Transformation 3 – the physical body.
Transforming our whole self can begin anywhere but I chose to begin with transforming my physical aspects. Decluttering my life was the initial step but then I had to look at transforming my physical body into something healthier. I had let myself go in my middle age, becoming rounder of belly and quite unfit. This was affecting how I felt about myself and I decided that what I was learning about in my nutritional studies I should put into practice and see if it made any difference.
I read and researched about what a good diet should be and came to the conclusion that although I have always had a relatively healthy diet I needed to clean up my act. I had not been eating meat for many years except for fish – so I was not a complete vegetarian. I decided initially to try the low carb high fat way of eating. In this diet, which isn’t really a diet so much as a different way of eating, the carbohydrates are kept to a minimum – mostly just vegetables and the occasional fruit. Protein and fats make up the bulk of the food. I cut out all sugar, bread, pasta, rice, root vegetables and began to eat more nuts and cheese and fish. I ate a variety of vegetables and occasionally some berries.
I managed to stick to this for some months and then went on holidays and it all went out the window for a while. When I returned to it I wasn’t as strict. I felt I had more energy on this way of eating and I avoided the swings in energy that a high carb diet causes. However I lost very little weight and it was quite a hard diet to maintain.
Further research then led me to the Paleo diet – the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. This was very similar to the low carb, high fat diet but it didn’t restrict fruit as much. It did however mean no dairy. I lasted about two weeks on a vegetarian and fish form of Paleo but found the food choices too limited without meat. After all our Paleolithic ancestors were not vegetarians; much of their diet was meat based.
Not to be discouraged I made a major decision – to start eating meat again. I had been vegetarian partly for health reasons and partly because of the poor treatment of animals. The health reasons seemed a little unclear now. So I began to eat meat again – mostly organic free range or biodynamic.
I definitely think a Paleolithic type diet is the healthiest diet and the diet we have evolved to eat. This is the type of food I eat:
- Vegetables – preferably organic
- Fruits – preferably organic
- Meat and fish – meat should be organic, free range, grass fed. Fish should be low in mercury and sustainably fished
- Eggs – organic free range
- Nuts and seeds – preferably organic
- Good oils – olive, omega 3, coconut
- Legumes – preferably organic
- Herbs and spices – preferably organic
These are the types of food I avoid:
- Highly processed foods especially those containing sugar and fructose, artificial colourings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
- Dairy – many people lack the basic enzyme for digesting dairy, others are intolerant to the proteins. I have recently been reintroducing a little dairy into my diet in order to get a little more calcium.
- Most grains – especially gluten containing grains. Some cultures have eaten grains for centuries and have ways of preparing them that decrease gut problems but for most of us grains should be avoided
- Soy – although I may eat fermented soy sometimes
- Processed meats – these have been shown to increase our risk of cancer
- Foods containing chemicals, preservatives, colourings, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial sweeteners
- Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, other drugs
I do still drink coffee although less than I used to and I have alcohol a couple of times a week and I’m still deciding whether either has an adverse effect on my health.
Overall I feel less tired. I don’t have those slumps during the day when my blood sugar starts to plummet because I’ve eaten too much sugar or carbohydrates. I can go for longer without food if I have to without feeling hungry or cranky. I have lost 10 kg so it seems to be working, and without too much effort. As long as I eat paleo type foods I can eat what I want so it’s not really a diet but just a different way of eating.
As well as good food I have started taking extra vitamins and minerals. Through my nutrition course and research I am taking a multivitamin and mineral that includes most of what I need. In addition I take vitamin c, magnesium and if I feel like I’m getting rundown I take an immune booster with herbs and zinc in.
I think extra vitamins and minerals are important because even though I eat mostly organic food it still probably doesn’t have as many micronutrients as our ancestors’ diet. Certainly we’re probably all lacking vitamin C. I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest that taking vitamin and mineral supplements has adverse effects. It is possible to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins but in the doses in the average multivitamin pill this isn’t going to happen.
In addition to eating much more healthily and taking the extra vitamins and minerals I decided it was important to exercise more. I began walking almost every day and bought an online yoga membership which I actually began to use.
Exercise is worth focusing on for a moment. Most of us aren’t active enough in our everyday lives so exercise becomes an important component of keeping ourselves healthy. The more active we are the better although too much exercise can have adverse effects on how health with joint problems and overtraining issues. The secret is always to listen to our bodies and pay attention. If we have been leading sedentary lives then a gradual increase in activity and exercise is best, paying attention to how our body reacts to new exercise and adjusting accordingly.
Each exercise program and increase in activity is individual. It’s important to do activities and undertake exercise that is enjoyable. We want to bring more joy to our lives, not more suffering. Sometimes we do have to go through some initial reprograming of bad habits to come to a place where we enjoy the increase in activity.
A good exercise physiologist or personal trainer can help us develop healthier habits and sometimes we need a medical check up prior to undertaking exercise – again it’s an individual thing. Tailor your physical transformation to your own particular needs.
Changing our outer body, feeding it better and moving it more, not only makes our body healthier but it makes our mind healthier. Our cells rely on good nutrition to do their job and if our cells are healthy everything works better.
The other aspect of good physical health is getting enough rest. Sleep is really important for our health; it is essential for healing and restoration. Research shows that adults require eight to eight and a half hours every night for good restorative sleep and the optimum hours are between 9 pm and 5 am. Delta wave sleep, which is the best restorative sleep, has been shown to occur mainly between 9 pm and 2 am. Restorative and healing hormones are produced in this time. Poor sleep patterns over the long term lead to an increased risk of degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Tips to establish a good sleep pattern can be found on my website – Sleep
I’m going to write more about our relationship to our environment in a later blog but our physical environment is important to our health. Most of us don’t realise how much we are exposed to chemicals and radiation in our everyday lives. Compared to our grandparents’ lives we are exposed to myriad chemicals and toxins and higher levels of radiation. These can all cause illness so it pays to decrease your exposure any way you can. Clean living is more important than ever.
Ways to improve your environment and exposure to chemicals and radiation
- Reduce cleaning chemicals. Use microfibre cloths to clean with and use only vinegar and bicarb soda. We have become obsessed with killing germs which is altering our microbiome and potentially leading to increased rates of allergies and asthma. Avoid bleach, solvents, strong detergents, air fresheners and fragrances.
- Avoid chlorine and fluoride in drinking water – use a good quality water filter.
- Avoid all pesticides and herbicides in the house and garden – these contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other toxins, they are designed to kill animals and plants and should be avoided.
- Keep electrical appliances at least one metre away from where you spend a lot of time- eg bed, couch, dining table. Avoid prolonged use of mobile phones.
- Avoid storing food in plastic – use glass, stainless steel and lead free ceramics. Plastics can contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other nasties.
- Open your windows and air out the house on a frequent basis.
- Eat more organic and unprocessed foods. Avoid the chemicals involved in processing and conventional farming methods and as much as possible eat organic or home grown produce (pesticide and herbicide free of course).
When our body is healthy it is more in alignment with our higher self. Sometimes our health is influenced directly by being out of alignment but if we can look after the physical aspects as well as we can this helps our spiritual journey. Diet exercise, good sleep and living clean are important elements of transforming our physical self into a more healthy state.