Staying Healthy Forever… Let’s Do This

As you can tell from Eric’s recent post and Jackie’s recent post, healthiness is top of mind for all of us.  I’m no different…except for me this all started last September 17th, when I was lying face up on my couch unable to move due to severe back spasms.

What started as a little tingle in my back 30 seconds earlier turned into a debilitating weekend, laid up and totally useless to everyone.  I wasn’t even able to get up to use the bathroom for the first day…gross!   Jackie and I believe the back spasms were sparked from picking up my growing daughter more often in those recent days.  I wasn’t really “overweight” (in comparison to most americans) but definitely hadn’t been doing anything to keep fit.  So it was quite embarrassing to be laid up for a weekend and having to miss my duties at work and at home because my muscles weren’t strong enough to handle a normal daily life.  That weekend I decided to make a full lifestyle change.  And I became obsessed…

My obsession was and still is around living a healthy and fit life… permanently.  I didn’t want this episode to create a crazy opposite reaction where I would sign up for a marathon or go deep into some crazy diet.  I wanted to make a change that would last forever and therefore I immersed myself in personal well being books, diet blogs, philosophical podcasts, etc.  I also spoke with many respected physical therapists and personal trainers to get their opinions as well.  From my 4 months of research and experiments, I wanted to share the 3 most important takeaways.

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

There are so many opinions on food out there that it’ll drive anyone crazy.  More specifically, there are so many opinions on the nutrients in the food instead of the food itself!  It’s almost like politics… hard to get facts but easy to get opinions.  From my research, the best and most common sense approach to diet is the main theme in Michael Pollman’s book In Defense of Food,  “eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.”  To quickly expand (and you can read plenty more online), eat food means to focus on whole foods and not the processed crap that has invaded our diets.  Not too much means not to over-indulge, even on the healthy stuff.  And lastly, mostly from plants means to focus on foods that are grown from plants (and preferably organic).  Pretty simple concept and has been easy to adopt for me.  Plenty of delicious real food out there in this world.

Being active does not have to be boring or lonely experience

Most of us live very sedentary lifestyles and I am no different.  This means that we absolutely have to combat the lack of movement and complement the diet with forced “active” time.  Which typically means dumbells or running… BORING!!!  What I learned and experienced is that being active does not have to be a chore nor does it have to be boring as hell.  Just start walking!!!  My wife and I have always enjoyed walking together and now we’ve committed to walking every morning with our daughter.  We use fitbit watches to keep tallies on our step distances and that has helped motivate us to even take forced walks during work.  It may take more time but it’s easier and is a normal way of living.  Walking with my wife and daughter has been an awesome opportunity to always stay connected and caught up with each other.  We just love it, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

I do supplement the walks with adding one run on the weekend and going to a gym with a trainer twice a week. Having a trainer, though more expensive, keeps me accountable to work on my strength which is critical for healthy living, specifically with flexibility.  And she helps change up the workout routine. I’m sure one day I’ll cut back on the expense of the trainer but right now there is no better money I spend.

Wild life hack…when dining out, focus less on the “food” and more on the company

So I did a little “life hack” here… when eating at a restaurant, I switch out what I would typically get for something REALLY simple and boring like a salad.  Why is that a hack?  Two reasons, (1) most food at restaurants is made from all the badness that the western diet brings so the most simple plate will be the healthiest and (2) I’m typically with other people at a restaurant and even if I have a delicious burger in front of me, I realized I don’t pay attention to it as much as I do the person(s) I’m with.  So I had to ask myself, why would I waste “bad eating” if I’m half paying attention to it anyway?  Eating out is mostly about the companionship and that’s where our attention should and does go.  I won’t lead you astray through, I may go simple on the food but go top notch on the wine! 🙂

These three lessons have helped me change my lifestyle for the past 4 months.  I’m confident it’s a permanent change because my life really hasn’t changed that much at all.  I shop more at Whole Foods, spend a few hours in a gym, and I awkwardly walk around a parking garage a few times a day.  That isn’t a bad exchange to avoid being laid up all weekend in bed not being able to play with my daughter or be productive.

Hope this gives you some ideas!