Okay now, let's get serious and cover some important steps that we all know we should be doing but maybe are NOT! Don't you hate when you go for your annual physical and you get some news that you really didn't want to hear like your LDL - Lower Bad Cholesterol or Vitamin D are not in the recommended range for example. Raise your hand if you've ever received that news (raising my hand). Oh boy did it piss me off last year when I heard it because I thought I was eating well enough. The numbers don't lie though. When I was going through my Health Coaching certification, I learned these important steps to better health so I'm sharing them with you. Now, you may have great health but there is always more you can do for even better health. Following this protocol by experiencing each step one week at a time can change your health and therefore change your life. I'm adopting these steps into my lifestyle but still working on the even better part. Here we go!
Focus on Your Foods - Increase your fiber intake to 10 servings a day (it may take you up to a month to gradually to gradually work up to this level). Examples of fiber servings could look like - 1 cup of fruits and vegetables, 1 ounce of nuts or seeds, 1/4 cup of beans, or 1 ounce of dark chocolate. As you add in more fibrous foods, like nuts, seeds, beans, and green leafy vegetables to your diet, you will naturally increase your Magnesium levels, as will eating wild-caught fish such as salmon and halibut. Magnesium is a key nutrient for heart health, which also helps improve sleep quality, constipation, and blood sugar levels.
Lower Your Stress - High stress levels can be associated with heart disease. As you move this protocol, you will deepen your ability to handle and adapt to different stressors- a simple and effective method to get started is start or end your day with 10 minutes of peace and calm. Set a timer so you can allow your brain and body to relax fully, trusting that the timer will go off and allow you to resume your daily activities as needed.
Refine Your Fiber - All fiber is not created equal. Popular sources of fiber include breads, cereals, and crackers, which have a high glycemic load - think of them as occasional treats. Best choices are green leafy vegetables, fruits (not fruit juice), nuts, and beans. As example of how to achieve this might look like 3 cups of vegetables, 2 pieces of fruit, 2 handfuls (1 ounce each) of nuts and seeds, and 1/4 cup of cooked beans daily. which adds up to the recommended 10 servings.
Track Your Movement - Begin to build an awareness of how much movement you have within your day. You'll want to find a way to measure your daily number of steps, such as a pedometer or a fitness tracker. You may be shocked to see how little movement you experience on a daily basis, or you may be pleasantly surprised if you have a job that keeps you moving. Ensure you take at least 10,000 steps a day by the end of the first month.
Choose Heart Healthy Fats - Begin to incorporate key smart fats in your daily eating plan. Some examples include avocado, nuts and seeds, and healthy cooking oils such as avocado, extra virgin olive, and almond oils. Other great sources are wild-caught salmon and coconut products. Aim for five servings of smart fat each day.
Deepen Your Self-Care - Take your stress management to the next level by beginning to incorporate self-care practices consistently. This may look like a hot bah with Epsom salts and lavender essential oils by candlelight, a 10-minute massage from a loved one, or use a handle held massage gun on yourself (what I do), watching a sunset, reading a book, etc. What are some of your favorite activities that leave you feeling deeply relaxed or rejuvenated that you have been missing lately?
Boost Your Exercise Routine - Begin to incorporate 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity into your daily routine. Less obvious examples include taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, starting your daily with a dance party, or putting some extra elbow grease into your house cleaning. Increasing your fitness levels allows your body to better adapt to and handle different stressors - it can also have a profound effect on sleep, digestion, memory, and increase confidence.
Fiber Check In - By now, you have built up to at least 10 servings of low glycemic fiber each day. To confirm that you are getting the recommended servings, track your fiber intake with a food journal over the course of a week. Notice - are you still consuming bread or cereal products as part of your diet? Around 20% of the population is gluten sensitive which can lead to brain fog, joint pain, digestive discomfort, and other issues. Avoiding gluten-rich fiber sources is a great way to prevent potential sensitivities and help keep your blood sugar levels in balance. Check with your doctor for testing or a gluten-free diet trial.
Level Up Your Self-Care - A key component to successful stress management is to consistently get quality sleep. In addition to enjoying 10 minutes of peace and calm a day, ensure you are getting at least 8 hours of restorative sleep each night. If you find getting to sleep challenging, consider reducing your caffeine or alcohol intake, exercising earlier in the day, or introducing a power down hour to your evening routine.
Start to Eat Cleaner Foods - A powerful way to begin limiting your toxin exposure on a regular basis is to focus on eating cleaner food sources. Start to purchase and eat more natural, organic, hormone and antibiotic free ingredients. If you consume animal protein - select wild, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and/or organically-fed products.
Evaluate Your Fitness - Are you consistently getting 20-30 minutes of aerobic, exercise and hitting your goal of 10,000 steps a day? A fun and helpful way to assess improvements in your overall fitness level is to notice whether you are now able to work out while talking or singing simultaneously. Ideally, you want your workout to be challenging enough that you can talk but not sing during it.
Assess Your Vitamin Intake - Check with your physician to ensure your Vitamin D levels are healthy and adequate. This is where I usually have an issue if I don't take supplements and I now do consistently/daily! Depending on where you live, it can be challenging to absorb sufficient levels of this vitamin 6 months out of the year. If needed, ask your doctor what the best Vitamin D supplement for you may be, as well as a recommended high-quality daily Multivitamin that contains a comprehensive Vitamin B and Folate mix. An additional key nutrient for heart health is Vitamin K, which you can easily get by consuming 1 cup of cooked greens daily. If you are taking anti-coagulant medications, check with your doctor before making the changes suggest by this step.
Add More Herbs & Spices to Your Meals - Adding in more herbs and spices will increase your sense of satiety, enjoyment, and variety during meals. Doing so provides additional benefits such as lowering overall inflammation, reducing oxidation, and increasing longevity. Use at least 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs or spices per person per day. Examples of popular herbs and spices include: oregano, parsley, ginger, garlic, curry, and chili spices. Explore the possibilities!
Start to Meditate - Meditation has been scientifically proven to prove a host of benefits. It has been shown to increase mental clarity, reduce stress, boost immune function, and enhance self-awareness. Set aside time either in the morning or evening to sit quietly and turn inwards. Begin with 10 minutes of meditation a day and work your way up to 20 minutes - 10 minutes is enough to experience positive benefits, but twice that is highly recommended.
Prioritize Clean, Non-Toxic Food - You are now choosing cleaner sources of animal protein and produce, but how consistent are you? Make it a priority to track how "clean' you're eating this week, including when you eat out. If you are dining outside your home and not sure of the quality of the meat you're ordering - choose lean cuts as toxins are usually stored in fat deposits. Your ultimate goal is to strive for 80-85% of your meal to be as toxin-free as possible. Just as a reminder - if you eat animal protein or dairy, choose all natural, organic, hormone and antibiotic-free and wild-caught whenever possible.
Diversify Your Workouts - Begin to add a mix of aerobic, strength training, and stretching (such as Yoga) to your heart health workout regimen. For your optimal weekly workout routine, strive to include two intense interval sessions. If you lack experience with any of these activities, seek the help of a fitness professional and check with your doctor prior to increasing intensity of your fitness routine.
Recheck Your Levels - Once you have taken your recommended Vitamin D supplement for at least 3 months, verify with your doctor that you are now within an optimal range - further investigation may be required if your levels are still low at this point. While at your appointment, ask your doctor about a good quality long chain omega 3 supplement to compliment your diet, unless you're already eating cold-water, fatty fish 2-3 times per week such as sardines or wild-caught salmon.
If what I've shared resonated with you or you have blog topic recommendations, then I welcome you to leave a comment below or reach out to me for a free consultation to get help in an area of your life or a change/transformation you want to begin next year!
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