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"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance ... through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality ... and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely ... that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time."

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

How to Improve Your Health and Feel Fantastic

Posted on Sep 5, 2014 by in Health | 0 comments

What’s the point of doing all this work and attaining the freedom to live the way you want if you destroy your health to achieve it? Manage your health before wealth (or anything else), or you’ll end up with neither. Recently I’ve had several shocks that have demolished my youthful illusions of invincibility, and I’ve also found new ways to improve my health and feel fantastic most days. I wouldn’t have described myself as bouncing with energy in the past, but these days I am, and I love it. Try it out and maybe you will too. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Your diet can make you feel young again
  2. Vitamins and supplements can make you sharper, more alert, and less tired. No drugs or snake oil involved.
  3. Your weight is the single most important factor in your health and the measure of time you get in this world
  4. Not all injuries truly heal
  5. Too much stress will kill you
  6. Not all exercise is good exercise, and a gym pass is generally a waste of money

1. Your diet can make you feel young again. I speak from personal experience. My parents were terrible about eating habits, and since most people do live by default, as referenced below, I continued the pattern until recently. If 50% (or more) of what you eat is not unprocessed fruits and vegetables (simply put, not fresh that you chop up and do something with or eat whole) you probably feel like shit and have low energy levels every day, even if it’s so normal for you that you don’t notice the difference anymore.

I wish I could forcibly instill this knowledge in to people, so that they could feel as fantastic as I have been since I made the switch myself. A diet should be common sense, your body needs fuel, and some fuels are so bad that over time they’ll ruin the engine. In computer science the adage is “Garbage In, Garbage Out” meaning that if you have a working program or algorithm and you throw a bunch of crap in to it, don’t expect the output to be anything other than crap too.

I want to impress upon you that I don’t like fads, fashion, or trends. I think that most people who talk about diets are charlatans trying to make a buck off of all the suckers born every minute in the world and I can’t stand all of the idiotic advice peddled in the media or by trendy enthusiasts. With that out of the way, I have hopped on the green smoothie bandwagon. They’re tastey and the increase in energy and mental acuity  I obtain from ingesting them is noticeable within the hour. I went from eating mostly low nutrition quick burning foods, to the exact opposite, and lately have been wolfing down a good 4 to 5 lbs of spinach and other greens a week mixed with various fruits to tame the flavor.

Contrary to what I expected, spinach, kale, and chard can taste fantastic. If you want to start out easy and the taste of greens isn’t appealing to you, use bananas. Until you acquire the taste for them (it’s just like beer oddly enough, now that my brain has associated the benefits with the taste, they started tasting great) bananas are the best way to  almost completely eliminate the flavor of greens in a smoothie. Here’s a simple recipe:

  • 1 banana (the riper the better)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup peaches (or other in season fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, or whatever you like)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water or ice
  • 1/2 cup sweetened or unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 to 2 cups spinach, chard, kale or other greens, but spinach chard and kale are the best for nutrition

You can use any old blender, although I recently took the plunge and bought a NutriBullet which makes for almost no cleanup and cuts the preparation time down to as low as 120 seconds if you’re in a rush. Throw them all together, liquids on the bottom, blend it all up and drink. The banana will overpower just about everything else and this makes it a great base from which to add on to, but you can taste a hint of the other fruits too. I eat these at least once a day (sometimes 3 times a day), and I really can’t recommend them enough.

Pro tip 1: Buy frozen fruits and veggies in bulk from costco, they’ll last you for weeks, cut down prep time, and you wont need to use ice. I also buy bunches of bananas, let them ripen, then break them in to 3s or 4s by hand and pop them in a freezer bag.

Pro tip 2: Buy a couple not so healthy snacks, and eat some once a day or so, that way you wont go binging like crazy. Indulgences are the spice of life, just don’t let them kill you.

2. Vitamins and supplements can make you sharper, more alert, and less tired. No drugs or snake oil involved. After improving your diet and reaping the rewards, here are a few ways to get an even bigger boost. It’s my favorite vitamin cocktail, which basically boils down to a super concentrated batch of nutrients that gives your body the extra raw materials it needs to make you stronger, smarter, and last longer. Keep in mind this isn’t going to raise your IQ or put you on par with Einstein, but if you get tired or lose clarity during the day, you’ll notice a real difference in your performance.

One important note, do not over do it. Your body will build up an excess of minerals and nutrients if you take too many, and that’s not good for you either. I usually stop taking vitamins once a month for a few days, and don’t take them on the weekends, to give my body a chance to clean everything out.

Take the following with a meal (Costco is my favorite place to stock up, but also available in most supermarkets):

3. Your weight is the single most important factor in your health and the measure of time you get in this world. You can ignore most medical writing and just about all of the medical news. People who are skinny, as long as they are not malnourished, live longer and suffer less. If you want to live a long time, and avoid cancers, diabetes, etc, be skinny. It’s very simple, and I’m merely parroting the advice of the Harvard Medical School in their book “Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy,” which is a fantastic book and spells out how to judge medical news like an expert, who to listen to, and the primary ways to keep yourself in good health.

From what I recall having a low BMI, 25 or lower, will cut down your chances of disease by half or more in many cases, and many studies have shown that a low BMI increases your lifespan and even slows down aging. I don’t pretend to know why, but that’s the research, and it’s worth keeping in mind every day of your life, every time you eat a meal. If you want to avoid pain, chemo therapy, and all the other demons that plague your elders, do it

4. Not all injuries truly heal. This was a shocker for me. I used to subscribe to the idea that I would always heal, and always come back the same or grow stronger in the future. Then I injured my back a few years ago while weight lifting, and tore up my knees from too much running. Neither has entirely healed, and although they are serviceable, I am in a constant state of apprehension that I might reinjure them, and know that certain things will set them off and I must avoid them or pay the consequences. If you are still under the illusion of invincibility, keep this in mind! Some injuries will never heal, so don’t be an idiot and ruin your good fortune over a momentary lapse in judgement.

Take it easy, it’s usually the stupidity of overdoing it that does you in. I remember clearly the day that I tried to keep on running, ignoring the pain in my knees by following the adage of “walking it off,” instead of listening to what my body was telling me and taking a break for a month or two. If I had done that I’m pretty certain they’d be 100% today. Same with my back, overdo it once, and it’ll only go down hill from there.

5. Too much stress will kill you. It leads to all kinds if disorders, and can make you very ill. Stress is mother natures way of motivating your dumb ass to extricate yourself from a bad situation, but to experience it every day will make you fall apart. We aren’t built for consistently high levels of stress, and it wears you down like burning a candle at both ends. If you are experiencing this kind of stress, change your life. Here’s a great inspiring post to read on the subject:

6. Not all exercise is good exercise, and a gym pass is generally a waste of money unless you enjoy going. After the injuries and the fooling around, I discovered a truth that was in retrospect very obvious but also so unassuming that most of us never realize it. You don’t need intense workouts to be healthy, and I’d wager most people hurt themselves doing them, and don’t achieve results with them anyways. Cancel your gym membership, and buy a bike or walk instead. Run your errands around town the old fashioned way, without a car or other self propelled transport, and you’ll skinny up.

If you force yourself to not drive a car when you want to run an errand, such as going to the supermarket, target/walmart, or picking up some coffee, you’ll shed the pounds and improve your health like crazy. It’s low impact, and honestly it’s very enjoyable, being outside of a car, feeling a breeze or passing by a park on a side street on your way to run an errand is liberating. Need proof? Look at the europeans and asians who already do this, they’re all skinny, and it’s not just the food, it’s also the routine moderate exercise. As for your mood, ask yourself how angry do you get in traffic? I think I speak for many when I say I turn in to a judgmental prick while driving. All of that fades away when you’re not in the car and some jackass is driving like an idiot in front of you, I actually enjoy commuting when I’m not having to put up with everyone else’s crap in a car. It alleviates stress, clears my mind, and gives me an excuse to take a break when I need it most during the day.

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