There isn't enough to be said about the importance of eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise for better overall health and wellness. In our society today, we're always on the go and there never seems to be enough hours in the day for us to do all of the things we set out to accomplish each morning. At least that's how my colleagues and I feel at times. This makes taking time to get to the grocery store, cook healthy meals, and calculate nutrients a bit of a luxury reserved for those who don't work full-time. Throw in making time to get to the gym, and you're talking about a part-time job time commitment on top of the already time and energy consuming commitments we have every day. This lack of time we experience can contribute to unhealthy habits such as grabbing fast food or microwavable meals on the go, skipping the gym, and sometimes even engaging in unhealthy practices to help reduce stress. While it's important to manage stress, this can be done in healthy ways such as taking 30 minutes to elevate our heart rates by getting in some cardio—the one thing we often feel like we don't have the time or energy to do at the end of the day. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? I'm feeling a bit stressed just by writing about it. The good news is that there are ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into even the busiest of schedules to help us feel better and less stressed while saving time and energy.
Be Mindful of Your pH Balance
One way to ensure your body stays healthy is by keeping an eye on its pH balance. This can be done by following a pH food chart and using pH test strips to measure how alkaline or acidic your body is. When our bodies are acidic, they become breeding zones for diseases like cancer, however, a slightly alkaline balance provides us protection from cancer and other diseases, as they're unable to grow in an alkaline environment. Foods that are lowest in pH (acidic) include sodas, microwavable foods, fast foods, pizza, red meat, bacon, dairy, alcohol, coffee, etc. Foods that are highest in pH (alkaline) include most fresh produce, herbal teas, etc. You can also help keep your body's pH balance in check by drinking alkaline water or making your own by adding fresh lemon slices or a shot of apple cider vinegar to it. It's best to wake up with two glasses of water each morning to flush out your system. I keep water on my nightstand to make this easy, as I tend to wake up thirsty and this takes the guesswork out of it.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
There are a couple of 80/20 rules to abide by when it comes to diet and exercise. The first being that one's physique is 80% reliant on the foods we consume, and 20% on exercise. When it comes to our diets, it's important to focus on more than one's daily caloric intake alone. The healthier we eat (meaning the more we put fresh produce into our bodies) the better we will feel. While it can be difficult to eat fruits and vegetables all of the time, it's always a good idea to start incorporating as many of these foods into our diets as possible with lean proteins and whole grains, legumes, healthy oils, and nuts. Another 80/20 rule for our diets to follow is to eat healthy 80% of the time while allowing 20% of our caloric intake to come from indulgent foods. Allowing ourselves to still eat some of our favorite foods will help prevent diet meltdowns and binges over time. This 20% includes things like wine or beer as well, and it's only beneficial for our health for women to have one drink per day, while men (since they metabolize alcohol faster) can have 2 drinks per day on average before drinking becomes unhealthy.
Check Labels and Avoid GMOs
It's also a good idea to be mindful of the processing of the foods we put into our bodies, as so many foods today are made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). A majority of crops in the US have been genetically engineered to have pesticides inside of them, and the biggest culprits today come from corn, wheat, and non-organic produce. Be sure to check the labels of the foods you buy, and look for as many foods that are organic, or at least non-GMO, as possible. It's a good idea to follow the clean 15 and dirty dozen guide for produce, as some are more toxic than others when ingested. This goes for beer and wine as well. Most domestic beers are made from GMO corn and gluten, which can wreak havoc on our digestive systems and overall health. There are a variety of organic beers and wines available as healthier choices. Look for organic wines made without sulfites, as these are harmful to our health and in most wines on the market.
Avoid Processed Foods and Sugars
Most processed foods in grocery stores contain loads of refined sugars which can be toxic for our bodies. While a bit of natural sugar is OK (20% of the time) hidden sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup are not. Most processed foods also contain GMO corn and gluten, and if you take some time to read the labels, you will see that there are several ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. Do some research on the ingredients in your favorite foods, and you just may be surprised with what you find. Many processed foods contain ingredients we'd never consciously want to put into our bodies. A good rule of thumb is to try to avoid the center aisles of the grocery store and to opt for whole foods displayed around the edges of the store.
Take the Stairs and Walk More
It may not always be possible to get to the gym as it takes time to get there and park, and if your gym is crowded you may have to wait to use the equipment you want. Some other options for getting more exercise include taking the stairs instead of elevators, and finding excuses to walk more. This could be around the office, or it could be a brisk walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park. There are also a variety of ways you can get in a good workout at home using your own equipment, or equipment supplements like soup cans for weights, etc. If you have a dog, all you need to do is take your dog on three 10-15 minute walks each day, and you've got your daily dose of cardio and Vitamin D from the sun.
Schedule a Weekly Meal Prep
One of the best ways to make eating healthy on the go successful is by taking one day of the week (I like to do this on Sundays) to do some meal prep for the work week ahead. Make a pound or so of brown rice or quinoa with some lean protein like organic chicken or wild caught salmon with some steamed vegetables or fresh leafy greens. You can store these together as meals in separate containers in your fridge. All you'll have to do in the morning is remember to grab your container for the day and you'll have a healthy lunch made by you with love.
Make Healthier Choices
Sometimes life can become so busy that grocery shopping and meal prepping are not realistic options. When you must grab your lunch on the go, be sure to opt for healthy choices. It can be difficult to eat healthy when you're feeling super hungry, so if you can at least grab a piece of fruit, cheese, or some nuts to hold you over until you can get to some healthy food, this always helps. With smartphone technology today, eating healthy on the go is easier than ever. All you have to do is Google or Safari search “healthy food near me”, and healthy local options will come up. Grab a nice salad, a fish burrito bowl, or a veggie wrap, and you'll feel much better throughout the day than you would if you stopped at McDonald's to eat.
Track Exercise and Calories
Technology has made tracking exercise and calories nearly effortless today. There are a variety of apps for smartphones, as well as watches like the Fitbit that will track your daily activity, exercise, caloric intake, sleep cycles, etc. Use whichever option you prefer to help keep track of how many calories are being ingested and burned, and things that can be done daily to help maximize overall health. It really takes the guesswork out of calorie counting, tracking exercise, and sleep.
If you're anything like me, commitments can have a tendency to pile up each week both professionally, personally, and socially—making it difficult to juggle everything you want to accomplish. It helps me to keep a calendar on my devices to organize my schedule and prioritize commitments. While it's important to have time set aside for fun and social activities, it helps to see the full picture of everything I'm committed to so I can prioritize them. Making health a top priority is key for staying on track and feeling my best throughout the week, so if there's something that needs to go to accommodate this, I examine my schedule and prioritize accordingly. This helps me stay balanced with work as well, as I can sometimes become a bit of a workaholic. While it's important to work and build up the lives we want, it's also important to stay balanced, as this will help us avoid burnout and fatigue throughout the week.
Add Health Boosting Supplements to Your Diet
Healthy supplements offer a powerful way to be proactive about our health and combat any symptoms of mental illness or stress. I personally take a variety of supplements to ensure I'm avoiding inflammation and getting the right amount of nutrients in my diet that will help my organs operate as they're supposed to. The most powerful supplement I've recently added to my diet is a micronutrient supplement developed by Focus Essentials. Micronutrients are wonderful tools for helping us stay focused and calm throughout the day. They've also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD, and more. Micronutrients contain all of the essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids our bodies need each day to perform optimally and can be taken twice a day with meals. The Focus Essentials formula is far superior to any other such supplement I've seen on the market and has been designed for optimal absorption. I recommend trying a bottle to see how it makes you feel. If it's not your cup of tea, you can always get a refund.
I hope these tips have helped everyone start planning some ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily lives, regardless of how busy life gets. It's always less costly and time-consuming to be proactive about our health than to have to take time off work to heal when we become ill from mental or physical ailments. If you're interested in learning more about the supplements I've mentioned, I welcome you to check out the Focus Essentials nutrient profile and reach out with any questions you may have.