It's been my experience that often we set goals to lose weight or improve our health and then life tends to get in the way.
We have a stressful day (or three), a few nights of insomnia (*raising my hand), or some other diversion, we get derailed and then it feels impossible to get back on track. One thing that can help us get back into the groove is getting clear on our why.
Typically what initially motivates us is wanting to go down a few pants sizes or lose those jiggly arms, but I've come to believe that the clearer we are on why that motivates us, the better the odds are of turning our goals into lifestyle changes.
One big why for getting (and staying) healthy is to increase our odds of avoiding cancer and Alzheimer's disease. It used to be that unless we had a genetic predisposition to those things it didn't feel like it could happen to us. These days it's clear that genetics are not the only factor.
Part of my job as a Wellness Coach is empowering people to take charge of their health, so I want to share with you the single most effective way to significantly cut your risk of disease.
Cooling down something called silent inflammation is the overall number one way to stay healthy and disease-free.
Inflammation can be a normal and healthy response to the body's need for healing, but it comes in 2 different forms. Acute inflammation is what happens when you injure yourself or overuse a muscle or ligament. The body sends help to the injured area in the form of white blood cells to speed up the healing process. It shows up as swelling, bruising or redness and it comes on pretty quickly. This is the good kind of inflammation.
Silent, or chronic inflammation builds up slowly over time. It's called silent because it won't show any symptoms and can go on for years until it eventually causes some form of disease or health disruption. This is the bad kind of inflammation. It can seriously increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease, certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and many kinds of autoimmune diseases.
Silent inflammation causes the immune system to act like a furnace that is working overtime.
If the furnace stays that hot it will burn itself out, leaving our bodies more susceptible to illness and diseases like the ones mentioned above.
The good news is you can turn that furnace down.
Here are my top 5 tricks for cooling down and avoiding silent inflammation to improve your overall health and wellness:
1. Try some lemon water.
Drinking a mug of warm water with the juice of 1/2 a lemon every morning is an easy thing to do to reduce inflammation. Whether you are a vegetarian, follow a Paleo template or just eat meat on Sundays, it's important to balance your diet with foods that are alkaline and foods that are acidic. Disease thrives in an acidic environment so it's beneficial to keep your internal pH balanced. Things like refined grains, dairy, meat, sugar, coffee, wine and roasted nuts are more acidic while vegetables, fruits and green tea are more alkaline. Lemon juice is highly alkalizing to your body, supports healthy digestion and is full of vitamin C. A bag of lemons is easy to grab at places like Trader Joes or Whole Foods. Bonus: it also helps flush out toxins, aids in digestion, is great for the skin and helps keep you, er, regular. It's best to drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach - at least 30 minutes before you have coffee or breakfast.
2. Back away from processed sugar and refined foods.
As someone who used to eat tons of sugar and frozen meals, I understand how overwhelming this may initially feel - but I'm living proof that changing those habits is possible and doable. Any packaged or canned food that has a laundry list of ingredients or includes sugar in its top 3 should go bye-bye, as well as sugary drinks like soda and sweet tea. The locally made, small-batch dry soda that you love should become an occasional treat instead of a daily occurrence. It's hugely important to avoid artificial sweeteners as well! Try adding a pinch of stevia or xylitol (both natural) or even some honey into your tea or coffee instead of the stuff in the pink or blue packets. You can start slow or go cold turkey, but I promise you that your body will thank you. Bonus: if you ditch these things you will likely drop some weight. You're welcome.
3. Amp up the greens.
Cooling silent inflammation does not have to be all about cutting foods out of your diet. Try adding things in like leafy greens or other veggies that you might not eat on a regular basis. If you're scrambling eggs, sauté some rainbow chard (beautiful stems and all!) and a little red onion in the pan before you add the eggs. If you're making soup, cut some collard greens into ribbons and add them towards the end. If you are eating out see if you can order a side of sautéed spinach with your meal and next time you're at a salad bar, make a point of adding in a vegetable that feels a little adventurous, like arugula, cabbage or shaved fennel. Bonus: Greens are also high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. Green is good!
4. Add Omega-3s.
Most of us know that taking a fish oil supplement is supposed to be good for us but we might not know exactly why it's important. Fish oils are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are both necessary to our health and greatly effective against chronic inflammation. Good choices for foods rich in Omega-3's are fish such as salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel, flax, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds, walnuts and egg yolks. Eating more of these foods as well as supplementing with fish oil or flax seed oil is the best way to up your level of this inflammation-busting essential fatty acid because our bodies do not manufacture them on their own. Bonus: Omega-3's are great for keeping your heart and brain healthy.
5. Move your body.
One of the many ways exercise can improve your health is by reducing chronic inflammation, so get your body moving! I'm not telling you to push away from your desk and dash off to the hardest spin class you can find, but I am recommending that you take a walk, do a yoga class, ride your bike, have a solo dance party in your kitchen - anything to get back into your body. Exercise lowers your body's level of C-reactive protein, or CRP, which is a marker for inflammation. It can also help you lose weight around your middle, which is directly correlated to silent inflammation. Bonus: Moving your body on a regular basis- even for as little as 20-30 minutes a day - will increase "feel-good" hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Yay!
Nobody wants a wake-up call in the form of a scary diagnosis or a life-altering illness, so if avoiding those are motivating factors that can help you stay on track, I'm all for it. Overall bonus: By reducing silent inflammation you're going to be healthier and feel awesome, and have lots of energy to create the life you crave - and you might even go down a few pants sizes.