by guest writer Heidi Hackler, CHHC
As a holistic health and wellness coach, I work with people on a daily basis to help them kick-start a healthier life. But I was not always so healthy myself, so I know what it’s like to turn your life around.
I grew up with a healthy eating foundation from my back-to-nature granola mom who wore Birkenstocks before they were cool. So naturally, as soon as I left for college I couldn’t get my hands on enough junk food and candy. Sound familiar?
By my mid-30’s I was diagnosed with celiac disease and dairy and egg allergies, and had to drastically change my diet. That was over 15-years ago before most people knew what Celiac was, and there were not nearly as many gluten-free options available then. Luckily the wisdom of my mom’s teachings came back to me and I was able to make healthy diet and lifestyle changes and turn my health around.
Here are the top 7 tools I personally employ and recommend to my clients to help them kick-start a healthier life.
Tools 1-3 for Living a Happier, Healthier Life
1. Drink More Water
The human body is about 65% water. Your body uses water to flush out toxins, stay hydrated, and function properly. Here are a few compelling reasons to drink more water:
- Staying hydrated is very important to many functions of the body. Your blood is 55% water, so when you become dehydrated your blood moves more slowly and can clot easier.
- Your brain also needs water to stay hydrated and function and think properly.
- One of the first symptoms of dehydration is clumsiness. If you stumble, trip, or fall, or bump into the edge of a desk, table or wall, it may be a sign you are dehydrated. When this happens to me I always go for a tall glass of water. A headache can be another sign of dehydration.
- Drinking water can also help you to lose weight. Drinking a glass of water 20 minutes before each meal can help you to feel full so you eat less during your meal. That water also helps to flush out toxins that can build up in your fat cells, causing the cells to retain more fat.
- A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150lbs you would drink 75oz of water per day. This is on top of any coffee, tea, and other beverages you may already be drinking.
2. Eat Less Sugar
Refined sugar is the most inflammatory food you can eat. Although it may seem daunting to avoid sugar, these startling facts really helped me to kick my sweet tooth:
- Sugar is 8 times more addictive than Cocaine. If sugar were developed today, it would be considered a narcotic.
- The average American now consumes almost 1 cup of sugar a day, in soft drinks and hiding in nearly all processed foods, including foods like yogurt and spaghetti sauce.
- Cancer tumors thrive and grow on sugar, in fact, cancer cells have eight-times the sugar receptors of normal cells. That is why PET Scans, used to detect cancer, require drinking radioactive glucose (sugar-water) — the PET Scan actually follows the radiated sugar-water straight to the tumors.
- Doctors and scientists now know that sugar (not fat) causes plaque build-up in the arteries and brain, which can tear off and cause clots and strokes.
- Plaque in the brain can lead to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is now being referred to as Type 3 Diabetes because there is a direct correlation between high blood sugar, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
So these are all very compelling reasons to cut back on sugar consumption if you ask me. But how do you cut out that sugar that you are craving so much? Here are some tips to help:
- Start by crowding sugar out and filling up on more healthy foods.
- Sometimes a sugar craving can actually indicate a lack of protein in the diet. So if you are craving sugar, first drink a glass of water. Then eat some protein. Then see if you still really need that sugar.
- Add in more sweet vegetables to your diet like sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, carrots, artichokes and artichoke hearts, and low glycemic fruits like apples, berries, pears, kiwis, and melons.
- You’ll be amazed but once you cut sugar out for 7-10 days, (the length of time for your taste buds to regenerate) everything you eat will taste much sweeter with out sugar hijacking your taste buds.
- A good rule of thumb is no more than 26 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. That is less that one can of soda.
3. Read Labels
This is a big one; especially so you can figure out how much sugar you are really eating. The more you know about what you are putting into and onto your body, the healthier you will ultimately be. The main things I recommend looking for when you read labels are:
- Trans fat — avoid trans fats, found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Eating trans fats promotes chronic inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and some cancers.
- Sugar content — avoid artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine), which have been linked to cancer and ironically even diabetes and weight gain. The human body cannot digest artificial sweeteners, so they end up being stored as fat in the liver. A fatty liver can’t properly cleanse your blood and detox your body. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease has increased significantly in the past 20 years, following the increase in artificial sugar consumption.
- Sodium content — aim for one teaspoon or less of sodium per day (2,400 milligrams), most people around the world consume three-to-four times the sodium that the body actually needs to function.
- Non-GMO — Just say NO to GMO. The jury is still out on GMOs. There has not been enough scientific evidence to prove that they are not harmful. And in fact there is some research out of Europe to indicate that glyphosate (found in Round-up and Monsanto GMO grains) damages our gut bacteria, which play a critical role not only in digestion, but in our health and well being too. Note that most all soy and canola grown in the US and Canada is GMO unless specifically certified organic or Non-GMO.
These first three tools are a great place to start making healthier lifestyle changes. Take them once step at a time. No need to rush and feel daunted by trying everything at once. This week try drinking an extra glass or two of water per day. Then next week try adding more colors to your plate. The third week you might start to look at labels, and so on.
Stay tuned for Tools 4-7 to help you continue on your healthy lifestyle journey!
I offer a free Kick-Start Your Health Strategy Session, and virtual holistic health and wellness coaching to help you through these steps. Please contact me for more info.Heidi Hackler is a Certified Holistic Health Coach (CHHC) and blogger, who received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She Inspires Healthy Habits Into Action via her blog at HappyWellLifestyle.com, and her holistic health coaching programs. She has also written articles for Happiness + Wellbeing Magazine, and blogs for Chopra Centered Lifestyle. Heidi lives with her husband and two kittens aboard their 40’ sailboat. They have a zest for living the Happy Well Lifestyle: a happy, healthy, active, fun-filled life where they practice yoga and meditation, eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, veg-aquarian diet, and laugh a lot. She welcomes new followers at: