for anyone. With every sugar rush comes a sugar crash. And sweet drinks are loaded with calories, often a cause of weight gain.
7. Instead, drink plenty of water
You are 60% water. That’s a lot, but are you doing enough to maintain it? Making sure you’re hydrated can increase focus and energy, relieve headaches and decrease grogginess. It will also improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
8. Cut down on quick-digesting carbs
Try to reduce consumption of products made with flour and sugar. Eat whole or cracked grains, not breads or crackers made from whole-wheat flour. Also eat beans, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes – all provide good carbs.
9. Don't snack
Most snack foods are better left on the shelf. Snacking can cause weight gain for more reasons than just the empty calories. One of the reasons that Intermittent Fasting is good for you is that it helps regulate your hormone levels and settles your body down between the ‘fed’ state and the ‘fasted’ state. While fasting, your body burns fat and uses calories. In the ‘fed’ state, it stores calories and does not burn fat. When you snack, you are increasing the time that your body will not burn fat. If you want a treat, it’s better to have it after a meal than in between.
10. Make sure you're getting your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for the brain to function at full potential. Best sources are oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, black cod) and supplemental fish (or algae) oil. Vegetarian sources like flax, hemp seeds, and walnuts are good additions to the diet but not substitutes for omega-3-rich fish.
11. Take Vitamin D or get sunlight every day
We all know that we get vitamin D from sun exposure… but what do we need it for? Vitamin D is vital to help us absorb calcium, and therefore promotes bone growth. It also appears to protect against cancer, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and depression. It can be difficult to get enough time in the sun to get enough vitamin D (20 minutes per day), especially in fall and winter, so it’s a good idea to take 2,000 IU a day of supplemental D3.
12. Reduce stress for your overall health
Stress is an unpleasant part of life. It can also undermine health. When you experience stress, the hormone cortisol is released into the bloodstream. Over time, high levels of cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and blood sugar, contribute to obesity, lower libido and damage parts of the brain involved with memory. Try to take time to practice controlled breathing, mindfulness, or meditation, or make time for other things that help to calm you down. Try also to spend more time in the company of people who are calm.
13. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is an ultimate weapon against stress. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. Controlled breathing, meditation, taking walks in nature or simply making an effort to keep attention on the present moment can all lead to greater mindfulness. If you’re having a tough time with this, Headspace is a great mobile app that will guide you through meditation sessions to help keep you focused.
14. Eliminate sugar
Or at least cut-down. Most of us eat too much sugar, whether it’s in obvious things like sweet desserts or hidden in sauces or processed foods. Sugar might give a good initial spike of energy, but it won’t make you feel good long term. It’s a much better idea to go for foods you know will sustain your energy for hours rather than spike it for a few minutes.
15. Eat high-quality fats
You know that fatty part of the steak? Yeah, we're not talking about that. Instead, go for olive oil, olives, avocados, seeds, nuts and nut butter. The less processed, the better.
16. Eat high-quality animal products, or don't eat them at all
Remember the stress hormone, cortisol? Well, when animals are distressed, they release this hormone too. The flesh of animals raised and slaughtered in stressful environments will be full of the stuff. Is this what you want to fuel your body with? Probably not. Factory-farmed animals are also fed a lot of antibiotics, increasing the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Either make sure your animal products are organic and free range (local is better), or cut out animal products completely. With vegetarian and vegan eating on the rise, you might find that it isn’t as difficult as you may think to substitute vegetable protein for meat.
17. Perform resistance training three times a week
Resistance training builds bone as well as muscle, which is especially important for women. It can also relieve musculoskeletal problems, like back pain. The more muscle you build, the more your back will be supported. The same goes for the rest of your body. (Being able to lift heavy things safely also boosts self-esteem.)
18. Perform high-intensity conditioning three times a week
You probably already know that high-intensity conditioning is good for you – but now it’s time to start doing it. Short, hard bursts of full-on exertion are what you’re looking for, followed by short rest periods to recover.
19. Walk everywhere
We are lazier than people in the past. We drive everywhere; take the lift instead of the stairs. Many of us would rather take the sofa than a walk. Our ancestors walked an average of thirteen miles a day; most of us are lucky if we hit two-and-a-half. Small changes help. Walk to work, the shops or the gym. If it’s in walking distance, then walk it!
20. Play sports or practice martial arts
Exercise is great for your body and your mind, particularly sports. Different from resistance training and Tabata, sports help us to connect with others, giving us a sense of community and upping morale. Check out Aikido which is my favorite.
21. Read something every day
Your mind is at least as important as your body, and reading is an excellent way to keep it healthy and stimulated. Reading something every day can reduce stress levels, increase vocabulary, and improve concentration skills and memory.
22. Or learn a new language
If reading really isn’t your thing, try learning a new language. Apps like Duolingo and Busuu will help you put aside some time for this every day and learn interactively.
23. Get outdoors as much as possible
Getting outdoors is great for mental health and flow of ideas and might even help you get those extra walking miles in! We were not built to stay inside all day, so put your shoes on and head outdoors.
24. Make use of the sauna and steam room
Lots of us like saunas and steam rooms because they make us feel relaxed – but this isn’t the only benefit they have. Saunas relax muscles and lower blood pressure, while steam rooms help draw toxins out of the body.
25. Drink more matcha tea, of course
While you’re at it, ditch the coffee. Matcha is among the healthiest of drinks, offering a wealth of antioxidants and giving you slow-release, sustainable energy. Coffee tends to give an energy spike followed by a drop. You’ll feel energized after drinking matcha, but the L-theanine it contains promotes calm alertness.
Thanks for reading!