What is the best way to stay healthy?

2021-05-31

There are several factors that need to be cared to stay healthy. Regular consumption of supplements or applying healthy dietary habits, we can think for better health.

Eat well.

This means different things for different people. For me, it takes the form of a mostly paleo/primal/bulletproof diet. I avoid packaged, processed, and junk food as much as possible. I usually cook my meals at home. Lots of vegetables, seafood, and meat, the highest quality I can reasonably afford. Lots of healthy fats such as coconut, avocado, fish and meat, and butter. Not a lot of carbs most of the time, typically in the form of rice or starchy vegetables when I do eat them. Different diets work better for different people, but feel free to try the above suggestions if you need a start. Almost any form of “healthy” diet is much better than what the average American eats, so if you’re eating a typical western diet, there is nowhere to go but up.

Don’t be overly sedentary.

Get up off your ass. Take a walk. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Park in the back of the parking lot. Go use the other bathroom, the one that is a little farther away. This is not meant to be a form of exercise. This is just to get you up and moving around. Set a timer if it helps. Get a FitBit or similar tracker and try to get your 10000 steps. Recent headlines say that sitting is as bad as smoking. I’m generally sceptical of these kinds of claims, and I haven’t looked into the details. I suspect smoking is much worse, so if you smoke, stop, but the benefits of moving around more seem obvious and very low risk.

Weights once per week, occasional sprints.

I exercise, but not excessively. There are people who think they need to exercise multiple times a day, with lots of cardio, traveling massive amounts of miles to “burn calories”. I’m not into that stuff. Once per week, usually on a weekend morning, I do a brief weight training session with weights that are almost as heavy as I can handle, increasing the weight when it gets too easy. Occasionally (not as often as I should), I do a few short sprints at full intensity. Not on the same day as the weights. This takes me a total of less than 1 hour per week and provides more benefits than many traditional exercise programs. I’m not trying to get a six pack or become a bodybuilder. I’m just trying to be healthy and in shape for my normal life. This does not require anywhere near the amount of work that a lot of people expend, as long as your diet is mostly good.

Sleep.

We’ve all heard this one before. I try to get at least 8 hours most nights. Sometimes I fail, but if you make it a priority, you can do this most of the time. Sleep is when the body and mind restore and regenerate themselves, so it is very important to overall physical and mental health.

Gratitude.

What does this have to do with health? Everything. The mind and the body are connected. People are more likely to get sick in times of extreme stress. Every morning, I write down three things that I am grateful for that day. This starts off my day with a focus on the good things in life instead of worrying about what is wrong in the world. Not only is this a much more pleasant way to look at the world, it has effects, known and unknown, on overall health and well being.

Silence.

The ancient world where our human ancestors evolved was a very quiet place compared to the modern society we now live in. Modernity brings us a lot of great innovations that have improved our lives, but it is also very noisy and distracting. I make a point to take regular breaks from this noise. Take a walk in nature. Leave your cell phone at home. Do not listen to music. Walk, observe, think. Get comfortable being disconnected. Learn to ignore that constant impulse to always reach for some kind of distraction.

Good People.

Prioritize the good people in your life, friends, family, loved ones. Avoid or cut out the crappy people. It can be a major drain on our mental resources to deal with negative, rude, unpleasant, or critical people. As we said above, stress takes its toll. Spending time with people we love and care about helps us recover from the inevitable stresses of our day. Aim for more positive than negative interactions each day.

Use my brain. Challenge it. 

If you get sick or injured and have to lie in a hospital bed for a period of time, your leg muscles begin to atrophy. It doesn’t take long before you need physical therapy to be able to walk again. The same principle applies to the brain. I’m not going to look it up, but they say that a significant percentage of people never read another book after they get out of school. If you just sit and stare at the TV all the time, you aren’t challenging your brain and it begins to (metaphorically) atrophy. Read a lot, including challenging books. Learn a language. Play brain training games (Dual N Back is my personal favorite for giving my brain a workout.) Use it or lose it.

Intermittent fasting.

Primitive man did not always know where his next meal was coming from. The idea of three regular, balanced meals a day with healthy snacks in between would have been a joke. Sometimes there wasn’t anything to eat all day. Sometimes this went on for several days. Many of the world’s oldest religions have some tradition of fasting. Science has more recently shown that in a fasted state, the body recycles proteins from old, damaged cells, a process called autophagy. Most modern people have probably never experienced the benefits of this. I typically eat one or two meals per day, usually in the evening and sometimes go a few days without much to eat. This can be unpleasant at first, especially if you are addicted to carbohydrates, but the benefits are well documented.

Take vitamins (intelligently).

Despite eating a healthy diet, there are some nutrients that are somewhat difficult to obtain through food alone. This is where intelligent supplementation can come into play. One vitamin that most people in this country are deficient in is vitamin D. D3 pills are a cheap and easy way to get this essential nutrient.

You can also produce this from spending time in the sun (without sunscreen), but most of us aren’t outside anywhere near enough to get enough vitamin D this way. If you are, I envy you. Vitamin K2 also has a lot of benefits and is hard to get from food unless you eat a lot of fermented foods and fish eggs. These things are delicious, but not part of most people’s daily diet. K2 pills cost a little more, but can be a smart addition. Depending on your specific diet, your supplement needs may vary.

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