11 Ways to Achieve a Healthier Life
If I were to boil down all of the lessons I've learned in my career into one statement it'd be this: Always be the student.
The game of health is one that you can easily win, as long as you're willing to learn, accept that multiple approaches to fitness and nutrition work, and that trends and opinions can change. Some people interpret this as hypocritical--I consider it a realistic and sustainable approach to living a better life. As a new month descends upon us, I want to make the smartest experts more available to you. So I reached out to the best doctors, nutritionists, and strength coaches in the industry--the real heroes of health and fitness--and had them compile their favorite life lessons. Grab your notebook because the best health course ever created is officially in session.
Zoe Harcombe, The Obestity Fighter
I'll keep this simple: If nature provides it, eat it. If man made it, don’t go near it. Real food is what we evolved to eat. Man-made food is the major cause of man-made illness (obesity, heart disease and more). Unless you want to be fat and sick you need to trust Mother Nature not Ronald McDonald! Here's how to do it: Base your meals on: meat, eggs and dairy foods from grass living animals; fish; quality (non-GM, non-pesticide) vegetables & salads; nuts & seeds and local fruits in season. Treats can include at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate (ideally 85-90%+), red wine and cream, but what are steak and pork crackling if not treats?! If active and slim, brown rice, cous cous and other non-wheat whole grains can be an enjoyable part of one’s diet (modern wheat has mutated too far to be of benefit to any human). If you’ve got weight to lose you need to give your body the chance to burn that fat and that can’t happen if you keep putting fuel (carbohydrates) in the tank.
Jim Smith, The Life Changer
The fitness industry is very unique. It has a staggering failure rate, yet still grosses billions of dollars per year. So why aren't people reaching their goals when they are clearly spending their hard-earned money to support every new fitness fad that hits the market? Achieving your fitness goals and the getting the body you want doesn't have anything to do with the latest fancy gadgets or today's most popular workout routine - it all depends on YOU. Our daily lives are filled with negativity from going to a job we don't like, allowing negative people into our circle of friends and from trying to escape our past. These roadblocks and self-imposed self-doubt can many times prevent us from achieving any goal we set for ourselves in and out of the gym – and from living the life of our dreams.
If you ever want to achieve great things in your life, you must first start with belief in yourself. This small spark can turn into a raging fire that can burn down the bridges to your past and help you eliminate the obstacles that you face every day. Once you have this belief, you will become unstoppable if you also take action. Focus on small progress every day and live every moment - and don't fear failure. You don't have to be perfect, just persistent. Realize that every second that you are not taking action is another day living the life you so desperately want to change.
Alan Aragon, The Food Realist
I've designed thousands of diets in my life, and here's something I know that works: Flexibility. I give myself anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of my calories to come from whatever foods I want. This can be daily or weekly, depending on my preference at the time. This accomplishes 3 main things. First off, it reminds me to predominate my diet (80-90%) with whole and minimally processed foods. Secondly, it allows for indulgence foods such as sugary desserts or fried dishes to be consumed in a controlled manner; in moderation. Thirdly, it allows me to feel free and more experimental with the foods I bring into dietary rotation. Trying new things – regardless of their supposed “junkiness” – can end up contributing to the spectrum of nutrients consumed. Collectively, this “discretionary” calorie allotment allows me to enjoy eating in all situations (social & other), while maintaining a healthy diet overall.
John Romaniello, Captain Obvious
Take time to figure out the YOU diet. Popular diets like those recommended on LIVESTRONG.COM are great, but everything is better with customization. More importantly, not everything works for everybody, and not everyone needs to be completely compliant with a dietary dogma to get results. For example, “primal” eating plans like the Paleo Diet CAN work for anybody but they’re NOT necessary for everybody--a great many people need to eliminate gluten, but many do not. On the opposite side of that coin, many people find a change to a vegan diet helps them lose weight and get healthy, but it’s certainly not written in stone that everyone “needs” to eliminate animal products. Personally, I like intermittent fasting, and use it for my clients, but it’s not a cure-all--some people do better when they eat more regularly.
The best way to ensure that you know exactly what you need to do to make progress is to experiment with periods of elimination: one month, go gluten free; another month, dairy free. Also try different diets: perhaps intermittent fasting one month, carb-backloading the next; within 4 to 5 months, you’ll figure out what works best for you--what you NEED to do to make the fastest progress--and you’ll be able to develop your own customized plan that you can follow for the rest of your life.
Dr. Mark Cheng, Master of Human Performance
With the recent press that high-intensity, hardcore training has been getting, it’s little wonder that we’re seeing more muscular, sexier bodies. Yet with higher output comes greater risk, and when you strengthen the body’s engine, you also need to make sure to check the alignment, lest ye suffer a crippling blowout. The most important areas of alignment, you ask? Posture & breath.
Posture is a fancy word for joint alignment. It doesn’t mean sitting or standing like you’ve suddenly found yourself in the USMC on line for inspection. It means using proper biomechanics CONSTANTLY whether you’re in motion or still. Movement under competitive circumstances may momentarily drive you out of alignment on occasion, but in your training and in your activities of daily life, your joint alignment should be uncompromising. Similarly, your breath should be the picture of relaxation and efficiency. Whether you’re in the gym or in the office, your breathing should be easy, unrestricted, and energizing. The diaphragm is perhaps the most important muscle in respiration, and when it’s not functioning properly, your core is crippled.
So throughout your day, no matter what you’re doing, check your posture, find height to align your spine, relax your limbs and your breathing. These are some of the subtle secrets to achieve strong health and an efficient, durable body.
John Berardi, The Transformation Specialist
At Precision Nutrition we believe in something we call deep health. Deep health doesn't come from a pill or an operation. Deep health comes from a balanced diet of fresh, whole foods. It comes from sufficient exercise combined with genuine rest. It comes from clean air and clean water. And it comes from living with purpose and joy, and using your life as an expression of these things. That's our philosophy of health and fitness. And it's one we're passionate about sharing with as many people as possible.
Kris Carr, Crazy, Sexy Inspiration
Make juice, not war. A nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory green juice is a terrific way to get an instant blast of sustainable energy. Green smoothies are fantastic too. Adding healthy fats like avocado or raw almond butter to your smoothie will help you feel satisfied longer. Here's an idea, reach for a fresh organic vegetable juice or smoothie, instead of your morning cup of java. Your body will thank you!
Make Juice Not War Green Drink
It’s our motto and our morning beverage. This recipe makes almost 32 ounces.
- 2 large cucumbers (peeled if not organic)
- A big fistful of kale and romaine (or spinach, chard etc)
- 4-5 stalks celery
- 1-2 big broccoli stems (adds sweetness)
- 1-2 green apples
- 1/2 lemon
Wash and prep ingredients, put them through your juicer. Cheers!
Martin Rooney, The Warrior Creator
As your day becomes “busier” with each passing year, sleep has become expendable. In fact, I would be bold enough to say that the human species is the only one on the planet that is sleep deprived (just think about how many times you wake a week without an alarm clock). Although many of us understand the effects of a lack of proper exercise and nutrition, I think few of us appreciate the negative physical and mental repercussions due to a lack of sleep. Both the healing of the body and mind occur during sleep, and most of us know we are not getting enough. I, however, take my sleep very seriously. Just as I try to train and eat like a champion athlete, I try to sleep like one as well.
The following are some of my tips for getting a champion’s night sleep: Make sure you have a bedtime routine. I consider this just as important as my dynamic warmup before training or the way that I pmartinrepare my food. To begin my routine, I make sure to hydrate with about 16 ounces of water. Following this, I make sure that the TV, computer, and phone is off, and my blinds are pulled tightly shut to prevent light from leaking in. I keep my room cool at about 68 degrees and check my heart rate each night before I close my eyes to sleep. I finish with deep breathing to calm my mind and clear my thoughts. At that point, I am always out like a light.
Yoni Freedhoff, The Weight Loss Savant
My favorite tip for how to improve any aspect of your health is to ask yourself better questions. Whether you’re setting out to improve your fitness, your diet, your relationships or your mental health, given the dynamic nature of living real lives, your efforts will have both their ups, and their downs.
The most common lines of internal questioning when things aren’t going well go something like this: “What’s wrong with me?”, “What’s my problem?”, “Why
can’t I do X, Y or Z?”, or “Why does this always happen to me?”. Your brain, truly your ever faithful servant, isn’t going to hesitate to answer and without missing a beat, it’ll tell you what’s “wrong with you” - after all, that’s what you’ve asked it to do! “You’re a loser”, “You don’t deserve it”, “You’re weak.” Sugar-coating isn’t our brain's strongest asset.
Do you really think you’re going to be able to build a lifelong change on the basis of repeatedly mentally beating yourself up? I don’t. If you want to build a lifelong change, then you need to build it on the shoulders of pride, because pride provides powerful forward momentum.
So how do you build pride in the face of struggles? You ask your brain two new questions.
The first? “What can I do right now that’s going to help even a little bit?”
And the second, “What can I do today that I can be proud of?”
Your faithful servant will once again provide you with answers, only this time they’ll help build you up, not help tear yourself down. It of course goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways), once your brain provides you with answers to your new questions, if you want to benefit from them, you need to act on them.
Be constructive, not destructive – life will be much more enjoyable that way.
Eric Cressey, The Sports Specialist
Without a doubt, I’d tell folks to have their vitamin D checked (as part of comprehensive blood work). It has so many implications in terms of both health and performance, whether we’re talking about endocrine implications, immune health, soft tissue quality, or any of a number of other benefits. I always tell folks that you can’t run a race if you don’t know where the starting line is, and that’s what blood testing will give you.
Andy Bellatti, The Food Crusader
One of the best things people can do is get out of the “low-carb” and “low-fat” mentality and instead prioritize “low-processed” foods. Highly processed foods are generally low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and offer refined grains, unhealthy fats, artificial additives, and chemical ingredients that don’t do our bodies any favors.
I always encourage people to eat real food. An avocado is a high-fat food, and a pear is not low-carb, but they are whole foods that confer a multitude of health benefits. Those two foods will always surpass a low-fat and low-sugar “energy bar” made with artificial sweeteners.”
Jason Ferruggia, The Renegade
I specialize in helping skinny guys gain size and strength. One thing that is probably the biggest thing holding these guys back is their never ending worrying. They over-think and over-analyze everything, much to their detriment. They obsessively count calories and change their diets and workouts every week, then they wonder if they are overtraining or not doing enough. They second guess EVERYTHING.
This type of constant worrying is hurtful in so many ways--regardless of your goal. First, you never get anywhere. If you always second guess what you’re doing and don’t believe in it you will never make progress. NEVER. Do you think Arnold or Dorian Yates or Walter Payton or Michael Jordan lived with constant worrying and doubt? Of course not. They went to the gym or field every day and worked their asses off with complete confidence that they were doing exactly what it took to be the best. They weren’t switching up their workouts or their shooting or running style each week.
When you lean to worry less about things like this you can actually start to enjoy your training and your life. For too many people today, training is a source of stress more than a stress relief. Stop over thinking it and learn to enjoy the process.
Of course, just telling someone not to worry isn’t enough. If only it were that easy. Learning to worry less is a skill. And like any skill you want to master it must be practiced religiously. This is no different than learning to play the guitar or perform the Olympic lifts. You need to read books like “F*ck It” and anything by Leo Babauta. Associate yourself with people who have already mastered this skill. And look to guys who seem physically incapable of worrying or hearing negativity of any kind, like Donald Trump and Magic Johnson.
Assign a reward and punishment to your behaviors. Let others know what your goal is and then whenever they hear you expressing these negative thoughts they are to call you on it.
Eventually this will improve just like any other skill you constantly practice. And when it does you will be leaner, stronger, healthier, happier and more successful.