Healthy habits to kickstart your 2014
While I have always admired friends who make grand New Year's resolutions (especially those who are able to stick to them), I often find that positive change for both myself and my clients comes in small and digestible steps in the right direction.
In that spirit, I put together a list of small shifts you can make to your everyday routine that will have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing this New Year:
Ditch the plastic
You already know that plastic + food = an unnecessarily high level of exposure to environmental toxins including hormone disruptor Bisphenol-A, so now is the time to finally take the leap and make a change. Get rid of your plastic tupperware, coffee cups, baby bottles, mixing bowls, cooking utensils, etc. and replace them with glass, porcelain, wood or stainless steel alternatives (they are available everywhere and last forever).
In case you need a bit of a nudge on this one, consider this: we have all seen plastic tupperware that has been irreparably stained (usually red, by tomato sauce), where no matter how hard one scrubs, the color refuses to budge. The sauce has literally become "one" with the plastic. In the same way that a little part of the sauce has fused with your tupperware, just know that the reverse is true as well: a little bit of that plastic has merged with your food! (gross).
Keep a food journal
The number of people who suffer from food allergies and sensitivities is skyrocketing, probably due to the fact that our bodies are exposed to unprecedented amounts of processed foods and environmental toxins, causing our immune systems to run awry. If you find that you have unexplained symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, skin problems such as acne or eczema, etc., then it might be a good idea to keep a daily food journal for a week or two to help identify potential allergies or food sensitivities. This journal should track all of your meals and snacks as well as any general "symptoms" you might experience during the day. The symptoms can be both positive or negative; for example, one day you might note that you felt wonderful and were able to make it through the typical mid-afternoon slump without your regular coffee, while the next day you might be experiencing a skin flare-up. By systematically tracking what you eat and how you feel, you may be able to make a link between certain foods and previously unexplained symptoms. This one simple habit can garner life-changing insights; you might uncover food sensitivities you never even suspected before.
Drink more water
Drinking plenty of water is vital to our health, however, many of us are in an almost constant state of dehydration. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, slow metabolism, constipation, and more. Moreover, the mechanism for thirst is often confused with hunger, so ensuring one has had enough to drink can help decrease overeating and subsequent weight gain.
Ideally, we should aim to drink 8 to 12 ounces of water per day to help us stay hydrated and to assist with the body's detox functions. Make a habit to bring along a glass water bottle everywhere you go and to sip on it throughout the day - nothing could be easier!
Eat real food
One of the primary pieces of advice I give to my clients is that I ask them to read labels on everything they buy. If a food item contains a laundry-list of ingredients or any item that sounds like it belongs in a chemistry lab and not on our plate, then it should not make its way into our bellies. If you couldn't conceivably make it at home with easy to access ingredients then you shouldn't buy it.
Once you get into this habit and do it regularly, identifying and avoiding questionable ingredients will become second-nature. A few common ingredients which you should avoid at all costs are hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and hidden sources of MSG (anything hydrolyzed, glutamic acid, soy protein, etc. - full list here).
Cut down on sugar (a lot)
I wrote a whole post on this (read it here), so I won't bother you again with the details, but I remain convinced that cutting sugar (especially processed sugar) out of our diet can have a dramatic impact on our health. High sugar consumption is connected with a plethora of diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Thanks to our food supply which values cheap ingredients over quality, the sweet stuff is everywhere, so, once again, make sure to read labels to avoid sugars hiding in everyday products (for example, high fructose corn syrup in our bread and salad dressing!).
Cutting sugar out of your diet might seem like a daunting task at first, so I suggest taking it slow and starting with the most highly processed (and toxic) varieties first. This resource I put together with a guide to everyday sweeteners is a good place to start.
Indulge in "self-care"
With our hectic schedules and stressful lifestyles, I believe that putting aside at least half an hour of sacred alone time is essential. Use this time to meditate, read a good book, get a massage, or take a walk outside - just make sure to prioritize it as though your health depends on it (because it does!).
Wishing you a wonderful 2014, full of many blessings and health of mind, body and soul.