8 Tips to Progress Toward Health

By Coach KB

One of the most powerful things I learned from my time as an administrator working in the public schools was to “presume positive intentions.” This was one of a list of seven norms we were asked to practice when we met in groups and discussed observations we conducted of teachers in their classrooms. No teacher shows up at work and decides, “I am going to aim for mediocrity today. I want to give these children the minimum amount of effort that I have.” This would especially true on a day they know they are being observed. Presuming the teachers thought they were doing the absolute best they knew how set the post-conversation up to be non-judgemental and focused on the facts of what happened, rather than how we felt about it.

I have taken this concept of presuming positive intentions with me into other areas of my life - in my marriage, when I’m driving, on Facebook… anytime inklings of judgement creep up I redirect my thoughts to what their positive intentions may be. Practicing this habit had made me a more empathic person and reduced the amount of unnecessary negativity in my life.

One area where I still get worked up, though, is in the area of nutrition. I can believe the positive intentions the Kellogg brothers had when they started making cereals in the late 1800’s and certainly John Pemberton, the creator of Coca Cola, but what I cannot understand is how now, after there is so much evidence that over-consuming processed foods is linked to so many diseases, everyone in the business puts their pocketbook (the only positive intention I can surmise) over the health of the rest of their neighbors. Here are a couple crazy statistics for you from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012):

68.1% of the food Americans buy is highly processed* (ready to eat) and 15.2% is moderately processed* (ready to heat).

Nearly 1000 calories per day of a person’s diet come solely from highly processed foods.

The study also found that the preference for highly processed foods was consistent from 2000-2012, which has major implications for our health, since highly processed foods are way higher in sugars, processed grains and salts, and hydrogenated or poor quality fats than other foods. Shockingly, no U.S. study has looked at the link between highly processed food and health outcomes like obesity and diabetes (at least not by 2015 when the study was published).

WTACTUALF!!! I have a very hard time presuming positive intentions here.

Given that I presume you all have positive intentions when it comes to your health (no one WANTS to feel terrible and be sick, right?) I am going to give you some nutrition tips to beat the greed of the food industry. As much as I love the gym, an hour a day doesn’t cancel out what we put in our bodies the rest of the hours. Pick one or two to start with (I listed the two easiest/”free-est” ones first) and build a habit. You’ve spent 20? 30? 40? 50? years getting to where you are. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Let your positive intentions be your guide and progress toward improving your health.

  1. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Ideally, chew your food until it is liquidy (yes, freal). Smaller pieces are easier to digest than large ones and your saliva has enzymes that break down your food, so your digestion will be easier, more nutrients will be absorbed, and gas/bloating will be reduced.

  2. Drink about half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. Water keeps your cells hydrated and protected, eliminates waste, and ensures the health of your mucus membranes. Adequate hydration can improve a number of health problems including sinusitis, constipation, inflammation, allergies, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, back pain… Given that the majority of our body is water, adequate water intake helps pretty much everything.

  3. Eat TONS of vegetables (“tons” means at least half of the food you eat, by volume) Vegetables slow the absorption of fats, normalize cholesterol levels, nourish your gut bacteria, reduce bowel toxicity, aid in the production of serotonin, increase energy, help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, improve symptoms of allergies, asthma, arthritis, skin problems, sinusitis, chronic pain… Do I need to keep going? Eat. Your. Vegetables.

  4. Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar increases insulin and adrenal hormone production and is linked to other health problems like IBS, Candidasis, vitamin deficiency, hypoglycemia, diabetes, inflammation, allergies, asthma, sinusitis, headaches and migraines, fatigue, depression, heart disease… I could go on…
    Just don’t eat refined sugar. Eat fruit instead, okay?

  5. Fat is not bad but you should avoid deep fried food, partially‐hydrogenated oil, and hydrogenated oil. These have been linked to a number of health problems such as cancer, heart disease, pain and inflammation, immune system problems, ADD and depression. Instead, eat use coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, butter, ghee, and raw nuts.

  6. Avoid refined carbohydrates. This is what the above statistic was primarily talking about. Processing grains means that all the nutrients have been stripped and you are left with just the starch, so they fill you up but with a lack of vitamins and minerals. This stresses your digestive system and your endocrine system. Use brown rice instead of white rice. Eat whole oats instead of instant oatmeal and try something you’ve never tried before that is widely available now, like amaranth, millet, and quinoa.

  7. Avoid chemical additives. There’s a lot to say about these that I will save for the next blog post but, suffice it to say, if you can’t easily pronounce it, have never seen the word used on anything but a food label, or it has a color with a number after it, do not eat it.

  8. Drink coffee, tea, and alcohol in moderation. Each on its own has been shown to have health benefits in moderation, but even herbal teas can be diuretic, which will leave you dehydrated.

*If you’re curious about what foods constitute moderately- and highly-processed, 1.2 million products were placed into one of four categories:

Minimally processed—products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat, and eggs

Basic processed—single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour, and sugar

Moderately processed—still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives (think TV dinners)

Highly processed—multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source (crackers, chips, cereals, cookies, bread, soda, energy drinks, juice…)