The Best Plan For YOU!
Often as a health coach, women come to me expecting me to give them answers. They want me to tell them what to eat and when. They tell me they have read books and articles and pamphlets and bathroom walls and the advice out there is overwhelming.
They want answers.
And that's where I have to disappoint them.
I can't give them answers because there is NO ONE SIZE-FITS-ALL lifestyle plan out there. Not one. What works really well for somebody else may not work so well for you. Or maybe it will. What works for you now may not work for you in ten years. Or maybe it will.
We hear conflicting news all the time because conflicting news makes headlines. New diet plans sell books and programs.
With the technology now available, science is exploding with information every day about this still-much-unexplored frontier that is our bodies. We now have names for some of the trillions of bacteria that live in our bodies and how they influence our health and how we influence what they do. We understand how cancer cells grow and that there is a chance to stop the process of feeding tumors, possibly eradicating some cancers in the near future. One day soon we may drink something at the doctor's office and if our pee turns blue, we will know right away that we have cancer. Another drink may send fighter cells into the body to target the diseased ones.
We recognize there is a direct link between our gut health and the health of our brain, and that one influences the other back and forth. Where we once believed that brain cells died off and that was that, we now know that we have the power to grow new brain matter.
With all this new knowledge, you'd think we could be told what to eat and how to eat it.
Maybe one day we will. With all the discoveries surrounding microbiomes and genetics, there will be a day where we will leave the doctor's office with an individualized plan telling us just how to live to feel our best.
But that's not now.
So what is best for you NOW? Paleo or vegetarian? Gluten-free? Nightshades or no? Vegan? Organic or local? Fermented foods or no? Coffee good or bad?
Breathe. Deep breaths.
Now look in the mirror and say this...
"Hello Body. You have done amazing things for me over the years. I really appreciate that. I know I probably haven't been treating you as well as I should but I am going to start changing that now. Let's work together to figure how we can feel great again. Deal?"
Then have your body nod your head.
So while every BODY is different, there are things we know and you can use this as a guideline to help you in your decision-making.
1. Most of us are not getting enough vegetables. I was in Maine this weekend and went to a diner for breakfast with my birth mom. I looked at the menu and I looked around at what everyone was eating. Not one veggie in sight. Not a surprise. That's how I used to start my day, too. And then lunch may be a sandwich with maybe a piece of lettuce and slice of tomato and dinner is likely some meaty main course with a side of corn (which, by the way, is a grain). Snacks may be nuts or fruit or they may be crackers from the vending machine.
Point is...we don't get enough vegetables. Vegetables are the foods with the teeny tiny compounds that help to feed our healthy cells or destroy unhealthy ones before they become diseased cells.
If we are trying to lose weight, vegetables have about a third of the calories that animal products do, without the saturated fat.
If we are trying to save the planet, vegetables use far fewer of our natural resources than meat and dairy production does.
2. There are two main kinds of bacteria in our guts: Bacteroides and Firmicutes. The former is associated with people who are thinner, while people who are overweight have more of the latter. Scientists are not sure why this is yet, but they hypothesize that Bacteroides may help make our metabolism more efficient while Firmicute bacteria may be more efficient at consuming more calories from our food and storing it as fat.
How can we change the type we have in our bodies? By reducing our saturfated fat consumption and eating MORE VEGGIES. High-fiber veggies feed our good bacteria, so we produce more of them.
3. Consistent poo is important. Some studies have found that recurrent constipation can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease. Again, they don't know how or why this is the case, but I would make darn sure I was hitting the Poo Throne on a regular basis. If your poo doesn't visit you every day, change that by adding LOTS more fiber to your diet and drinking plenty of water. How can you get more fiber? Whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and VEGGIES.
4. Gluten affects many people. You don't have to be diagnosed with celiac for gluten to have an effect on your body, though it's a good idea to be tested while you're still eating gluten so you can rule that out. I don't have celiac, but when I eat it I get lethargic, bloated, and cranky. Not exactly the life of the party, so I stay away. Who wants to feel like that? My birth mom is going back to gluten-free living because after being back on it for three weeks, she says she is busting at the seams.
Gluten sensitivity can also be linked to headaches and migraines, general aches, auto-immune flare ups, irritable bowel syndrome and other gut disorders, and even depression. I always advise my clients to try eliminating gluten for two weeks to see how it feels. Some people can go back to eating small amounts or to eating sprouted breads, but many choose to stay away.
Is it the proteins in gluten or the glyphosate used in wheat production? We don't know yet, but try it and see how it works for you.
5. Sugar is addictive. I probably don't have to tell you this. You know the Power of the Pastry. Or the Girl Scout cookie. Or the chocolate-covered almonds. (But they're healthy for me!) I went sugar-free for two months and Holy Crapola! It was hard, but it was damn worth it. The little explosive acne bits that haunted my face for years finally disappeared. I could think again, without the fog! My energy levels increased. Who knew?
I didn't know just how much sugar I was consuming. I thought I had pretty stellar habits. Then I started paying attention to the stuff I was baking for my little guy and the samples I would eat. The sugar in my ketchup. In my homemade salad dressing.
The American Heart Association recommends we get NO MORE than 6 tsp of added sugar per day. That excludes fruit but as this former acne-prone junkie can tell you, lots of fruit over the course of the day is not so great for a body, either. Most of us are getting upwards of 30 teaspoons in a day. 30! Put that in a jar and see what it looks like. Now put 6 teaspoons in another jar. Compare.
Excess sugar consumption not only destroys collagen and makes us look and feel older, it taxes our pancreas and set us up for weight gain, Type II diabetes, and Alzheimer's. Bottom line...pay attention to your sugar consumption and cut it way down.
6. Soda has absolutely NO health benefits and taxes the liver. Soda has TONS of sugar. See above. Dark sodas have caramel color, components of which have been found to be carcinogens. All sodas have phosphoric acid, which over time break down bones and tax the kidneys. Our bodies NEED water. Drink that instead. If you are addicted and need more reason to avoid it, watch this video to see how Mountain Dew dissolves the body of a rat in 30 days. What is that stuff doing to your body?
7. Belly Fat Has To Go. By now, you've probably heard about belly fat being the most dangerous kind of fat on our bodies. It is linked to heart disease and cancer. The irony is that this kind of adipose tissue not only stores fat more efficiently, but it's the kind of fat that makes us more hungry. The more belly fat you have, the hungrier you are.
So here's how you combat that. You drink plenty of water and you eat as many VEGGIES as you want during the day. Cut back on the saturated fats in animal foods. Oh, and get moving.
8. Sitting is the new smoking. If you are in a job where you need to sit for long periods of time, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to MOVE. Every hour. You MUST make a point to get up, stretch, walk, do calisthenics, lunge, use a pogo stick...whatever you need to do to get your blood pumping. Show this video to your boss if you need to. Bonus if you get your whole staff to move along with you. You could be saving lives.
9. Intermittent Training is where it's at. The latest in exercise physiology continues to prove that intermittent, high-intensity activity is best for body health. While a marathon may be great to check off the bucket list, lifestyle marathoners tend to be prone to more injury and have more health issues. Why? Because our bodies produce inflammation every time we work out. Some of this is good and necessary because it encourages growth of muscle tissue but too much has an adverse effect.
Check out this Scientific 7-Minute Workout for a kick-arse session. Even better if you do it in your office!
10. Finally, but maybe most important... We KNOW that stress translates into poor health. For a number of reasons. Stress is translated into chemicals within our bodies that do damage to our healthy cells. The chemicals influence hormones that regulate our hunger and digestion, making it more difficult to lose weight. Melatonin and other hormones that influence our sleep are disrupted. When we are tired, we make poor choices for our health. Stress can show up on our skin and in our hair and nails.
So how can we combat stress? By making time to combat stress. ________________
Exercise. Walk, run, pedal, swim, climb a pole. Just keep moving.
Meditate. Doesn't have to be long. 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
Take deep breaths throughout the day.
Laugh. Fake it or watch a funny movie or call a friend who will make you laugh.
Say thank you. For anything.
Slow down when you eat.
Book a massage.
Listen to soothing music.
So...to recap...here is a guideline for your BEST plan. Beyond this, experiment with what works best for you.
1. Eat LOTS of veggies. Keep meat to a minimum. Small sizes. Garnish. Meatless Mondays.
2. Eat LOTS of veggies.
3. You need to poo every day. Eat LOTS of veggies, some nuts and seeds. Beans and whole grains if you feel okay when you eat them.
4. Try eliminating gluten for two weeks to see if you feel any different.
5. Cut WAY down on sugar. Eliminate completely if you can.
6. Stop soda.
7. Combat adipose tissue by eating LOTS of veggies, drinking water, and moving.
8. Get up and move. Don't sit all day.
9. A walk-sprint is more effective than miles of running.
10. Manage your stress chemicals.
I may not be able to give my clients answers, but I can ask lots of questions to help them figure out the answers on their own. And that may be a way better gift.