My 5 Pillars of HealthJun 12, 2023
The Five Pillars of Health
These things are pretty much non-negotiable. But don’t worry — they won’t make your life more complicated! Each pillar is simple, won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and is backed by solid science. These are just straight-up common sense things that we all know about, but sometimes forget to do or we just don’t prioritize them. But with a little bit of intentionality, you can easily implement some or all of these into your life starting today. Best of all, they work. You will quickly notice that they actually make you feel good!
1. Whole Food Nutrition
No surprise here: You are what you eat. And when you eat well, you feel well. What does eating well look like? It starts with a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, protein, fat, and fibre and limited in processed foods.
While the cornerstone of a healthy diet seems simple in theory, it might be challenging in practice because sometimes life gets in the way. When you’re juggling work, relationships, family, and social commitments, shopping for and preparing nutritious meals day after day might seem like an insurmountable task. Here’s the thing: eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. You can simplify things by sticking to the basics. Here are some tips to help break things down so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Eat the Rainbow
Try to incorporate a wide array of colourful vegetables and fruits everyday. All vegetables and fruits are nutritious but the more variety you get, the greater the diversity of nutrients you get. Aiming to diversify your food colour palette is an easy way to make sure you’re getting the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs.
Protein, Fat and Fibre
Each meal should include protein, fat and fibre. These are some of the core building blocks of nutrition and help keep your blood sugar stable by slowing down the release of glucose into your bloodstream. Stabilizing your blood sugar is one of the most important ways you can control your hormones. Protein, fat and fibre also keep you feeling fuller longer, which helps reduce cravings for sugar and in-between meal snacking. This also helps stabilize your blood sugar and controls your hormones. Fibre is also a key factor in eliminating waste products from the body, including toxins and excess hormones. Ridding the body of these substances helps reduce the body’s toxic load, which plays a role in overall hormone balance.
Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to eat perfectly or “clean” 100% of the time. I like to say aim for the 80/20 rule to allow for some flexibility and to limit restriction which is typically not sustainable in my opinion. Just as it’s important to get a full spectrum of nutrients, you should also enjoy your food and honor your cravings without going overboard. This might mean a well balanced meal of salmon, kale and brown rice one day and a good old slice of pizza the next. When you eat well the majority of the time, your body can handle the occasional treat.
Hydration is key to our circulation, and mental and physical well-being. It improves joint flexibility, keeps our brain sharp, aids in digestion, and keeps our blood cells plump. So many of us neglect drinking enough but would be amazed at how much better we'd feel just by incorporating WATER!
How much water should you drink? The general rule of thumb is to drink about ⅔ of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink approximately 100 ounces of water.
150 pounds X ⅔ = 100 ounces
This is only a rough estimate and will fluctuate depending on your activity level (your need for water increases the more active you are) and the weather (your need for water increases in hot and humid weather to account for sweat loss).
When it comes to water, it’s not just about quantity. Quality matters too. For one thing, water means just that — water! Caffeinated beverages don’t count toward your daily water intake. In fact, caffeine can be dehydrating. However, non-caffeinated herbal teas are a nice way to add to your water intake if you want something with a little flavour that also adds some nutritional benefits to your diet.
Avoid drinking bottled water, as the plastic leaches out hormone disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates. If possible, try to drink filtered water. You can install a carbon filter to your sink or use a stand-alone filtration system. This will reduce the amount of chlorine, fluoride and other toxins found in treated municipal water supplies. I personally have this one with added attachments to filter out fluoride. These substances are known to cause adverse health effects and they add to the body’s overall toxic load.
Our bodies are meant to move. Aim to incorporate some enjoyable movement into your day everyday. “Enjoyable” is the key! If you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t do it. And there’s no need to torture yourself with an excruciating regimen that you dread. You won’t stick with it over the long term. And you’ll feel miserable. You don’t have to suffer to be healthy!
Exercise doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming and you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Even walking for 20-30 minutes a day has demonstrable improvements on cardiovascular, metabolic, mental and reproductive health. You can enjoy the benefits of exercise even if you split it up into 10 or 15 minute intervals throughout the day. This way you can fit it into even the most hectic schedule.
Healthy movement is so much broader than hitting up a cardio machine at the gym or pounding the pavement on a run. While those are certainly fine ways of moving your body, you might want to try yoga, pilates, HIIT workouts, weight lifting, jump rope, hiking, or dancing to your favorite music. Anything that gets you moving is great. And mixing things up keeps it interesting and fun and challenges your body in new ways.
4. Stress Reduction
Stress is inevitable but it's all in how we perceive it. I'd like to think that as I age, I just CARE a lot LESS (haha) about what people think, and about the unimportant things. What is not important that doesn't need your energy? Get rid of it. If your stress is real, how are you handling it (see 1, 2, and 3 above for ideas!)?⠀
I can't stress this enough! Sleep is absolutely crucial to good health. It’s literally how our bodies rest and restore. If you don’t allow the body enough time to do this, it can’t function properly and this will affect your ability to achieve optimal health.
Seven to eight hours is usually considered a good night’s rest for most women. What happens if you don’t get this amount? Some of the most significant effects are experienced at a hormonal level.
Lack of sleep triggers the release of insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and weight gain, especially around the belly. A lack of sleep also triggers the release of cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones. Cortisol encourages the body to hold onto fat and it stimulates appetite. It also plays a role in the body’s levels of ghrelin and leptin — the hormones that regulate hunger. Dysregulated ghrelin and leptin can mess with your natural hunger cues and make you eat more.
Lack of sleep is bad for heart health. It can lead to hypertension and other factors that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Lack of sleep is associated with depression and anxiety. This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation whereby too little sleep can cause depression and anxiety, and depression and anxiety can result in too little sleep.
Lack of sleep is also linked to systemic inflammation. This can increase the risk of poor immune response, including greater susceptibility to cancer.
On top of that, without adequate sleep, you won’t feel or look your best. You’ll likely have low energy and mental fatigue (not to mention an increased risk of dementia). You may be tempted to fuel yourself with caffeine and sugar, which can affect your blood sugar levels and cause insulin resistance. You could also experience premature aging, as the body needs sleep to produce melatonin, which is important in reducing the oxidative stress that leads to wrinkles and poor skin tone.
That’s it! Simple, right? I invite you to take stock of which of these five pillars might need some attention in your life and commit to taking even just one small step a day toward improvement.
I'm here for nutritional support and to help you master all five pillars of health! If health is still not optimized at that point, digging deeper is essential! If you need to go deeper, I offer an array of functional lab testing. Want to find out if this is right for you? Get in touch by booking your initial consultation with me here.