Wanna know a secret? Good health is actually very simple. Much simpler than the diet and weight loss industry wants you to think it is.
Let me explain…
Beginners often find themselves confused over conflicting nutrition advice, or worry about how much cardio vs weights they should be doing. Should they be eating meat or dairy? Should they train for a half marathon, or just lift weights?
Rather than focusing on establishing healthy habits and making small, sustainable improvements in their lifestyle they get caught up in the details and wind up doing nothing at all. Instead of just showing up at the gym and doing something they enjoy, they spend hours scouring social media trying to figure out what the perfect workout is. Unsure what “perfect” “clean” meal they should make for dinner, they end up ordering takeout instead.
The diet and weight loss industry loves to make us think that weight loss and good health are super complicated and we can’t possibly be successful without their help. Whether it’s a bunch of expensive supplements (usually a complete waste of money), a crazy diet (which only works because of a calorie restriction), or a top-secret training program (a squats a squat ya’ll). They trick us into believing that we NEED them in order to achieve our best health.
That they have some kind of insider information that even your Dietitian doesn’t know about yet (please). Since all you need these days is a 6-pack and an Instagram account to be considered a health pro, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of health, nutrition, and fitness advice that’s out there.
Since all you need these days is a 6-pack and an Instagram account to be considered a health pro, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of health, nutrition, and fitness advice that’s out there.
Making good health seem overly complicated is a great way to dupe consumers into spending their hard-earned money, but at the end of the day it’s a total load of BS. In reality there are only a small handful of things we should all be doing on a daily basis to be healthy.
In Good Health
Not necessarily easy, but simple. As in the things you need to do on a regular basis to be considered healthy are not complicated things, or even expensive things. Finding the time to do them can be challenging for those pressed for time, but with a little practice and consistency they definitely get easier as habits are formed. They are also guaranteed to pay off in the long run significantly more than wasting money on supplements or the newest fad diet or training trend.
So, rather than getting caught up in the details about the perfect diet or workout plan, start with these simple tips to get you on the right path. If you are not checking off all of these things on a regular basis, focus on those areas first!
1. Eat Fruits and/or Vegetables at Every Meal
If there is ONE THING we can say with great certainty when it comes to human nutrition, it’s that fruits and vegetables are good for us. Most other topics in nutrition are subject of great debate and highly variable depending on a person’s individual genetics and personal beliefs. The right diet for each of us is going to be a little bit different based on those factors. What they all have in common is one thing: fruits and vegetables are good for us, and we should eat more of them.
- For some, that might mean choosing fruit as a snack instead of donut
- Perhaps it means having a smaller portion of meat at dinner to make room for some grilled vegetables
- Maybe it’s making a fruit and veggie smoothie for breakfast instead of going through the drive-thru.
Every time we eat it is an opportunity to give our bodies’ the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Fruits and vegetables give us a huge variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and likely some other stuff that we haven’t even figured out yet. Nutrition as a whole is a very young science, with most major discoveries only taking place in the past 100 years or so. In that time we’ve learned a lot about what our nutrition needs are as humans, and what the different foods we eat can offer us.
Pretending we have it all figured out and can bottle good nutrition into a supplement is complete BS. Skipping the real fruits and veggies in our diets and thinking we can replace that with a pill or powder is leaving us short-changed. There is a synergy that takes place in our bodies when we eat foods as a whole and there is just no replacement for the real thing.
Fibre = BFF
Fibre is another key nutrient that we just don’t emphasize enough when talking about nutrition. We get a significant portion of our daily fibre from fruits and vegetables, and it plays a key role in digestive health. Not only by improving frequency and consistency of bowel movements (healthy poops are important!), but by providing the good bacteria in our guts with food too.
Having a healthy microflora of gut bacteria has implications in immunity, digestive health, and even mental health too (a very interesting new area of research!). Sure, you can take a fibre supplement, but that means you’re missing out on some of the these other key benefits. There is just no substitute for eating those fruits and vegetables!
If there is one thing you do each day to eat healthier, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
2. Get 150 Minutes of Cardiovascular Exercise Weekly
If you’re a new exerciser or are getting back into a fitness routine after a long hiatus, more exercise is not necessarily better and can actually do more harm than good. Starting slow and with a fairly low volume of exercise is the best way to build exercise tolerance and prevent getting hurt or burnt out.
You might be really excited about starting a fitness program and want to give it 110% effort, or think the expectation is that you have to be at the gym for hours and hours every week. For at least the first few months, the emphasis should be on forming new habits and being consistent with exercise, not trying to become an Olympian. If you’re completely exhausted after a crazy-intense workout, or your joints are so sore you need a week off to recover then you aren’t doing yourself any favors!
So when it comes to exercise, be sensible about what your body is capable of. Remember we should always exercise at the level we’re at, not the level we WANT to be at.
We should exercise at the level we’re at, not the level we WANT to be at
Start by aiming for 150 minutes of cardio weekly (you can break this down to as little as 10 minutes at a time). This is the amount of exercise that shows benefits for our health. Your heart, lungs, brain, and just about every other system in our bodies benefit from this amount of activity.
After you’ve established this as a part of your routine if training for a longer endurance event (like a 10k or half marathon) interests you, great! But we need to walk before we can run.
3. Strength Train 2-3 Times Weekly
As we get older our muscle mass declines (use it or lose it, right?), which coincides with a gradual decrease in metabolism and for a lot of people, weight gain. The good news is that regular strength training can preserve this muscle mass and keep us stronger well into our older years. Strength training also makes other activities easier, like running, climbing stairs, cycling, or lifting heavy things around the house.
Dedicating at least 20 minutes few times per week to some strength training activity is a great starting point. Again, like cardio, if you find you have a real passion for weight lifting and want to do more, that’s great! But if you’re just getting started 2-3 short sessions per week is plenty.
This doesn’t mean that we all need to strive for a bodybuilder physique. Again, like cardio it is easy to get sucked into thinking we need to do hours and hours of it each week in order to see progress and results. That’s just not true!
For beginners it’s best to start slow. Strength training doesn’t even need to be just weight lifting- Yoga is a great weight-bearing exercise that you can do anywhere, no gym required!
4. Drink at least 2 Litres of Water per Day
“I don’t drink enough water” is one of the most common statements I hear from clients. Dehydration can lead to symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty concentrating, constipation, and a slower metabolic rate.
What is really interesting about this is that many alternative care providers (naturopaths, chiropractors, nutritionists, etc) will describe these same symptoms, but blame things like leaky gut, food intolerances, or adrenal fatigue.
What if the remedy is as simple as drinking more water? Instead of blowing money on wacky supplements for made-up health conditions, we could be more sensible and start with the basics like staying hydrated. It’s free, and definitely worth a try in my opinion.
Instead of blowing money on wacky supplements for made-up health conditions, we should start with the basics like staying hydrated
Start by drinking one glass of water when you wake up in the morning, and another glass with each meal. Sometimes when we’re thirsty we confuse that signal with hunger, so before grabbing a snack between meals, have a few sips of water first. Drink extra water when you exercise and you’ll be getting your 2 litres in no problem.
Yes, you’re probably going to have to pee a little more often than you did before, but that is only temporary. After a few days your body will adjust to the increased water intake and you won’t be running to the bathroom every hour.
5. Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep per Night
It’s a pretty well-known fact that most of us are not getting enough sleep. Whether it’s not enough total hours or just poor quality sleep, many of us are walking around like zombies, relying on caffeine and sugar to get us through the day.
Why is not getting enough rest a problem?
Well, first of all if we’re constantly feeling exhausted and drained we are definitely not going to make exercise a priority. Sleep deprivation also makes us crave sugar. This can be a problem if we’re often reaching for sugar sweetened beverages or sugary snacks to boost our energy throughout the day.
If we are regular exercisers but aren’t getting enough sleep after tough workouts, we might be hurting our recovery and not see any changes in our fitness. Immunity can suffer as well when we are lacking rest. This can make us more susceptible to getting sick, further preventing us from being active and eating well.
Ditch the electronics
So, getting enough sleep us critical for good health. Plan to go to bed at a certain time, and set a reminder for yourself if you need a nudge to turn off the tv or social media and go to sleep (Netflix can wait until tomorrow!).
Click this link for some helpful tips on how we can reduce our screen time!
Avoiding electronics in the hour leading up to bedtime can also help with falling asleep faster, because the light emitted from these devices keeps our minds stimulated, and in turn, us wide awake. Instead, spend the time leading up to bedtime doing something relaxing and calming, like taking a hot bath, doing some yoga, or meditating. Regular exercise can also help us get better quality sleep.
Starting your days with adequate rest can lead to better, healthier choices in almost all of the other categories mentioned in this article. It is easier to wake up for a morning workout, choose healthier foods, combat sugar cravings, and drink more water instead of coffee if you’ve gotten enough sleep.
The Bottom Line on Good Health
How many of these healthy behaviours can you check off the list? If there are areas where you aren’t successful just yet, that’s ok! My advice is to prioritize those things first before moving on to bigger goals in other areas. For example before taking your fitness goals beyond the suggestions in this article, make sure you’re getting enough sleep on a consistent basis.
So, as you can see there is no need to start taking a bunch of supplements, do a detox, or start some complicated diet in order to have good health. These 5 things are simple, effective, and will have significantly more long-term benefits for your health vs any of those crazy fads.
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