I’m a fan of Rilke’s wise advice to “live in the questions.” But lately, ever since we launched our popular “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” app, I am getting one question that always leaves me flummoxed: Of all 101 Ways, what’s your favorite?
The problem is, there’s no way I can choose just one. I love them all. And so that question keeps nagging at me — but in a nice way.
Recently, under the pressure of preparing a lecture, I did manage to narrow down a top-10 list, but I had to mix and match a bit to get there.
So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 acts of acts of healthy rebellion:
1. Don’t believe most of what you’ve been told about health — especially by large, conventionally-minded “authoritative” organizations.
2. Forget about quick fixes (fad diets, weight loss pills, miracle drinks and powders, etc.). They don’t work, and often make matters worse.
3. Eat whole foods, real actual foods (not products, not diet stuff) and learn how to prepare them in ways you enjoy. A few sub-points here:
- If you are eating mostly whole foods, don’t worry too much about calories and fats.
- Do be afraid of trans fats, rancid fats, crappy industrial vegetable oils, factory-farmed meats, and industrially processed meat products.
- Eat lots of plants, especially dark leafy greens and brightly colored veggies. They are packed with phytonutrients and fiber, and they also help you adjust to your taste preferences in healthier directions. (For more advice on that front, see “Paleo vs. Vegan.”)
- Minimize your intake of flours (even “whole grain” flours) and sugars. They set the stage for inflammation, high cholesterol, insulin imbalance, cravings, mood imbalances, weight gain and even certain cancers.
- Avoid preservatives, artificial sweeteners, added flavors and other non-food ingredients.
4. Aim for 85%. Dietarily and otherwise, you don’t have to be perfect. Trying will make you miserable and a loner in most circles. It will also cut down on your fun and pleasure — and pleasure (in moderation) is good for you.
5. Identify and respect any food intolerances you might have, even if it means you will be forever categorized as a “weird picky eater.” Gluten and dairy are in practically everything, so if you don’t eat them, you will be weird. But anything you are intolerant to inflames your body, and inflammation breeds disease. Better weird than sick.
6. Move your body however you like, but find a way to move regularly. Sitting kills. Moving regularly improves circulation and detoxification, helps balance blood sugar, maintains body composition, improves mood and enhances sleep.
7. Sleep! Sleep is when your body repairs itself, when your brain makes key connections. Sleep is also critical to healthy metabolism, immunity and resilience. And most people don’t get nearly enough.
8. Be in charge of your health. Learn about your body. It’s great to assemble a posse of wise counselors and helpers — but you still need to be in charge. Realize that most conventionally trained doctors are better trained in disease than in health. Beware relying on prescription drugs for chronic conditions. Many (like those for blood pressure, cholesterol and stomach acid) are overprescribed, and have serious side effects. Most chronic disease has chronic causes, and those chronic causes are largely within your control.
9. Do your personal work. Address the mental, emotional and social issues that are presenting barriers or setting up negative patterns in your life — from body image issues, addictions, job or relationship troubles, to just not being sure what you want to do with your life. Keep in mind that stress is responsible for 85 percent of doctors visits, and is the trigger for all kinds of inflammatory conditions.
10. Connect with healthy community. Build an active, inspiring peer group. Learn from others. See getting healthy as an adventure and a challenge, and an opportunity for discovery. Greet the challenge with other brave people you enjoy.
I guess if I had to choose just one, overarching favorite from the “101 Ways” it would be No. 1: “Defy Convention!” But I reserve the right to pick a new favorite tomorrow.
Which reminds me: Our “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” mobile app is now available not just for iPhone and iPad, but for Android, too. It’s a fun, powerful source for daily inspiration, education, motivation and more. Check it out, and then tell me: What’s your favorite?