Nutrition, Fitness, and Health: 101

Living a long, happy, healthy life. I think most people would say they want this, but how many know HOW to do this? If only it came in a bottle like the picture above. Actually, there’s no one simple answer like taking a pill, but I believe there are some guidelines for basic areas of your life: eating real foods, getting quality sleep, and getting strong.  I don’t think there’s ever a day that someone wakes up and suddenly knows what to do in regards to these areas. It’s a process and something that takes time not only to cognitively be aware of what to do, but how to actually implement that information in your lifestyle.
So while it’s good to know about advanced topics such as arachidonic acid and how to snatch, let’s start with some very basic guidelines of living a healthy lifestyle.

CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
You should know that typical consequences of eating clean (and high intensity workouts) will allow you to lose fat and gain lean muscle.  Not bad, right? However, this is not the ONLY intent.  Aesthetics aside, these guidelines will allow you to be healthy from the inside. This will in turn create a pleasing outside. Instead of “diet,” I need you to think “lifestyle.” These are not things that you should do for 30 days for a beach body and then quit. These are guidelines to help bring your body to a more natural state so you can live longer, healthier, and stronger. If you want a dramatic analogy, think of the current food pyramid and smoking. Short term effects? Smoking is to bad breath as the food pyramid is to feeling sluggish after a meal. Long term effects? Smoking is to lung cancer as the food pyramid is to other cancers, Type II diabetes, depression, obesity, and a host of diseases. For both short term and long term reasons, get your mind to shift paradigms NOW. How? Keep reading books, blogs, websites, watch videos, go to lectures. There is a ton of information out there and being internally motivated to do something will help you actually do it.
EAT REAL FOOD
Food grows and dies. It isn’t manufactured and definitely doesn’t last a long time. Here are some other tips for know what “real food” is:
Shop on the perimeter of the supermarket. – this will cause you to choose vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish. Avoid that bakery section on the perimeter though.
Better yet, shop at a local farmer’s market. If you can talk with the people who grow the food you eat, this is good stuff.
Pick foods that go bad quickly. These will digest better and your body will use it efficiently.
Fat is not bad! Despite what you hear, there are no studies that link dietary fat to heart disease. Luckily, mainstream media is just now getting word of this. Go ahead and eat beef, venison, chicken, bacon, turkey, sausage, ham, etc. Ideally, get a grass-fed source of meat vs. grain-fed. Other fats to have are coconut oil, olive oil, nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc. (peanuts are NOT nuts, they are legumes and should be avoided)
Eat vegetables and fruit. Carbohydrates should come in the form of veggies and some fruit. If you are looking to lean out (aka lose fat) avoid fruit such as apples, bananas, and oranges due to the fructose. Stick with berries. 
General rules for each meal: Have a protein, carbohydrate, and fat at each meal. For general quantities: Make a fist, eat that much protein. Open your fist, fill your palm with nuts/seeds or have other kinds of fat. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables and/or little fruit.  Or from CrossFit “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar.”
AVOID FOOD THAT WILL CAUSE IMBALANCE
Avoid grains and sugar. Your body stores these as fat by causing an insulin imbalance. They also cause an omega3/omega6 imbalance which increases inflammation leading to things like heart disease, cancer, and boatloads of other bad stuff.
Don’t eat anything from a box. It’s probably not real food unless no one told me about the vacuum sealed chicken-in-a-box. And even then I’d be wary.
Don’t eat anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. sorbitan monostearate? tricalcium phosphate? Whether it is to add flavor, color, or preserve the “food,” your body probably doesn’t want it. This includes high fructose corn syrup at the top of the list!
Foods touted as healthy but are not: soy, peanuts, whole grains, agave, having a lot of fruit or dried fruit (sugar content), usually anything with a health claim attached to it
Other things that create misconception: anything with a “heart healthy” label on it is paid for by the government; you need things “high in fiber” – not if you are already eating things with fiber such as fruit and vegetables; eating fat will make you fat – not true! (already addressed this one); calories are the only thing that matter for weight loss/gain – simply not true.
SLEEP
Sleep helps your body recover and heal. All of that stuff you do at the gym or put in your body during the day will help you look, perform, and feel better if you get good sleep.
Aim for 7-9 hours per night. Is that a lot? Compared to your usual 5-7, yes.
Avoid the TV, laptop, and other electronics before going to bed. Humans have a biorhythm that is thrown off by light.
Create a sleeping environment. Use earplugs, blindfolds, etc. to create a quiet, cool, dark place for your body to rest.
Ideally you would wake up with the sun or naturally.  However, getting up for kids or a job is realistic. Personally I’ve done some experimenting with REM cycles. The body tends to ebb and flow in 1.5 hour REM cycle increments.  I’ve played around with it and found that I feel more refreshed/awake if I set my alarm for 6, 7.5, or 9 hours after I fall asleep. Also my REM cycle is more like 1hr. 25 minutes. This is totally up to you, but if you try it, post a comment to as anecdotal evidence.
Here’s a link from Zen to Fitness about sleep. Also, read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival.
GET STRONG AND QUICK
While I am all about CrossFit, some people aren’t. The idea is to just keep your strength up and maintain that muscle mass so you don’t lose it as you get older. Mark Sisson has simple rules: lift heavy things and sprint every so often. Other than that, just be active such as taking a hike, getting up and walking around the office, or playing outdoors. Chronic cardio such as running long distances or being on the elliptical for an hour will DECREASE muscle mass and you don’t get nearly the bang for the buck as lifting heavy things. (which, by the way, can INCREASE your aerobic endurance)

Remember, everyone will respond differently. Some of you will be able to handle change well and be able to switch out foods with little pain. Most of you will have some growing pains in the form of headaches, fogginess, irritability, etc. especially when it comes to cutting out grains and/or sugar. Pick one thing and start there. Most start with breakfast. 
Everyone will have different goals too. Some will want to lose fat, some will want to gain muscle mass, and this all changes how you approach food. 
Sleeping right and working out will increase longevity and simply make you feel good. And that’s what this is all about: going back to what is natural for our bodies in order to feel good and live long.

Do you have any other tips? Post to comments.

Paleo in a Nutshell: Food



Paleo in a Nutshell: Exercise





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3 thoughts on “Nutrition, Fitness, and Health: 101

  1. Love how you can sum everything up so well!! I have another simple tip(It's on my list of blogs to write!)EAT FOODS THAT LOOK PRETTY?The prettier your plate (minus any atrificial colorings (see EAT REAL FOOD) the better it probably is for you! If your meals are more "beige" than any other color, probably not too healthy!Thanks CP!

  2. Pingback: You’ve Got a Fat Face | Constantly Varied

  3. Pingback: First Thing’s First: KITCHEN DETOX | Constantly Varied

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