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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen Mitteness

My Top 5 Tips to Improve Your Health

I want to begin by reflecting on our current society. I think it’s fair to say we all know at least one person who is overweight, has/had cancer, heart disease or another “preventable” disease. If these, so called, “preventable” disease are actually preventable, why aren’t we doing anything about it? I think it’s because we actually don’t KNOW what to do about it. Or better yet, what we’re told to do doesn’t ACTUALLY work.

Here’s my disclaimer: it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not necessarily going to be easy. Herein lays the problem. Everyone wants a quick fix, they want it now and they don’t want to work for it. This is probably not exactly what you want to hear. I apologize. I’m not giving you an easy way out. You can start making choices NOW for a better future for you, your family and your offspring or you can ignore it and keep on keeping on the way you are headed. Regardless of what you decide, you need a purpose. You need a reason to WANT to be healthy, to feel good, to look good. It can be something completely vain, it can be so you can play with your children, whatever it is, before you decide you are going to change something in your life, you need to have a reason to want to and that’s not up to me – it’s up to you and only you.

What I am going to do is spend the rest of my time up here giving you some “unconventional” suggestions on how to live a healthier life. I do all of these things. I’m not perfect by any means, but I think I’m doing a heck of a lot better than most and I’ve seen it greatly improve others. These are tips that will help you to feel better, look better and function better because they are congruent with the way humans developed, before we became sicker and fatter.

1: Stop Eating Processed Foods. This includes anything in a package. Especially grains and sugar. Think cereals, breads, pastas, rolls, donuts, bagels, cookies, soda. This is all JUNK FOOD. Junk food is easy food. Yes, I know. Remember when I said this isn’t easy? But it’s worth it! Humans only recently began eating grains. If the lifespan of humans was equivalent to a football field, agriculture would cover approximately one inch. And most of the grains we are exposed to today were only designed in the last century! Why have we assumed they are ok for human consumption? Someone somewhere is making a lot of money and so far, it’s not me, but it certainly seems to be keeping our doctors busy. The reason you can eat a whole cake and then be hungry an hour later? You’re not actually getting any nutrients! You’re eating calories, but you’re not giving your body what it actually needs. And you will keep being hungry until you get these nutrients. Low fat/non-fat is the equivalent of a sugar, processed crap storm. Every cell in your body NEEDS fat. It’s surrounded by a layer of fat which is uses to communicate with every other cell. Before I go too in depth, this leads me nicely into the next tip...

2: Eat Real Food. So fill up on great protein sources like meat, fish and eggs, stuff your face with veggies, gnaw on some fruit and nuts. Simply just give your body what it really craves! Single ingredient foods are best. Local is best. Organic is great, but not always necessary. I’d rather you choose an apple grown in BC over an “organic” banana from South America. Meet a local farmer who lets his cows wander the pasture and eat what they were designed to eat: grass! You can eat these foods raw, cooked, sautéed, however you desire! Just start eating real food! Herbs and spices are packed full of nutrients and can turn a dish into a delicacy. Knock yourself out! Quality fat is your friend and does NOT make you fat. It’s also great for activating satiation in the brain – it lets you know that you got the nutrients you need and you are no longer hungry. Think butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil, oil that comes from things that you would actually eat (so not canola oil, because we don’t eat rape seeds). Take time to really focus on the food you eat and how you feel when you eat it. Food is fuel. We can’t keep pissing in our gas tank and expecting to get good results.

3: Exercise efficiently and effectively. Going to the gym and running on a treadmill for an hour after work is not only boring, but it’s not going to make up for the other 23 hours you are sedentary during the day. What I’d rather see you do, because it’s effective, is move throughout the day. I like to call these, mini or micro breaks. They only need to take a few seconds to a few minutes, but just remember to get up and move around. This might mean getting up from your desk at the top of every hour to walk around the office, parking further from work so you can get a little walk in every day, taking the stairs, whatever you need to do. Just start moving more. Want to do a bit more? Add some pushups and squats to your routine. Start building some lean muscle mass. Lean muscle actually SLOWS the aging process. This doesn’t have to take long and you can do it anywhere! Feel like you are too busy? I suggest waking up, rolling out of bed, hitting the floor and busting out as many pushups as possible. It will take less than a minute. Now you’re ready to rock. Have you been sitting at your desk for too long? Stand up and do as many squats as possible. This, again, will take less than a minute. Don’t worry, people will think it’s weird at first, but in no time, they’ll be joining you because you look so damn great.

4: Energize. I cannot emphasize this enough: YOU NEED SLEEP. You do. It’s essential. Sleep is necessary for humans because it’s the only time our bodies are able to fully repair our organs. It’s too taxing for the conscious brain to be awake and for organ repair to occur at the same time. This is why we go to bed EVERY DAY. What can you forfeit from your every day routine to get to bed an hour or two earlier? I’m going to guess TV for most of us. PVR is a wonderful thing. It also allows you to skip the 20 minutes of commercials that occur every hour. If it’s not TV, it’s usually internet (this is definitely where I kill my extra time). If your schedule allows, take a nap when you are tired. A quick 20 minute cat nap can do wonders for your well being! Also, spend some time in the sun. We are in sunny Manitoba! Winters are hard and we can’t always enjoy the outdoors, but when you can, take full advantage of it. The sun does great things for our mood. You can simply see around you when people are feeling better because the sun is out. Take a few minutes for yourself every day. Reflect, meditate, be thankful, maybe do a bit of yoga, just feel good about it. You deserve it! We could all benefit from reducing our stress. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual stresses all have negative impacts and all cause a decline in health. Your body doesn’t actually know the difference from being chased by a bear or being hurt by a friend. Your brain does, but the response is the same. Learn to deal with situations properly and effectively. You’ll feel better in the end!

5: Drink More Water. Did you know that your body cannot always differentiate thirst from hunger? When you wake up in the morning, drink a couple glasses of water before you do anything else. See how you feel. Try replacing your liquid calories (soda, milk, coffee, tea – whatever else people are drinking these days) with water. Your brain responds much differently from liquid calories than it does from food calories. Give your brain and body what it really needs – water – your body is made of more than 70% of this good stuff.

This list is of course, not an end all, be all. I encourage you to make your health a priority; you are the only one who can! Positive steps today will create for a bright future. A good rule to live by is try to be perfect, shoot for 100% and if you end up at 80%, you’re still doing much better than most!

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