Transformation 3 – the physical body

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
  • Sugar
  • 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.

So healthy!

Exercise

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.

Sleep

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

Healthy environment

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.

Twelve ways to be healthier

I have been reading a lot recently and keep coming across lists. Seven keys to happiness. Five ways to keep your partner. Ten steps to enlightenment. So I decided to write a list of my own. Twelve ways to be healthier.

  1. Pay attention to what you eat. While everyone needs to find a diet that suits them we all need to pay more attention to what we feed our body. Soft drinks, junk food and processed food are not the way to good health. There is still debate about the perfect human diet but as each of us is responsible for what we put in our mouth we can start to pay attention to which foods improve our wellbeing and health and which do not. For my ideas about the best diet to follow see my page on healthy diet.
  2. Avoid toxins. Health is about enabling our body to function at its best. It has trouble doing this if we keep letting toxic things in. Our food should be as organic as possible with minimal preservatives and additives. Our water should be as pure as possible. We should avoid using pesticides and nasty cleaning chemicals in our homes and pesticides and herbicides in our gardens. We should make sure our cosmetics and toiletries are not full of harmful chemicals. As well as this we should avoid toxic relationships and toxic interactions with others. We should minimize our exposure to toxic television, movies and computer games.
  3. Move more. Humans are not trees. We are made to move yet most of us lead sedentary lives and forget to move around. Movement and exercise enable us to stay young, flexible and energetic. And the best exercise is the exercise that you enjoy. I have recently taken up yoga again and find it a great way to move and get fitter. But whatever gives you pleasure is perfect.
  4. Meditate. I have written a recent post on meditation and I feel a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to adopt a regular meditation practice. It has been shown to have a number of health benefits and is great for stress reduction. For me its greatest benefit is that we can get in touch with our inner or higher self much more easily when we meditate and this carries over into our everyday life so that we can live with more purpose and fulfillment. We begin to live more in alignment with our true self.
  5. Do more of what brings you joy. Maybe this should be number one. Too many of us do too little of those things that bring us joy. I find joy in writing and reading. In spending time with family and friends. I find much joy in spending time in nature. I am gradually discovering how to bring more joy into my life by simply doing more things that bring me joy. Treat yourself to more things that bring you joy and happiness.
  6. Do less of what doesn’t bring you joy. Maybe this is an obvious one but I see lots of patients whose lives are full of joyless activities that they feel they have to do. I think we need to stop doing all those things that don’t bring us joy. Or at the very least try to bring some joy to them. We can do this by trying to look at things in a different way and being mindful while we go through our daily activities. However if it is difficult to find any joy in some activities then it is healthiest to stop doing them.
  7. Practice gratitude. Most of us are grateful for what we have but we don’t always practice gratitude. We take things and people for granted. It sometimes helps to keep a gratitude journal and record all the things you are grateful for. Saying thanks for our food is a way to show gratitude on a daily basis. As we begin to practice being consciously grateful we begin to be more positive about our lives. We stop focusing on what we don’t have and start to focus on the abundance that we do have. As we become more positive we start to attract more positive things into our lives
  8. Let go of negative thoughts. I guess this is the opposite of being grateful but it bears remembering that negative thoughts tend to lead to negative feelings. Feelings generally let us know whether we are well aligned to our true self or not. When we are not well aligned we tend to feel negative feelings. We can’t change the feelings without changing our alignment. And to change our alignment we have to begin to think more positively. It takes some training of our mind but gradually we can learn to let go of negative thoughts and focus more on positive ones. This is a tricky thing and some of us will need help with this one. Finding a good psychologist is a good place to start.
  9. Be of service. It has been shown that volunteering and being of service to others has positive benefits for our mental and physical health. Everyone has to work out his or her own way of being of service. It might be as simple as being kind to the frazzled cashier or paying for someone else’s coffee. Be open to opportunities to be of service to others and they will appear. You don’t have to become a regular volunteer to be of service, and remember about the joy; if it doesn’t bring you joy don’t do it out of duty.
  10. Cultivate your relationships. Relationships are one of the reasons we are here so spend time cultivating them. We can cultivate our relationships by spending more time with people we love, being kinder to people in general, listening to others and trying to bring joy to the lives of those we care about. If we believe that people are more important than things then we might act accordingly.
  11. Get enough sleep. This list used to be only ten things until I remembered we need enough sleep to be healthy. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep but many of us don’t get enough because we think we are too busy and that we never have enough time to get things done. Possibly this means we are trying to do too much. Our bodies need to sleep in order to recover, heal and dream.
  12. Spend time in nature. This is the final one for this list but it is very important. We are part of a larger system called earth and we should not only spend time appreciating nature we should take better care of the earth. Spending time in nature is as simple as admiring the night sky or walking barefoot across the lawn. I need to walk among trees and smell the spring air. Or visit the beach and feel the sand between my toes and the water against my skin. It is ideal to spend part of each day in the natural world but if it isn’t part of your life take small steps. Buy a pot plant and pay it some attention. Or walk outside a little each day. Sit in the sun and drink your coffee.

I’m sure there are many other ways to improve our health and I welcome your feedback on what you think is important.