Seven Ways to Restore True Health, Starting Now
1. SLEEP – Become a hard-core, professional sleeper. Treat sleep like it is an event at the Olympics and you are training to be the world’s best sleeper! Everyone sleeps, but most people do a pretty pathetic version of it. I want to go on record as saying that sleep is more important to health than exercise. Deep sleep is when your body burns fat, builds muscle, repairs tissue, strengthens bone, and generally turns back the aging clock. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can sleep for 5 hours every night and be truly healthy.
But what does perfect sleep look like? Your body knows when the sun is up and when it sets. Your circadian rhythm syncs with the movement of the sun and your hormones respond accordingly. Ideally you will get tired and prepare for sleep around 9 or 10 p.m. and stay in deep sleep until 6 a.m. When you stay awake until midnight (or beyond!) your body loses that valuable fat-burning, body-repair time, even if you try to make up for the sleep hours by napping in the day! Ask anyone who has worked a night shift and tried to sleep during the day. They will tell you that is when their body really started to break down.
2. EAT MORE VEGGIES…NO, I MEAN WAY MORE VEGGIES
“Eat more vegetables!” has been the health-bandwagon marching-cry for decades. Every research study, meta-analysis, and mother has been repeating this mantra. We all know we need more vegetables. Unfortunately, an extra serving of carrots isn’t going to get us there. When I say eat more veggies, I mean that vegetables should be the bulk of what you eat every day. You need cups and cups of vegetables daily to get proper nutrition. Eat vegetables at every meal (yes, I mean breakfast too! Throw spinach and mushrooms in your eggs, grab a couple celery sticks, or throw some kale into your fruit smoothie). If you can digest them, try to do as many raw vegetables as you can. If you have trouble with raw vegetables, start with cooked vegetables and add a full-spectrum enzyme supplement with each meal as you slowly transition to raw vegetables. You don’t have to grow your hair out and stop bathing to eat sprouts every day, I promise!
3. STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL AND EATING SUGAR. JUST STOP IT.
I don’t want to hear any of you protesting this with the “health benefits of red wine” or some malarkey about all things in moderation. I am telling you this as someone who has treated thousands of patients with all sorts of health issues. Neither of these substances contributes to health in any way. I know, I know, “The French eat pastries and drink wine and have lower heart disease rates”…. When I open my Paris office I’ll spend several years gathering data on the French and I’ll get back to you. When was the last time you met someone here who gleefully announced, “I’ve been drinking wine every night and boy do I feel great!” Never ever, not never. Wine taxes your pancreas, reduces your liver function, and messes with your hormones. Not to mention that it turns into sugar quickly so that glass of wine with dinner may be enough to make sure your body never goes in to fat-burning. The only thing that kills fat-burning more efficiently than wine is sugar itself. The calories in those two cookies may not be high, but the sugar in them will trigger an insulin response designed to push sugar into cells and store fat. It will also start a blood-sugar roller coaster that ensures sugar cravings will return with a vengeance in a few hours. Oh, and just so you know, pasta and bread (even whole-wheat!) turn into sugar faster than some candy bars. So stop eating those too.
4. EXERCISE, BUT NOT LIKE A CRAZY PERSON
For years, we have had the faulty “calories in, calories out” formula beaten in to our heads. So much so that now if you can’t lose weight you probably have been beating yourself up for overeating (even if you’re not) and not exercising enough (even if you’re killing yourself at the gym). I have had several patients who came to me for help because they were spending two hours at the gym every day for months without losing a pound. People who would force themselves to exercise even when they were exhausted, sleep-deprived, and sick. This is crazy! Exercise is an important part of any wellness plan. But you must look at the inner health of your body and ensure that you are not over-exercising. I see just as many patients who are stressing their bodies by over-training as I do patients who are not exercising enough. If you are getting enough sleep, eating enough nutrition, and removing all toxic elements from your diet and environment, you should reach a point where you want to exercise, and where exercise feels really good. If you finish a workout and can immediately go to sleep, that is a sign that you are working out at too high a level. Back off a bit and walk instead of run, or cut the length of your workouts in half. Try an interval workout: exercise at high intensity for 30 seconds followed by 1.5 minutes of rest. Repeat this pattern for 20 minutes. This fast and efficient workout is actually much easier on the body, but twice as effective at burning fat than running straight for 30 minutes.
5. PICK 3 SUPPLEMENTS THAT DO YOUR BODY GOOD AND TAKE THEM DAILY
People often ask me what supplements I recommend. The truth is that I recommend different supplements to different people, depending on their health issues. And here’s the real dirty little secret; what you eat on a daily basis is much more important that the supplements you take. I am a supplement junkie….I love trying all sorts of different vitamins, herbs, and formulas. I’ve found that even the most expensive, extensively researched supplement in the world can’t make me feel as good as I do when my diet is perfect, my sleep is deep, and my stress is managed properly. However, when all of those things aren’t in place, supplements can be a great way to fill in the gaps. Bottom line, pick the three supplements that give you the most benefit and then take them consistently.
Ah, detox. Doesn’t it just sound important? But what does it actually mean to detox? Put simply, to detoxify is to remove toxins or otherwise harmful agents. And it’s a process your body is already doing constantly. The primary detoxifying organs are the liver, kidney, colon, lungs, and skin. You can sweat out toxins, you can excrete toxins into the urine or stool, but the most potent cleansing happens in the liver and kidneys where the entire volume of blood churns through to get cleaned up. The better these organs work, the cleaner your blood. However, your colon had better be working too because after the liver processes and packages the toxins for export they are dumped onto the intestinal highway for transport. If you aren’t having bowel movements regularly (at least daily if not several times a day), those toxins get reabsorbed into your body.
There are several things you can do to enhance detoxification in the body. A high vegetable diet (see resolution 2 again) helps supply the necessary vitamins and minerals and the cruciferous vegetables in particular have a very potent effect on liver detoxification. Herbs and fiber that promote regular bowel movements are also helpful. Drink water throughout the day, adding lemon juice. Saunas can help you eliminate toxins through the skin. Milk thistle and chlorella are fantastic detoxification herbs that can benefit the liver and kidneys. You can help your body deal with stress by consistently choosing to aid its detoxification process.
7. CHOOSE YOUR PURPOSE
This is such a huge piece of overall health I could devote all seven resolutions to it. Mental, emotional, and physical health are all tied together. Severe stress and unhappiness begin a very physical downward spiral in the body. You cannot treat one without the other. I find that many of my patients view their emotional state as something that life dictates to them, as if they have no control over it. While it is certainly not as simple as “choosing to be happy instead of being unhappy”, your mood is very much a result of what you are focusing on in your life and the questions you are asking to frame your life. Give your physical body the good stuff it needs to be healthy, and then nourish your mind and soul. Take the time to discover what is truly important to you, and nurture it. When you find people that you love and admire and that bring out the best in you, find ways to incorporate them into your life regularly. And remember fun? Have some! These are not things that magically fall into your lap, but they are so valuable that it is worth spending the rest of your life working on. You have the power to fill your life with whatever you want. Friendship, love, adventure, laughter, music, travel, poetry, dance, money, volunteering, books, mountains, oceans, deserts – get excited about something and take action steps to put it into your life! I think laughter is darn good medicine, but I would argue that purpose is the ultimate medicine. Laughter makes you feel good, but purpose keeps you alive. Choose your purpose so that you realize how important YOU are, how important your health is, and how important your contribution is. You are limitless, and you are here. The rest is up to you.