Since I began my journey towards better health and greater optimization of my body I have reviewed lots of information related to food, diet and exercise. There is so much information out there that it can be a little confusing to figure out who to listen to and what advice to take.
My sister recently blogged about how overwhelming it has been for her to move back to the United States from Guatemala and to be faced with the barrage of input and opinion about what health looks like. I find it very sad that as a country producing so many health "experts" we Americans continue to be so obese and sick. I don't want to be a part of that group anymore.
The more I dive into this the more I am discovering these five things to be true when it comes to health, food and physical optimazation.
1) You have to be your own advocate.
Do you realize that most of the culture around you does not want you to be healthy and fit? Food companies definitely don't; they want you to eat their processed foods until you pop. Beverage manufactures don't care as long as sugar keeps flowing from their can into your gut and blood. The grocery store you shop at is not concerned with your health as it stocks its shelves with box after box, and can after can. In many cases your friends and co-workers are not encouraging and supporting your health. The government doesn't want you to be healthy. Big drug companies don't want you to stop taking their pills. Even doctors sometimes subvert your health by simply dealing with your symptoms through prescribing medicines, instead of looking for natural ways to heal the cause of your illness. YOU, and YOU ALONE, must fight for your health and physical optimization. And you must fight zealously because your efforts are being subverted everyday.
2) Expose yourself to many different ideas and concepts.
It is easy to hear someone talk or read a book and think you've found the magic bullet. However, there is such a wide range of opinion and research that you will really be doing yourself a favor to expose yourself to many different ideas and concepts. Because you want to be your own advocate you want to be informed about all your options. Some ways I'm exposing myself to different things are through podcasts (awesome to listen to during the drive to work or while working out), reading books, reading blogs and talking with people around me who I consider trustworthy and reliable. It is important to be discerning as you gather information because not everyone who claims to be an expert is. The health industry is hot right now and marketers and salespeople know this. I want to see information line up across multiple platforms and from multiple sources before I start buying into it.
3) Treat your body as an experiment and pay attention to the results.
You know your body better than anyone else. You feel what's happening on the inside. You know if foods make you feel better or worse. You know how sleep affects you and what your optimal sleep schedule is. You know where your stress comes from, how you feel after eating gluten products, and what exercises and routines help you feel more fit. Listen to yourself. Pay attention to what is happening and what feedback your body is giving you. Treat your journey towards optimization as a marathon and not a sprint. Try new things for extended periods of time, focus on how they make you feel and then feel free to stick with what works best for you.
4) Find what approach works best for you.
I understand people who are overwhelmed with all the diets and diet information available. Every time you go into the store it seems like there is a new "Hot Diet" book on the shelves. It is easy to ping pong back and forth and be confused about what is best. Vegan? Atkins? Low-carb? Low-fat? High-fat? Paleo? (What the heck is Paleo?) Vegetarian? All these questions are in your mind. Knowing what to eat is maybe more difficult now than it ever has been. And since you must be your own advocate you have to find what works best for you. Here's my advice. Find an approach that works best for you and your life, make sure it is supported by good science and logic and advice you've sourced and trust yourself, and then just relax and go for it.
5) Make sacrifices and stick with it.
Lastly, be prepared to work hard to get the results you want. If it is too easy it is not healthy and not sustainable. It has helped me a lot to have a goal weight that I am working towards, but it has helped me even more to think about getting my body into a state where it is running at peak condition. I find it very helpful to think of my body as a high performance car. I wouldn't put crappy fuel in the tank. I wouldn't ignore dents and scratches in the paint. I wouldn't neglect oil and other lubricants for the interior engines parts. I want to take that same care of my body, treating it well and putting great fuel in it so that it can run at top speed for as long as possible.