Back to basics

Keep it simple, and JERF, man!

I've been asked a bit lately, what are my top tips for being healthy? Immediately many things spring to mind, but I remind myself to always find out the motivation behind the question. Is it to lose weight? Is it to feel healthier? Is it for more energy? Is it all of the above? I could start waffling on about the importance of cleansing your colon for optimum health, about magnesium and why it's important to supplement it, why you should sip on hot ionized water, and why you should be brewing your own booch at home for gut health (obviously amongst other things) but before I get carried away in holistic nerd stuff it's absolutely crucial to find out a bit more about what a typical day looks like for the person in question.

Now this is not a consult, I'm not a qualified nutritionist, I've done some courses in Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy but I'm not an accredited physician (goals) but I do like to practise what I preach so I am more than happy to share what has worked for me, recommend books to read, and share recipes through conversations.

The most recent request came from a lady I've met through my sons kindy. She said she's been able to eat anything she's wanted all her life but has found now, at almost 30, that this seems to have stopped working for her and she's been putting on weight. She's seen my kids lunchboxes and often asks about what I've put in there (there is never any packaged foods, usually home baking and fresh fruit and veggies). I found out a bit more about what her typical day is like, she's moved from having pies for breakfast to eggs on toast (white bread, but still an improvement on a pie!). She drinks a lot of fizzy drink, loves sweets, smokes, and is terrified of going on a diet. I try and tell her that it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle (you know it) and that small changes are key to making it sustainable. But it got me thinking, I've been down this rabbit hole of health for so long, I had kind of forgotten that there are lots of people like this, who have forgotten the basics and who will do well from slowly but surely swapping things in their diet for healthier options.

Prior to my first son being born, I was pretty healthy. At least I thought I was. I exercised regularly, trained and played sport a lot, drank on the weekends but felt overall thought I was in good health. I weighed consistently around 65kg which was my norm (I'm 5'9"). Upon becoming pregnant, I lost 5 kg in the first couple of months, just simply from not drinking alchohol and having hangover meals. Fast forward to my son being born, and being an absolute nightmare sleeper. I needed food to be a source of energy, so made some changes in my daily diet thanks to some great advice from my holistic nutritionist and became a leaner 55-57kg. Just by changing what I ate!

It inspired me to write about some very simple ways to make sustainable changes in your life, ones that are very easy to do, are not going to cost a lot, and ones that we probably all need reminders of once in a while.

  1. Firstly – drink more water! The human body is approximately 75% water. To provide nourishment, eliminate waste, and conduct all the trillions of activities within the body, we simply NEED water. Did you know that you could go around 30 days without food, but only 3 days without water? I know many people who simply 'don't care for water' so they don't drink it. I know some that drink more tea, or coffee, or soft drink than water. Drinks with added sugar drastically raise blood sugar levels, anybeverage that provokes this kind of response coerces the body to give up large quantities of water. Regular consumption of these kinds of beverages results in chronic dehydration, which plays a major part in every toxicity crisis. So, drinking water is absolutely crucial! The type of your water is also important, as not all water is created equal, but that's an entire post all on its own. So for now, I'd say make sure you're drinking around 2L per day. The recommended rate is actually around 30 ml for every kilo that you weigh, the 2L is a bit of a blanket rule but obviously someone who weighs 100kg needs more than someone who weighs 50kg. For every caffeinated drink you have, you need to have three glasses of water to off set it. If you're not used to having a bottle with you, perhaps do what my Dad does and make it a ritual to have a glass of water every time you go the toilet. A good little habit to get into.
  2. Cut the CRAP – The Carbonated, Refined, Artificial and Processed stuff.
    This may sound basic, but it definitely takes a bit of will power. This is basically the premise for 'Clean Eating' that you have probably heard of. Refined sugar is addictive stuff, more addictive than cocaine, apparently. In South America it's called white devil. There is nothing good about white sugar. It is highly addictive, nutrient devoid, a very cheap filler which is used in a lot of processed foods, and behaves badly with blood sugar levels. Cut the carbonated – drink water. Refined – find some ways to replace these in your home. Swap your refined sugar for Coconut sugar, or Jaggery (the Indian word for unrefined sugar cane sugar, which still has lots of nutrients in it and will actually help to stabilise rather than spike blood sugar levels). I'll do a separate post on the different types of sugars you could try soon. Cut your refined wheat – you may not be convinced about the benefits of not having gluten in your diet, but removing refined wheat is something that also made me feel so much better. I never thought I had a problem with gluten (although have noticed a difference from removing it from my diet), but upon experimenting with myself I most definitely have a problem with refined wheat. You see, wheat today is not actually much like the wheat our ancestors had on occasion (not all day erry day type thing). I'm not going to do a major spiel on this, I recommend reading wheat belly and grain brain for more information about this). Artificial – where do I even start?! Anything artificial is not recognised or processed easily by your gut and your liver. You're basically building up toxins in your body. You don't need to dig very deep to discover the dangers of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Just say no.
    Processed – so many processed foods are nutrient devoid, full of refined ingredients and often chemicals to prolong their shelf life (some that are used here in NZ have been banned in other countries). To learn more about this I recommend reading Wendyl Nissens supermarket companion, she lets you know what all those strange codes and numbers mean. Basically, make sure you're reading packets of food and if you see numbers, or ingredients that you don't know what they are or cannot pronounce, don't eat it. Simple!
    Except of course Quinoa. Eat more of that.
  3. JERF – Just Eat Real Food
    An easy way to get your head around cutting the CRAP is to JERF. Wholefood, real food, clean eating, all these sorts of terms get bandied around. In a nut shell, just eat food the way it comes from nature. Without packets, without preservatives, without extended shelf lives. I can honestly say I've never been a calorie counter. If you're really needing to count something, count the chemicals that you're putting into your body. A hell of a lot scarier than counting calories, which really only brings about feelings of restriction – and I don't think restricting creates a healthy relationship with food. I believe food is to be enjoyed, especially with loved ones, and I'm not sure how that's possible when you're counting how many calories is in this or that. Just JERF, man.
  4. Eat Well and Exercise – it's up to EWE! And it's that simple, well, kind of. This is one of my Dad's favourite one liners, and for good reason - it just makes sense! Obviously eating well is key, but also so is exercise. There are many reasons that people feel held back from doing exercise. Whatever the reason may be, I feel the key is to find something you enjoy. Whether that's going for a walk, doing yoga, going to the gym, bouncing on the tramp with the kids, the point is you need to move your body to get the blood pumping, helping the lymphatic system do its job of waste removal, release endorphins to feel good, and as a by product, probably look pretty good too.
  5. Eat more plants! There is so much information around about the benefits of a plant based diet. I do not think you'd find a nutritionist anywhere that would not recommend you eat more veggies. The whole five plus a day thing is good to remember. So is 'eat the rainbow' which means try and eat from a variety of different colours, as each colour has unique nutritional and health benefits that you're guaranteeing a wide range if you eat the rainbow regularly. Eating seasonally is also key, you're getting the freshest produce that is ideal for you in that particular season – nature is smart you see, there's a reason there are light berries and high water content things in summer and heavy, robust, root vegetables and the like in winter time – you're providing your body with the right nutrients to thrive seasonally (and giving money directly to the farmers too if you're picking up your produce at the markets).
  6. Reduce your meat consumption. I realise that not everyone is ready to, or wants to go vegetarian or vegan, but there are many reasons to reduce your meat intake. The World health Organisation recently announced that processed meats are known carcinogens. Bowel cancer is one of the most prolific forms in the western world. We love our meat, and red meat at that. As well as improving your health by not stressing your stomach on hard to digest meats, you're doing your bit for the planet as well. It takes an incredible amount of water and food to grow animals to the right size for the food industry, we all need to do our part in reducing that. Recommended viewing, Before the Flood, Forks over knives, Cowspiracy, Food Inc, GMO OMG and a recently released film called What the Health.
  7. Go organic. Reduce the pesticide load in your life. There are so many toxins in our environments that we do not need to be adding to the load by eating them as well. The farmers markets are a great place to start as you're picking up spray free and/or organic produce which is seasonal and well priced. Every time you spend your money you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Organic is key and the absolute future of the food supply. Not only are you not ingesting poisons, but the people who work in the garden are not subjected to the poisons either. Did you know that Russia, by 2020 wants to be completely self sustainable with produce, and all organic? Yup. I could wah on all day about the benefits of organic.
  8. Reduce your caffeine intake. On any given day you can probably find an article proving why coffee is 'bad', or why it's so 'good' now. Hard to keep up! I would try reducing it and seeing how you go. I used to drink coffee. I used to rely on it to get me through after a really rough night sleep (I have three kids aged 5, 3 and 1). Other times I just used to really enjoy it. I decided to remove my daily cup of joe to see how I felt, and only have it when I really wanted one, not needed one. I set myself a target of a day. Then a week. Then a month. I have not drunk a single cup in two years now. And I don't miss it! I did really enjoy kokako's cold brew though...I replaced it with nut milk lattes, namely matcha, or turmeric, or beetroot ones. Delicious!
  9. Reduce your alcohol intake – this is a big one and I almost forgot! I don't drink much these days. But I'm an ex Otago University student so I've done more than my fair share of drinking in my time! There are a lot of sugars in alcohol, and obviously it's not great for your liver. So setting yourself some alcohol free days is a good idea. Nowadays, even if I have one or two glasses, I feel so devitalised the next day. I really and honestly can notice the difference.
  10. Go Slow – Nice and easy does it
    If you're serious about wanting to make lifestyle changes for a healthier, more energetic you, then take it slow. Become more conscious about what you're eating and ask yourself whether what you're about to it is going to give you energy and be nourishing, or whether it's going to take energy away and devitalise you. Becoming more aware of your choices and how they affect your body is key. Your body is a temple and all that – you don't put diesel in a petrol car and expect it to run well. Likewise, you can't put the wrong fuel, or fuel with little energy into your body and expect to feel good.
  11. Change your focus
    If you focus more on the amount of nourishing foods you're eating and what they're doing for your body, then by default you'll end up losing weight, if that's what you're wanting. To focus on losing weight and counting calories rather than counting nutrients sets you up for an unsustainable cycle. Don't beat yourself up if you have takeaways one night, or overindulge during celebratory occasions, they are supposed to be enjoyed! You'll notice a difference in your energy levels after indulging though, so let this be your motivator to getting back on track with more nourishing foods. Look after your body and it'll look after you.
To your health and vitality,

The HH x


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