Wouldn’t you like to get healthier with age? It’s possible. Joshua Rosenthal, founder of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition suggests letting go of the restrictive diet mentality and gradually trying on lifestyle changes that connect with you, that you’re happy to continue for the rest of your life.
Simply commit to experimenting with these “12 steps to better health.” You don’t have to go in any particular order, or at any particular pace. Start with ones you know you’ll enjoy or are curious about. This isn’t an all or nothing exercise. Any one of them will make you feel better and more likely to try another one.
- Drink more water. Being hydrated lightens the body. If you’re stressed, tight and contracted, water can bring the body back into balance. It can prevent premature aging, eliminate pain and headaches, lower blood pressure and promote weight loss.
Practice cooking. Eating at home is one of the healthiest choices you can make. It’s not difficult, it just takes some practice to get your groove down. Plan a weekly menu, shop and prep as much as you can beforehand. The actual cooking part takes much less time than going out. It just takes a little planning (and patience as you’re learning.)
- Increase whole grains. People are gaining weight because they’re eating too much processed food, caffeine, sugar, nicotine and alcohol – it’s not because of carbs. Whole grains, or complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, beans, nuts and legumes help us maintain steady blood sugar, contain fiber and because they’re absorbed slowly, provide long-lasting energy.
- Increase sweet vegetables. Most of us crave sweetness, but turn to processed sugar to get our fix. Try adding naturally sweet veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, winter squash and cabbage. These food are grounding, soothe internal organs and energize the mind.
Increase green leafy vegetables. Greens are the food most lacking in the American diet. They’re also one of the most important, nutrient-rich foods you can have, proven to prevent disease, improve circulation, immunity, digestion and so much more. (Iceberg lettuce doesn’t count… we’re talking really green veggies, like kale, spinach and broccoli.)
- Experiment with protein. Protein is essential, but the majority of us eat way too much and only associate protein with animal products. Protein needs vary by individual. Play with it to see what feels best to you. Some people feel lighter, clearer with less animal products ; others feel more grounded when eating meat. Open your mind to a variety of protein-rich foods such as nuts, beans and legumes and see how you feel.
- Eat less meat, dairy, sugar, and chemicalized, artificial junk foods ; consume less coffee, tobacco and alcohol. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, dairy is not an essential part of the human diet. This doesn’t mean you can’t have it again, it’s just not nutritionally necessary. In fact, most of us have an intolerance (not the same as an allergy) to dairy and don’t even know it because we lack the digestive enzymes needed to digest it. As far as the others go, consuming less is best.
- Develop easy and reliable habits to nurture your body. Taking naps, warm baths, slowing down, getting outside. All of these things soothe our soul. Our body responds magically.
- Have healthy relationships that support you. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, support your efforts to grow and live your best life is essential to lifelong health. When you don’t, you feel stifled, restless, lethargic and out of sync with your true self. Ask for support from friends, family, or a professional.
- Find physical activity you enjoy and do it regularly. Movement aids digestion, circulation, respiration and has a major impact on mood and quality of life. Even the healthiest eaters need exercise to ensure lifelong good health.
- Find work you love or a way to love the work you have. Careers can be one of the most dysfunctional areas of adult life. Being in a job you don’t like or having a bad attitude about work affects your health. Find ways to be more courageous about exploring options.
- Develop a spiritual practice. Spirituality gives depth to life. It is also incredibly individual. Find what nurtures your soul. It could be the religion you grew up, a walk in the park, a yoga class, playing music or dancing. Find it and do it religiously.