It’s safe to say that most of us would prefer to be well. After all, who doesn’t like to feel good? Yet, a general state of good health—wellness, as it’s often referred to—is surprisingly elusive when we miss some of the key ingredients. Regular exercise, intellectual stimulation, emotional stability—all of us recognize the important role these aspects of our health play in overall wellness. And don’t forget sufficient and quality sleep!
Did you notice the important pillar missing from this list?
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.
How much attention do we actually pay to our nutrition? Is it one of our priorities on a daily basis?
And how important is nutrition to our wellbeing?
The answer, of course, is that nutrition is directly related to one’s overall wellbeing in a pivotal way. What we put into our bodies has a direct effect on the maintenance of our wellness, fluctuations in our wellness, and our ability to get well again after a period of sedentary lifestyle or illness. Why? Because food is energy, food is nutrients, and, in some cases, food is waste.
The Impact of Nutrition
A common metaphor for the human body is that of a machine. Our bodies are comprised of interconnected and interrelated systems, each one complex in its own right, that depend on the food and liquid we put into our bodies to run at the highest levels. The impact of your nutrition is far reaching. It can impact your energy level on a daily basis. It can impact when and how you work out. Good nutrition can even help prevent injury. And for those bum times when you do get hurt, a healthy diet can play a key role in your recovery during physical therapy.
Ultimately, an improved focus on your nutrition can help you avoiding chronic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease, which are often the result of poor dietary habits and lack of exercise.
Simple Steps You Can Take
Often, we set general goals for ourselves to which it is difficult to adhere. The key is simplicity and specificity. For example, give yourself a specific number of daily calories to stick to. For most people, this is a bit more than your Basal Metabolic Rate (the calories your body needs just to operate in a true resting state)—something between 1500 and 2500 calories. Monitor your daily intake based on these numbers, making due adjustments for gender and body type. This will help you take the guesswork out of how much you are eating every day so that you can be more consistent and avoid over or undereating.
You might have already guessed what comes next: it’s not just how much, but what you put in your body. And yes, it does start with the age-old principles: do your best to limit starches, fats, and sugars. But there are some other dietary tenets and strategies that are easy to follow.
- Don’t skip breakfast!
Start the day with a glass of cold water and then have a smoothie, piece of toast, and a cup of coffee or tea. Maybe one of the nice avocados you picked up from the farmer’s market.
- Consider a few smaller meals.
Break it down into five small meals throughout the day, rather than three large barn-burners.
- Keep it colorful!
Incorporate vegetables and fruits into your daily diet. Don’t make it a chore! Pick the things you enjoy.
- Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Alcohol is high in calories, a proven detriment to healthy sleep cycles, and can even impact your workout the following day.
- Don’t leave yourself open to swings!
A week of discipline and healthy nutrition followed by a total collapse into unhealthy habits will do far less to improve wellness than a consistent application of key principles over time. This includes allowing for the occasional bag of chips, or a piece of your favorite chocolate.
Rule of thumb: Do it right 80% of the time, most of the time, and you’ll be well on your way to massive improvements in your overall well-being (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone about the other 20%).
The good news is that these steps are simple. The hard part is doing them consistently, developing good habits over time. The payoff, though, will be increased energy levels, improved emotional health, and much more time between those nasty bugs that seem to circulate offices and households during flu season.
The result will be a healthier you.