When you do a new health program of any kind, you want to get the GREATEST result for your effort (time, investment, energy, etc.). You want to make sure that you are really putting the program to the test. But what can you do to stack the deck in your favor?
I get these questions often… How fast will I improve? When will I see results? These are smart questions to be asking!
This depends on many factors. Of course, much more can be said about each of these variables, but let the following serve as a “checklist” for those of you who are either starting a program and wanting to get the most out of it or for those of you who are in the midst of a program but not seeing results just yet.
To ensure optimal results, consider…
- How closely you follow the dietary recommendations. (100%? 80%? 50%? 10%?) I often find that people sometimes lose track of what they are eating… They either think they’re doing better or worse than they really are.
- How closely you follow recommendations for exercise. In many cases, we need more exercise or a greater variety of exercise. For example, if you run all the time, you may need to do some weightlifting or yoga now and then for optimal results. The same goes for those who are always lifting weights and trying to put on muscle— They may need to work their HEART muscle by doing some cardiovascular exercise. However, I have also advised many clients to actually do less exercise for a time. If you’re overly stressed and depleted, too much exercise can actually make things worse.
- Adequate sleep (quality and quantity). This of course involves a few components. First, there is the wind down routine. For at least a couple of hours before bed, it is best to avoid eating, drinking and electronics as much as possible. The next component is having good habits around bedtime. Get your buns to bed by 10pm as often as possible! And finally, before bed, do everything you can to ensure a good sleeping environment. This means making sure that your room is as clean, quiet and dark as possible. Remove clutter, wash your sheets and dust and vacuum regularly. Get room-darkening curtains and avoid night lights. Do all you can to avoid interruptions from pets, kids, household noises, etc. Of course, some interruptions are unavoidable, but do your best. Too many interruptions can leave you feeling tired in the morning, even if you were actually in bed long enough. The goal is to fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly without waking much (if at all), and wake up feeling restored and rested and full of energy for the new day.
- Stress levels/management. Sometimes we have low grade stress that has been with us so long we aren’t even aware that it’s there while at other times we can feel it weighing us down in a big way. Either way, stress changes everything (and not for the better). It interrupts sleep, hinders digestion, screws up hormones and makes it more challenging to make the best choices for food, exercise and other health habits.
- Thoughts about what you do for a living. Do you love it? Hate it? For many clients, they spend the majority of their week at work. If you hate your job and it’s a constant source of stress, it can be sabotaging your efforts in a major way.
- Thoughts about yourself. Do you love yourself? Feel worthy? Never enough? One of my mentors, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MD, always says, “you have to love yourself in order to heal yourself.” It’s true and makes sense, right? If you don’t love yourself, why would you care enough to make healing efforts? Of course, this isn’t about selfish, self-worship but it is about radical acceptance of yourself in spite of your imperfections or areas of improvement.
- Supplements. When it comes to supplements, there’s a lot to consider. Taking the best quality supplements is key. Also, you need to be taking the best supplements for YOU. And finally, for many supplements, you won’t get the results unless you take them consistently, sometimes for several weeks or months. Many of my clients who get the best results set reminders so they never forget to take their supplements.
- Support. (This applies to at home, work, school, etc.) Do you have people who are happy for you and want you to improve your health? If you don’t live with these people, take heart— there is still hope! You can get this support through books, going to holistic health clinics like New Hope Health ☺, joining community groups (running clubs, vegan meet-up groups, classes at your local gym, etc.), and more.
- Quality of nutrition/food (organic, fresh and whole food vs. conventional, canned or processed). One hundred calories of raw organic carrots is different than 100 calories of fried chicken. Eating fresh organic whole plants will give you energy and nutrition that your body can use.
- Food preparation. Is your food steamed, fried, microwaved or 5-day old leftovers? This also makes a difference. In general, raw, steamed and lightly boiled food are better than roasted or grilled food. I would recommend avoiding fried and microwaved foods altogether as well as leftovers older than 48 hours (MAX).
- Compliance with other recommendations. Sometimes, in addition to food and exercise, you may need to schedule mud packs, do dry skin brushing before you shower, add castor oil packs, ice packs, change sleep patterns, add meditation, prayer or journaling to improve your health.
- Eating schedule. Regular meals, feeding/fasting window, time of biggest meals— it all matters. For most people, you want to keep your feeding window to 12 hours or less and work to eat regular meals and avoid late night eating. Of course there are situation where eating more or less often can be helpful.
- Hydration levels. Water is needed for nearly every metabolic function in the body. It helps create beautiful skin, healthy bowel movements, reduce excess body weight, increase energy, comfortable digestion and reduces body odor (just to name a few things). Drinking plenty of pure water daily is key for optimal health. Start first thing in the morning with at least 24-34 ounces and then drink the rest throughout the day (mainly between meals). Work to finish around dinner time so you’re not drinking a ton right before bed.
- Avoid toxins. Toxins come in many forms… Conventionally grown foods, body care products, household cleaning products, air fresheners, synthetic fabrics and so much more… The more you can reduce toxins, the more energy your body can spend on other things besides saving you from the toxins.
- Other beverages. Coffee, alcohol, tea, soda and juice can all be potential challenges. Although some of these (soda) are completely toxic, others can have medicinal properties in small amounts (organic black coffee and organic red wine), while yet others can be great in larger doses (certain herbal teas). I am not a big fan of juice other than for fasting, and even then it’s mostly green juice (made from celery or cucumber and fresh leafy greens). Drinks can support or hinder your health goals, so know what your outcomes will be when you choose beverages besides water.
- Medications (type, dose, interactions, etc.). This can be another wild card when it comes to health. Be sure to get educated about the side effects, metabolic processing and nutrient depletions of your medications.
- Self-sabotaging habits (screen time at night, overeating, stress eating, skipping meals, over training, going to bed late, etc.)
The purpose of this post isn’t to cause more overwhelm… Quite the opposite, actually. We want to develop a truly healthy lifestyle that will support any new health program. Simple things like getting enough sleep and proper hydration are foundational to every program.
What on this checklist do you need to revisit to ensure you’re getting the most out of your health program?