I believe we’re all meant to live a healthy life. Although diseases, illnesses, aches and pains come in our lives, they are meant to teach us lessons so we learn from them and grow.
What is the first step to a healthy life? Where do we start?
The secret to health is that there isn’t one way or one single remedy. There is no magic pill or quick fix. There are many ways to health and in fact, there is often more than just one thing to address with different approaches. In health, everything is connected.
I have found and I have learned that the foundation of health is what we feed our body. Nutrition is essential. In fact, it is a fundamental building block of living a healthy life. “You are what you eat” as the famous saying goes. So if you really don’t know where to start, start with that.
What is good nutrition?
The sad truth is that most people don’t know what good nutrition actually is. And we can’t really blame them. Between the lack of education around it, the poor choices forced on us by consumerism and the countless fad diets, we aren’t sure how we should eat anymore!
But there is no need to complicate things. Eating healthy is actually very simple.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when making a food choice:
- Do I know how this product has been grown or prepared?
- Do I know what this product contains? And do I understand all the ingredients listed?
- Is this product in its most natural form? Or has it been processed and treated?
- Am I really hungry right now? Or do I just need to drink more water?
- Do I really need to eat more? Or am I already full?
- Am I eating because I am bored, depressed, feeling anxious, annoyed or just because I have a craving?
Nutrition is by definition the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them and the relationship between health, diet and disease.
Eating nutritious foods means eating foods rich in nutrients. The nutrients needed for vibrant health. They are classified in two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macros are your carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Micros are your minerals and vitamins. They are both very important to bring you optimal nutrition. The trick is that no macros or micros are created equal and your needs for them will also vary depending on your activity, lifestyle, lifetime period, location and on seasons as well. For example, in the Northern hemisphere, our need for vitamin D supplementation is greater during the winter months. Root vegetables – carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips,… and squash harvested locally and organically, if possible, and eaten warm, cooked or steamed are great to eat in the winter while fresh fruits and raw vegetables are great to gorge on during the summer months.
Nutrition is not only what you eat. It is also what you drink. Water is life! It will never be emphasized enough that we need to drink more water on a daily basis! More than 60% of our body is made of water. Water is needed for all bodily functions and is essential to maintain good health. So you should be drinking enough water every day! Caution though: there is such a thing as drinking too much water. You should be drinking approximately half your body weight in ounces, no more. Water should be your main source for your drinking needs. Remember that drinking caffeine is diuretic, which means it makes you pee! For each cup of caffeinated drink you have, you should be drinking 2 cups of water to balance it out. Herbal teas and flavoured water are great options too. Be mindful, though, of the sugars added and weird artificial flavourings. When it comes to alcohol, well, I’m not going to lecture you here but moderation is key! Remember that alcohol is literally poison for your body and that each time you drink it, your liver, brain, stomach and pancreas have to metabolize it. Not to mention that it depletes your body from most of its vitamins and minerals. So again, here, water is your best friend! Drink plenty of it (even while you’re drinking alcohol) and if you’re dealing with a hangover, get a mineralized energy water (the healthy kind!).
The bottom line with nutrition is as follow:
- Eat fresh, local, in season and organic as much as possible.
- Avoid fast food, processed and packaged foods.
- Pay attention to the types and quality of foods you are eating. Counting calories won’t really help you. A lot of foods are empty calories, meaning they have no nutritional value.
- Avoid excess. No need to overeat. Use moderation. Eat everything in good measure. Eating baked white flour goods every day, 3 times a day, all week long is probably not a good idea. Neither is continuing eating after you’re already full and forcing food down your throat just because you can or because you want to, feel like it or because it tastes good.
- Reduce sugar intake and only have natural sugars (from fresh and dried fruits, honey, maple syrup, stevia, coconut sugar, …).
- Eat a balanced diet. Include all macros at every meal. We were created omnivorous. Unless you have severe allergies or choose a specific diet, we should be eating a little bit of everything.
- Variety is the key! Don’t always eat the same thing. Switch things up. Make it interesting. Be creative and have fun!
- Eat the rainbow. Have colourful meals. Each colour indicates the presence of a specific vitamin or mineral in the food. You want to give your body options, and in abundance.
- Eat more veggies! For your carbs needs, to get enough fibre and to pack on vitamins and minerals.
- Drink more water!
- Apply the 80-20 rule. I’m well aware that, realistically, being on top of your nutrition 100% of the time is near to impossible. So don’t feel guilty and don’t blame yourself if you’re not perfect (‘cause nobody is!). As long as you do your best 80% of the time, you can allow yourself some slack the rest of the time. Nutrition shouldn’t be stressful because that would be counterproductive to your health.
- Listen to your body. Let your intuition guide you in your food choices. Pay attention to your hunger signals. Ask yourself: “What do I need?” The more in tune you are with your body, the better you will be at making the right decisions at the right time for your health.
And most importantly, be inspired! Enjoy the food you are eating. It is so important. Cooking and preparing meals is not always fun, I’ll admit. Sometimes it is just a necessity. In those days, look for ideas in books, on Instagram, Pinterest,… Resources do not lack! Or, you can also choose to eat out in a good quality restaurant.
Why is nutrition important?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates.
Hippocrates said it all! Nutrition is fundamental to health. With any illness, disease or condition, nutrition is always the starting point to improving your health.
If you have hormonal imbalances or struggle with infertility → improve your nutrition.
If you have type 2 diabetes → focus on getting the proper nutrition.
If you struggle with your weight → check your nutrition.
If you want to train, be active and workout → get the right nutrition.
If you have cancer and choose to follow treatment → optimize your nutrition.
You get the idea? It all starts with nutrition. What you put into your body is fuel for your energy. So you want to make sure that you feed your body the right kind of energy.
“All disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates.
Your health is in your gut. If you want a strong health, you need to build a strong gut. That’s why nutrition is so important!
“Gut health is the key to overall health.” Kris Carr.
I believe nature provides us with everything we need to make us healthy and well. With the right knowledge and wisdom, we can use all its gifts to serve us in times of need.
Nutrition vs. Diets
Nutrition and diet are not the same! I am emphasizing on the word nutrition in this article because this is where it’s at. We need to focus on proper nutrition. Nutrition that is filling, energizing and healing.
Diets are fads. They are products of our consumer society, designed to make money out of your ignorance. I do not believe that any diet is better or worse. I think they are unnecessary if you are focusing on long term health and longevity. Some diets work for some time and for some kinds of people. Sure, an overweight person with many health issues might benefit from going Keto for a while. They surely will see fast results. But most diets are not sustainable in the long run. They often are a quick fix and seem an easy solution but they aren’t really changing bad eating habits or teaching about making better choices. Instead, we should focus on educating people about proper nutrition. What to eat, how to eat it, when to eat it and why they should eat it. We need consumers that are empowered about their health and can make knowledgeable choices about what they buy and what they put into their bodies.
What are you feeding your body on a physical level?
Your lifestyle is the way you live. And that includes many things: how much sleep you get, how stressful your life is, if you have nurturing relationships, if you are surrounded by caring and loving people, how much you exercise, what you do to have fun and recharge,…
These are all important aspects of your life that also need to be taken care of. Once you have established a strong foundation for your health through optimal nutrition, taking a good look at your lifestyle to make some adjustments might be necessary.
How much sleep do you get per night on average? Do you sleep enough? How is the quality of your sleep? Do you wake up feeling energized or sluggish? What time do you go to bed? What time do you wake up?
Do you exercise regularly? Do you practice any sports? Do you go for walks and spend time outside? Are you overworking yourself or are you a couch potato?
I won’t remind you of the healthy guidelines around sleep and exercise. I think by now, they have been repeated enough and are well known.
How stressful is your life? How is the stress in your life affecting you? What do you do to deal with your stress?
Stress is an overlooked factor that has much more impact on our lives than we give it credit for. It is responsible for most of our aches, pains, illnesses and diseases. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation methods, we can alleviate if not completely erase certain conditions in our lives. Some stresses are obvious and felt strongly, while others are more subtle and even subconscious. Stressors can be physical, mental or emotional. Stress is our response to our environment and experiences. By changing our response, we can change the way these elements are affecting us. Often, we need help and support. Thankfully, there are so many options out there for us to explore!
What is the quality of the relationships you have in your life? Are they nurturing and uplifting? Are you surrounded by people who care for you and love you? Do you feel safe in your relationships? Do you feel a sense of belonging to your family or community? Do you feel spiritually connected?
Developing and sustaining healthy relationships is so important for our well-being. As humans, we are social animals. By definition, we cannot live alone. We need each other. However, as much as good relationships help support our health and wellbeing, unhealthy or toxic relationships can harm us. So choose wisely.
Do you enjoy what you do? Is what you do meaningful? Is your work truly fulfilling and satisfying? Do you feel like you’re living with a purpose?
Your place of work or the type of work you do also influences your state of health. Since we spend most of our time at work, we ought to ourselves to choose well in that department.
How do you take care of yourself? Do you take time for yourself? What do you do in your free time? What do you enjoy doing for fun? Do you express yourself creatively? What are your hobbies? How do you treat yourself? How do you talk to yourself, what’s your inner dialogue? Are you mentally healthy?
Caring for yourself is an act of love. Self love and self care go hand in hand. If you love yourself unconditionally, you will take care of yourself and you will enjoy doing so. You are the main actor of your health. You need to take full responsibility for your health and wellbeing and act upon it. You can’t pour from an empty cup. To truly be of service and fulfill your purpose in life, you must first fill your own cup.
What kind of life are you living? Is your lifestyle supporting your health or is it destroying it?
3. Daily choices
Being healthy is the result of all the little choices we make every single day. They all count and they all add up. So examine what you are choosing for yourself on all levels of being at any given time. Is it creating the health you desire?
Although what you feed your body is very important, it is not the only thing you should watch.
- What do you feed your thoughts? What thoughts do you think? What do you focus on? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? How can you change that?
- What do you feed your eyes? What are you looking at? What are you watching? What are you seeing? How do you see yourself? What is your self image? What do you visualize for yourself? What is your vision for your future?
- What do you feed your other senses? What do you put on your skin? What do you listen to? What do you inhale or smell?
- What do you feed your emotions and feelings? What do you feel inside? What do you choose to feel? How do you react? How do you let things affect you? How do you deal with your feelings and emotions?
Living healthy is being whole. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Through all your 5 senses (taste, hear, smell, touch, see) as a way you experience life. And also from within. Because what’s on the outside is a reflection of what’s on the inside.
Healthy living is not difficult. In fact, it’s very simple. We make it more complicated than it needs to be. Health is our natural state of being. Our body wants to be healthy and it works so hard at keeping us healthy to survive. But we can also choose to thrive and live our best life yet!