On January 1, 2017 I set in my mind a one-word intention/goal/prayer for the year that I focused on daily: "health." And I lost 20 pounds over the course of a year, after not being successful in dropping any weight over the past 10 years. In 2017 I also dropped my bad LDL cholesterol from high to normal range naturally. I was motivated to embark on this health journey in due to several friends having heart attacks at young ages in 2016 and also seeing a photo of myself where my face looked bloated. I want to live a long and healthy life for my family.
Below are 10 tips from my health journey this past year. I hope these tips might serve as some inspiration if you want to go on a health journey in 2018.
1. Diet. "You can't out-exercise a bad diet." A friend of mine got in terrific shape a few years ago. I asked him what his secret was for weight loss. He said, "Mike, it's 80% Diet and 20% Exercise. Focus primarily on healthy eating and you'll lose the weight." He was absolutely right. I often ran 3 to 6 miles daily over the past 10 years, and didn't lose weight because I was eating terribly. In 2017 I didn't "diet" but focused on building healthy eating habits. Focus on your diet first.
2. Exercise. 150+ minutes of high intensity cardio weekly and strength training. Cardio has so many benefits, including: mood, cardiovascular health, brain heath, and, yes, weight loss. Make sure you're moving. A lot. Every day. Also, I started lifting weights again in 2017, after a 10+ years hiatus. The older we get, the more important maintaining and even building muscle is for us. Lift heavy weights regularly.
3. Sleep. 7+ hours nightly. This perhaps should be #1 in this list. I have found that when I get 7+ hours of solid sleep that I am much more likely to eat healthy and exercise. And if I sleep less than 7 hours then I'm more likely to look to sugar or processed carbs for energy, which is a downward spiral. I also am less likely to want to exercise. Sleep is so critical to our health.
4. Fitbit. 10,000+ steps daily. Track your calories, steps, sleep, and weight daily. I don't think I would have lost 20 pounds without the Fitbit Charge 2. Fitbit's now track your sleep cycles, including REM, Deep, Light & Awake time. This has absolutely improved my sleep habits. Participating in the Fitbit app's weekly step challenges motivates me to get 10,000+ steps in daily. You can also input your food/calories into the Fitbit app.
5. "Eat a salad for every meal." This is terrific advice from Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I eat a salad as my main course for nearly every dinner and lunch. For breakfast I try to keep the food healthy: eggs, almonds, blueberries and, yes, sometimes Wild Planet Sardines. :) I also start each morning drinking Athletic Greens nutrient rich powder, which has definitely helped my immunity system in 2017.
6. "Don't drink your calories." I generally stopped drinking sugary drinks and beer, which can be high in carbs and calories. I limit drinking "healthy" smoothies. They often have a lot of calories. I try to drink 100 ounces of water daily. Water is so critical for our body's health. I now primarily drink Mountain Valley Spring Water, which Deep Rock delivers in 5 gallon glass bottles. I do have some concerns on fluoride, chlorine, and other contaminants in our drinking water, even at very low levels.
7. Cut back on sugar. Dramatically. I have a sweet tooth and still eat sugar occasionally. But I have dialed back dramatically the amount and regularity of candy that I used to eat - Starbursts and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups being my big temptations. I couldn't have dropped my bad LDL cholesterol from high to normal range without cutting way back on sugar. Too much sugar is bad for your heart, teeth, complexion and the list goes on. Dial it back.
8. "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Manage your stress. Stress and worry are silent killers in our minds and bodies. They want to steal your health and your joy. Don't let them. Find ways to manage your stress through daily routines and rituals. It might be prayer or meditation or journaling or exercising or spending quality time with your family and friends or not overworking yourself. Make stress management a priority.
9. Set your health goals daily. And be kind to yourself. Losing weight and getting healthy is a life long journey. But it's more so a daily journey. And really a moment to moment journey. I have found that writing down my annual health goals is very helpful. Even more helpful is writing down my daily health goals. Plan out your food choices, exercise and sleep each day. You'll have a better chance of achieving your health goals if you write down your plans. However, please please be kind to yourself when you fall short of your goals. You will. I do. Often. Just keep your momentum and focus going in the right direction and don't overreact if you eat something you wish you hadn't or you didn't get enough sleep. Be kind to yourself. Be resilient. And keep going.
10. Recommended Books. I'll close my tips by sharing a few books that have been helpful for my health journey in 2017:
Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker
Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman
Whole Foods Diet by John Mackey
Alzheimer’s Prevention Food Guide by Sue Linja
I hope this blog post has been helpful? Please do share your questions or additional health tips I missed in the Comments section below.
p.s. I plan to blog about Work-Life Happiness weekly in 2018. I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my blog's emails on my website at: http://www.mikepritchard.com/subscribe.html