“Just because you’re not sick, doesn’t mean you’re healthy.”
We live in a society where chronic illness is accepted as “normal.” There’s a pill for every ill, and by golly, if you aren’t taking at least one medication per day, you’re in the minority. Recent studies have suggested that 70% of Americans take at least one medication every day! We are getting sicker and sicker while Big Pharma sits back and counts their dollars ($374 BILLION in 2014, to be exact). Medication is only a band aid to cover the root cause of most of our ills: diet. Out of the top 10 leading causes of death, 8 of them are related to diet and lifestyle choices (source)! We are literally digging our own graves with our knife and fork.
“But, I don’t take medications or have any chronic illnesses. So I should be able to eat whatever I want!” Well, you may not have any chronic illness yet, but you can almost guarantee yourself one down the road if you continue to eat the Standard American Diet-SAD for short. And it really is SAD! The majority of Americans get well over half of their daily calories from processed foods and meat/dairy, leaving less than 7% of calories from unrefined plant foods–far fewer than the 5-9 servings recommended by our own government!
And if chronic diseases run in your family, it is even MORE important that you keep your diet in check. We often use “genetics” as an excuse for why we don’t take better care of ourselves. “Well, [insert chosen condition here] runs in my family, so my doctor says I need to be on medication. He says it doesn’t matter what I eat. It’s genetic.” I’m going to tell you something that changed the way I think about chronic illness. “Genetics load the gun, but diet and lifestyle pull the trigger.”
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
That powerful statement has been attributed to many different doctors and health advocates. It essentially means, that the WAY you treat your body is so much more important than any genetic weakness you may have.
So, how do you lower your risk for chronic illness and disease? Pop some pills? Take a multivitamin (*insert eye-roll here*)? Exercise off all the burgers and fries (*insert bigger eye-roll*)?
Eat more plant foods, and less man-made foods. Our Earth was created with an abundance of plant foods that do amazing things for our bodies. There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world. Talk about a wide variety! You’ll definitely never get bored eating plants! Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It’s what your body NEEDS!
Now, how do you get started on the road to a healthy diet? When embarking on a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle, all the changes can seem pretty daunting. It really goes against the grain of the Standard American Diet of meat, milk, and junk (grain? See what I did there?). If you’re not an all-or-nothing type person, try switching one meal at a time to a plant-based meal. Breakfast is easiest place to start in my opinion. Oatmeal, cereal with non-dairy milk and berries, whole-grain toast with fruit or veggie toppings, smoothies, muffins…the possibilities are easy and endless! Once you’ve got the plant-based breakfast down, move on to lunch, then snack, and then dinner. Or maybe you’re not interested in going whole-hog (whole-potato?) just yet. Just start somewhere! You have nothing to lose and your health to gain!
The Basics of Plant-Based Eating:
-Start with eating clean 80% of the time and “indulging” 20% (try to keep indulgences plant-based too! Vegan dark chocolate is my favorite!)
-Try to eat as many 1 ingredient foods as possible (ie. An apple contains one ingredient: apple)
-Avoid foods from packages, boxes, bags, mixes, etc as much as possible
-If you must eat foods from a package, make sure it only contains ingredients you can pronounce and recognize!
-If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t!
-Avoid fast food, sodas, juices (except for freshly pressed juices), refined sugars…you know…junk
-Take a good quality dairy-free probiotic every day
-HYDRATE! 80% of the US population is chronically dehydrated! Drink at least ½ your body weight in water every day (ie. If you weigh 120, you need AT LEAST 60 oz of water every day). Water not only keeps your body functioning properly and makes your skin glow, but proper hydration is KEY to staying and increasing flexibility and fitness
-Try to eat something every 3 hours. Hunger=body breaking down muscle for sugar to supply your brain with energy! Less muscle leads to lower metabolic function (more of what you eat gets turned into body fat vs burned for energy)
-Calories = energy. You want the most nutrients you can get per calorie you eat. Don’t worry about calories! Worry about the QUALITY of the food you are eating because YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!