These are the lifestyle guidelines I follow to maintain the healthiest me!
Minimal processed foods: I have adopted most of the guidelines of the Paleo diet, mostly eating foods that come from the earth. Processed foods and foods that are manufactured or created by machines, and contain unnatural ingredients and chemicals, are not considered edible to me. This includes fast food, junk food, candy, soda, bread, and basically “anything that cannot be hunted or gathered”, as the Paleo diet suggests. It just makes sense to me that we, as humans, are from the earth, and should only eat foods that also come from the earth 🙂 That said, in the interest of a “balanced” lifestyle, I don’t allow this to completely impede any social functions, and I believe in “most things are okay in moderation.” Besides, everyone needs an Uber Eats-and-Netflix night every once in while.
Minimal dairy: I am lactose intolerant and not a big fan of dairy products, anyway. I do eat eggs, though, and some consider them to fall into this category. I don’t buy dairy products at home, but also don’t go out of my way to completely avoid it in foods when dining out. Cheese will never be totally out of my diet. That’s just cruel.
Minimal gluten: I have suspected gluten intolerance, as I experience digestive problems, mood swings, and skin problems when I eat bread products, but I’ve never been tested and don’t follow this guideline too hardcore. In other words, I avoid bread, rice, pasta, etc..for the most part. I don’t obsess about whether a salad I order from a restaurant has touched croutons (although I don’t eat those), and I will almost never turn down sushi (but I order it with brown rice, when possible)!
Super hydration: I am borderline in love with drinking water, and although I still don’t consider it enough, I try to consciously drink at least three 27-ounce bottles of water per day. In addition to that, I try to drink a glass of water anytime I drink coffee or an alcoholic beverage, or practice hot yoga or work out in any way, to offset their dehydrating effects. Drinking tons of water is one of the most important guidelines to me! On that note…
Limited alcohol: Let’s be real: few people are willing to give up alcohol completely and forever. But, alcoholism (in addition to anxiety and depression) runs in my family, so I’m genetically predisposed to developing an unhealthy alcohol habit (because alcohol is ever healthy?). That’s terrifying, and to be honest I have had experiences that indicate I do need to be extra cautious. I consider myself a social drinker. I rarely buy alcohol to keep in the house, but I believe the occasional (less than once a week) glass of red wine in the evening does have benefits (antioxidants, promoting relaxation, etc). I also drink when out to dinner or at some kind of social event. It does help with social anxiety, but should not be a crutch. It’s also very important for me to avoid alcohol at all costs if I am in a bad (or sad) mood, or even if I have had a particularly stressful day (read: trigger). I like the occasional buzz, but nothing is worse than a hangover. It throws everything off (fitness goals, motivation, productivity) and always gives me pretty extreme anxiety. I generally don’t drink more than two drinks in a night, and not more than two nights per week. Most weeks I don’t even have two drinks in a week.
Vitamins, minerals, and supplements: I take various vitamins and supplements every day (mostly magnesium, zinc, calcium, and omega-3 fish oil). I also add other supplements to my overnight oats each morning that I may not otherwise get in my diet, like hemp protein or pumpkin seed protein, maca, chia seed powder, and B-vitamins. I adjust according to certain symptoms I experience that indicate needing more or less of something, or adding or removing certain ingredients.
Exercise (almost) daily: This one is my favorite! Honestly, I do this more for my mental health than my physical health (although physical health is also very important to me). I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to combat my symptoms of anxiety and depression (which run in my family), is to exercise daily. Most days I run and lift weights (I’m OBSESSED with Barry’s Bootcamp). If I’m feeling like I need a break but still want to move, or if my muscles are particularly tight and sore, I go to hot yoga (vinyasa). On days I want to be superwoman (or experience extra anxiety or stress), I go to Barry’s and then hot yoga later that day (which can help decrease soreness the next day). Some days I push super hard, others I take it easier. Even if it’s as simple as taking my dog for a quick walk, I make sure to do some kind of exercise at least 6 times per week. That said, rest days are EQUALLY important, especially if your body starts wearing down — I’ve learned the hard way there IS such a thing as over-exercising. Working out super hardcore doesn’t necessarily make you more “fit” or help you reach your goals faster — it just causes injuries that prevent you from working out altogether for an extended period of time. Which obviously makes reaching your goals take way longer — talk about setbacks! Be smart: push yourself, but listen to your body, and don’t overdo it. Which leads to…
Get plenty of rest: This one is also majorly important for both my physical and mental health. I take sleep pretty seriously. I get extremely irritable, weepy, moody, and sensitive when I don’t get enough sleep. In addition, since I exercise most days, my body physically needs a lot of rest so it can recuperate and function properly again the next day. Doctors recommend an average of 8 hours per night, but everyone is different. I personally do best with 7-9 hours per night. Also, getting to bed before midnight leads to better quality sleep, trust me!
No negativity: One of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that my happiness is up to me — and I’m the only one who can maintain my own happiness. For me that means setting and committing to healthy boundaries; counting my blessings every now and then (taking inventory); genuinely appreciating every part of my life (gratitude); giving myself credit (instead of only focusing on what I haven’t yet achieved); and letting go of the past, negativity, and anything I cannot change. I’m not saying I don’t get angry, aggravated, frustrated, sad, mad, heartbroken, or hurt. We all experience these. It’s also important to sit with these uncomfortable experiences sometimes – I believe that’s how we grow. But once I’ve sat with it and processed it, I let it go. It’s not easy to do. Sometimes it takes a LOT of work, but it gets easier the more you do it. I’m a firm believer that perspective is everything. One quote that has always stuck with me is, “The secret to having everything you want is believing you already do.” My own translation of that is, “The secret to having the best life is believing you already do.” That has become my mantra lately, and it’s as simple as believing everything, good and bad, in our lives is meant to happen, to teach us and make us better people. Whether it is immediately evident or not (and most times, not) to prepare us to better handle everything in our lives! That’s just my personal philosophy 🙂
Obviously, these are just guidelines and not hard rules. Anyone who knows me knows I still enjoy my coffee light and sweet, or a bottle of wine every now and then (amiright, ladies?). For me, if I tell myself I can never eat something again, I’ll rebel (against myself!) and binge on it. But if I know I can eat whatever I want anytime I want, it makes me feel stronger when I consciously choose the better choice. How’s that for reverse psychology? Also, sometimes it’s easier to bend a guideline than make a situation unnecessarily difficult. (For instance, being too picky about going out to a restaurant. I can find something to eat anywhere.) And cheat days honestly make staying on track MORE likely. Following these guidelines most of the time has dramatic positive effects for me, and it’s because of their effectiveness for me that I like to stay committed to them. Feeling good is one of the most important parts of living your best life!