When I ask people what their biggest hurdle is to making changes toward a healthier lifestyle, I hear “time” and “overwhelm.” People don’t have enough time to do everything. And they don’t know where to start. It’s so important when you are overwhelmed and you don’t have enough time, to start where your biggest need is.
When it comes to healthy living, often one small change can have a huge impact. Thinking of all the changes necessary to live a healthy life can be overwhelming, creating inertia. It’s just not possible to make all the changes at once. But I’ve found that often there is just one thing that if you do that, the other things will fall into place.
Here are 5 powerful strategies that will give you a big impact with the least effort in moving toward a healthier you.
1. Drink more water and herbal tea
When you are low on energy and in a hurry one of the biggest and most impactful things you can do for your wellbeing is to drink water or herbal tea. Not coffee. Not soda. Not Red Bull®. Not a sports drink. These are all give the illusion of “energy” but do so by robbing the adrenal glands, with a temporary hit of stimulant like caffeine or sugar. Water replenishes every cell in your body with life.
Your body is about 60% water. If you are an average adult that’s 100 pounds of water. As you breathe and move that water is utilized by your cells mixed with electrolytes for every miraculous function that your body does. As you go through the day, if you don’t drink water or another nourishing drink, the water in your body is depleted leading to mild to moderate dehydration.
When you are dehydrated you can’t think, you lose energy, and your liver and kidneys can’t move toxins from your cells out of your body efficiently. You can get a toxin build up.
A couple years ago my husband was facing a stressful time at his work as a city administrator. He had a stressful meeting with his city council where they forced him to miss his lunch and dinner breaks. The meeting went far into night. After working 16 hours without a break, he came home shaky. He had dinner and went to bed. In the middle of the night he woke up and went to get a drink. He collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was scary. After an ambulance trip and a night in the ER, the diagnosis was low blood pressure brought on by dehydration. That one stressful day continued to affect his health for more than a year. Dehydration can have serious health effects, including organ failure and collapse.
On the other hand, proper hydration can have a positive health benefit including optimal brain and organ function, good toxin elimination, weight loss, and blood pressure management. One of the jobs of your kidneys is to regulate your blood pressure, so staying hydrated can affect your circulatory system and even your heart.
2. Cook from scratch using whole, natural foods
If you are used to opening a box or can, heating it up and calling it dinner, cooking from scratch may seem like a leap. But if you’ve cooked from scratch and fallen back into the habit of fast food and processed meals, just cooking from scratch can lead you back to the path of healthy living.
Boxed meals and fast food are full of toxic additives, and nutrient depleted food-like substances, endocrine disturbers and junk like GMO sugar, denatured fats, demineralized salt, and petroleum derived dyes. Just cooking from scratch can remove these substances from your diet and give your body a chance to remove the residues through your liver and kidneys.
In 2013 I gathered a group of friends into a Facebook group for a 30 day scratch cooking challenge. The transformation from junk food to scratch cooking was so powerful that the group members wanted to keep the group going, when the challenge ended. One unexpected result of that simple change to mostly scratch cooking, was a weight loss victory. Over the course of a few months stories started coming in. The group, cumulatively, lost 1,000 pounds of excess weight, from that simple change to scratch cooking. The biggest changes came from those who had been eating processed foods the longest.
3. Use Menu Planning
Menu planning saves time and reduces your temptation to just grab a pizza on the way home. Knowing what you will cook each week, when you go to the store, also prevents grabbing a bag of chips, or other junk food when you are standing in the grocery store hungry.
When you plan at the beginning of the week, what you will cook that week, it enables you to take advantage of sales and coupons, too, saving you money.
Your menu planning can be as elaborate as a paid for subscription to a menu planning service like Meal Garden, which offers you recipes with nutrition facts and portion sizes, as well as a shopping list. Or your meal plan can be a note book, with just a line for each meal. But it saves standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open asking what’s for dinner.
Menu planning is even more important if you or a family member has special dietary needs, if you follow a special diet like gluten-free, vegetarian, or paleo, or if you are on a tight budget. With a menu plan you won’t get swallowed into the vortex of hunger at five o’clock and enter the kitchen with no idea what to cook.
The dollars you save in a single month of having a menu plan will more than pay for a menu planning service like Meal Garden, which is a mere $6 a month. While menu planning will help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals.
4. Get the toxic chemicals out
We are exposed to toxic chemicals everywhere. If I want to browse the magazines at Overwaitea, our local grocery store, I have to stand in the laundry & cleaner aisle and breathe in the toxic fumes of laundry detergent, dishwasher powder, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, and air fresheners. In fact according to the EPA, 33% of all scented laundry products contain carcinogenic chemicals. Honestly, I haven’t bought a magazine since the store moved the magazine rack to the laundry chemical aisle. Bad marketing move on their part. They should have put it in the health food or baking aisle. They’d get more sales of magazines. Hmm. There’s something about the smell of chocolate that makes you want to linger!
But how do you limit your exposure to toxic chemicals, after all, they are falling out of the air onto our organic gardens and our children’s playgrounds. Well, I figure I can’t control what falls down with the rain, but I can control what I bring into my home. Switch out the toxic cleaning products in your own home with nontoxic alternatives. You can read more about that here. Replace the toxic personal care products like shampoo, hand sanitizer, hand soap, deodorant, and toothpaste with nontoxic homemade versions. Getting the toxins out will help your body remove the residues from your cells and blood stream. Really to get them out you need to stop putting them in. This will give your liver and kidneys the chance to remove the toxic build up in your body, making you healthier.
5. Eat more fermented food
Kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, and other fermented food can improve your immunity and digestion, help you think more clearly. Fermented foods can even help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Scientists estimate that the average person has about the same number of microbes as they have human cells in their body. Most of those microbes are good bacteria that help you digest your food, keep bad microbes in balance, and protect your mucus membranes and organs from damage. When the bad microbes outnumber the good microbes you get sick, till your body gets the microbe balance back.
One way for the good microbes to keep the upperhand is to eat lots of foods that are rich in healthy probiotics. 1 serving of fermented vegetables like Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kosher dill pickles or fermented milk products like yoghurt or kefir contain more beneficial probiotics than expensive probiotic capsules. Plan to make your fermented food at home, to save money and get the best quality probiotics.
Bonus! Grow and use local herbal remedies
So many people grab a prescription or an over the counter medicine to treat common ailments and minor aches and pains. But these chemicals have side effects that can wreak a maelstrom of damage to your body. NSAI, a common class of pain relief pills, have been implicated in bleeding, ulcers, kidney failure, liver failure, and death. Yet analgesics are the number one class of prescribed drugs. Other prescription and OTC drugs have their own long list of damaging side effects. Today, prescription drugs and medical error are the third leading cause of death, after heart attack and cancer. Where it is practical, using herbs in place of pharmeceuticals, especially herbs that you grow yourself, makes sense both financially and healthwise.
What is YOUR one thing?
Knowing what your ONE THING is can give you a head start in facing the overwhelm of knowing where to begin in improving your health. And following through with your ONE THING can save you time. That’s your job.
My one thing this year is menu planning. When I had three kids at home and was homeschooling from Kindergarden to grade 10 I made a meal plan out of necessity. But with an empty nest and a freezer full of home grown meat, I’ve dropped the meal plans and I’m noticing the difference. It’s never a good day when you’re standing at the freezer at 7 pm asking yourself what to cook. Right?
Leave a comment and let me know what your ONE THING is.