12 Steps of Health
With so many trends and diets out there it can be hard af to figure out what to honestly believe. The external pressure to look and feel specific ways; the households we grew up in as children; our geological location and the cultures we immerse ourselves in; each of these elements help to shape who we are.
Hear is my quick breakdown of 12 simplified steps that you can take, starting today, to help you achieve better health!
1. Drink More Water
Our bodies thrive can’t survive very long without water. 75% of our brain and muscle matter is made up of water. Our bones and blood need water. Hydration helps carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells, and rid toxins and waste from the body. Water also regulates body temperature; helps lift our mood and let the body work more efficiently; process food and flush toxins and unnecessary hormones from the body. Water is welcomed into the body in a number of ways including herbal non-caffeinated teas, hot or chilled; food with a high water content, such as melons, cucumber, tomatoes and celery. You can also add herbs to your water for some yummy infused flavor, like spearmint, lemon balm, or basil.
2. Practice Cooking Whole Foods
Cooking is an excellent skill to learn. Not only do we rely on it, but also cooking can bring us closer to friends and loved ones. Communal or group cooking is a great way to break down social or cultural barriers, and connect with others. There is nothing better than sitting down with friends to share a homemade meal together. There is lots of learning and fun to be had in the kitchen. When you start to eat homemade meals with whole foods, you will quickly begin to feel better. Your mood will rise, you will begin to feel satiated and energized, instead of lethargic,like many of us feel after eating a high processed meal; you will sleep soundly; any blemished skin will begin to clear up; and you will develop a longer attention span.
3. Experiment with Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as bulgar, freekah, brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat, replenish the body with fiber, protein, antioxidants, B vitamins and even some trace minerals, like iron and magnesium. Since whole grains are rich in nutrients, it doesn’t take much to fill you up and will leave you feeling full until your next meal. Whole grains are a key component to healthy bacteria in the colon, and promote healthy, regular bowel movements.
4. Increase Sweet Vegetables
Increasing the intake of sweet vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, peas, beets, etc. is a great way to naturally lower sugar cravings, while still feeding your body the sucrose it relies on. You’re still feeding your body sugar, but it’s natural sugar that the body is able to use, unlike the processed sweets found in sweet treats and desserts. When roasted, most sweet vegetables become even sweeter, and are full of vitamins and nutrients, low in calories, and will energize you without the crash at the end! If you're interested in taking this one step further, you can begin to suss out the secret sugars in yogurts, pasta sauces, breads, cereals, etc. by taking a quick glance at the nutrition labels of these foods before purchasing; you may be surprised! To learn more about how to kick your sugar blues once and for all, click here.
5. Increase Leafy Green Vegetables
Eat more kale. Leafy greens are a non-starchy vegetable that can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted, or fermented. Greens are a fibrous vegetable, a diuretic, and do wonders for the liver and digestive system. The flowers from these leaves, including broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower are all anti-stress foods, and high in antioxidants.
6. Experiment with Proteins
Protein is essential for a well-rounded diet and healthy body. According to Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, “The human body assembles and utilizes about 50,000 different proteins to form organs, nerves, muscles and flesh.” Protein helps to maintain healthy, regular growth in the body, regulates the PH in your blood, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. Fallon is a big advocate for animal proteins, but it is not your only source of complete proteins if you are a vegetarian or vegan. For example, beans and rice are a classic complete protein combo! Multivitamins are still a wonderful supplement for the body, no matter your diet. if you're properly hydrated your body will be able to excrete whatever vitamins and minerals it doesn't need (see 1. for more details!). Understand that proteins come in many different forms, many of which are vegetarian and vegan friendly, including buckwheat, hummus and pita, rice and beans, natural nut butters, chia and hempseeds, spirulina powder sprinkled on salads or popcorn, soy, ezekiel bread, etc. Lots of options, here!
7. Eat Fewer Processed Foods
When you begin to consume fewer processed foods, your body will begin to heal itself by itself. The chemicals that we consume as a part of processed foods (the yummy, addicting ones, such as modified sugars and refined flours) and some chemicals added to processed foods, such as chips and soda can lead to diabetes, or cancerous cells, respectively, over an extended period of time. Eating whole foods can help heal leaky gut syndrome, increase your mood, and regulate your sleep cycle and energy levels.
8. Make A Habit of Nurturing Your Body
You can’t pour from an empty glass; take care of yourself first! Nurturing your body with whole foods, daily routines, positive self-talk, creativity, happiness, social outings, alone time, a healthy home environment, and home cooking can make all the difference in the other areas of your life. When you begin to nurture your body and take care of yourself first, you are then able to give more in the other areas of your life, like your work, your relationships, your physical activities, etc.
9. Have Healthy Relationships
The people that you surround yourself with play a very vital role in your health and wellness. Be sure to surround yourself with friends and family that express love and kindness toward you and also toward them selves. When we surround ourselves with people who have our best interests in mind, we are more likely to reciprocate that love and kindness, as well as push ourselves to be our very best.
10. Enjoy Regular Physical Activities
To be healthy, regular physical activity is a must! Our bodies crave movement. Find an activity that you enjoy, and have fun. Your options are endless (including dancing to Beyoncé in front of your mirror!)
11. Find Work That You Love
The Average American spends about 65% of their waking hours at the workplace. If you have taken a job that makes you unhappy, it will begin to leak into the other areas of your life. Find ways to make your daily work fun and exciting!
12. Develop A Spiritual Practice
Notice that this does not say religious practice. A spiritual practice of any sort, including a regular meditation practice, or regular encounters with nature count! Spirituality can provide a wonderful source of community, a stronger connection to something greater than us (the Universe, Divine Creator, God, Jesus), will help us savor the little moments in life, as well as help us to understand the adversities we face.
Let me remind you, that there is no quick fix. This 12-step process probably wont give you six-pack abs, BUT your internal wellbeing will start to bloom from the inside out. These steps are meant to be a daily practice. Start out slow, by focusing on 2-3 different steps each day, until one day, you're able to incorporate each one; this is called a lifestyle shift. Move aside any premonitions that "health" can be attained quickly. Health is your vehicle, not your destination.
So when using these steps, remember that these are all daily life practices.
Lastly, don't forget to embrace your inner child: experiment, play, be fearless, challenge yourself, try new things!
In health and happiness,