If you are anything like me, you want to get the most benefit, with the least amount of effort, out of everything you do. Since it is the new year, and a time of self reflection, I thought I would share the top tips I have garnered from all of my seeking. I have simplified this list down from hundreds of hours of learning from multiple experts on nutrition and human performance. These are the common things that ALL of them say. If you are interested, you can research each of these suggestions further. But, I know many folks just want to get to the punch line, without all the build up.
So, without further ado, here are my top tips for improving your life. These are ranked by what seem to be the “biggest levers”, meaning they will have the most impact on your life quickly, and for the long term. There are so many other suggestions that can be made, but these are the big ones. I suggest you try to pick 3 and try them for 1 month. One month to see if you can change your life, seems like a pretty good use of your time, no?
Bye-bye Sugar: You probably already know this, but maybe you don’t want to take it on. I get it. It is HARD to cut sugar out of your life. But all the research clearly indicates that sugar is incredibly detrimental to your short and long term health. And I mean both processed sugar, and sugar in fruits. Sorry.
Grain: You have heard of the pitfalls of gluten, but really, cutting out most grains will help most people. Even “good” grains, because they are hard to digest and can cause tears in the lining of your small intestine. Nuts and seeds are cool, but grains (and bad carbs) should be cut out or used really sparingly.
Good Fats: This is where the news gets good. Good fats include yummy coconut oil, avocados, fats from pasture raised meats, ghee or grass fed butter. Flat out, the FDA was wrong, Fat is good for us, and necessary.
Intermittent fasting: I don’t mean starving yourself for weeks. I mean fasting for 12-14 hours at a time. So basically, dinner at 6pm and no more food until 8 or 9 the next morning. That is pretty achievable for most people, and helps your body raise its level of ketones and burn fats and excess carbs, rather than glucose.
How many studies about the importance of spending time in nature or the new “forest bathing” trend do you need to read before you believe this? PS, this is a really easy and enjoyable one. Much easier than cutting out sugar!
MOVE! And regularly, like every day (this goes well with NATURE above). I don’t mean you have to start a crazy workout regime, I just mean, the power of movement and exercise on your BDNF levels, your body, your long term health, and your sanity are critical. It’s more important that you do something frequently, than doing a super hard workout, but only once in a while. James Clear writes a lot about the power of habit with regard to exercise, and gives good guidelines on how to stick with it.
Potentially this should be at the top of the list. I KNOW. It seems really hard to do this, and really hard to stick with it. It seems like nothing is happening. Your mind races, it is frustrating, you just CAN’T. I tell you that meditation has changed by my life more than any other thing in the past 5 years. Also, by the way, something like 95% of the high performers in the world meditate. And guess what, now there are great, easy apps to help. Headspace is pleasant, easy to use, almost fun. Sam Harris’ Waking Up is much more intellectual, and digs into the nature of meditation itself, good if you need the reasons to believe. Please just try it for a month, 10 minutes a day, and then look back and see if it has helped you.
That’s it. I promise you, if you can do a good portion of these things, your quality of life will improve. And go easy on yourself. Commit. Make the time, but don’t kill yourself (or give up!) if you slip. Self-love should be a given with all of this, but that’s a whole other topic.
PS: I realize that sleep should be on this list. It is a major epidemic these days. The reason it is not, is because it is not an easy fix, like most of these are. AND, if you do 90% of the above, chances are you will sleep better. Bonus.
Founder, Plant Society