Health is a topic that applies to everyone.
The problem is that pretty much everyone struggles with it, at least a little.
I’ve struggled with it at times, everyone I know has struggled with it at times, and when I worked as a personal trainer, I met a ton of people who struggled with it.
The biggest thing I learned was that everyone’s bodies are different (especially when it comes to processing carbs). What works for one body might not work for another. The key to you getting healthy is to find what works for your body (and when I say “healthy” I mean you should be focusing on health, not weight – we all have different body types and you should focus on finding a healthy range for you specific body, not trying to achieve some ideal version of a different body, which, if you saw in a picture, is probably photoshopped).
While everyone’s body is different, there are some things that seem to be primary factors for health every body and body type.
For maintaining a long-term healthy body, the best lifestyle changes I’ve seen are:
+ Water – Drink a full glass of room temperature water every time before you eat. This will make your food easier to process and help you feel full sooner (which is key because we usually eat more than we need to). Drinking water regularly also helps your body filter toxins, which is huge in overall health and reducing bloating.
+ Vegetables – Eat as many as you can. Fresh is best, microwaved is fine (I usually keep huge amounts of frozen veggies on-hand and just throw a couple fistful in the mic with every meal – rinse them for a second, drain the water, and warm them up), but boiling can take out some of the water soluble vitamins (so don’t put too much water in if you microwave frozen veggies, either). The fiber in vegetables your body process food and toxins and the vitamins can curb hunger. A lot of time when we eat a bunch of junk, we still feel hungry because our body is craving nutrients.
+ Sugar – It’s a drug. It’s highly addictive and it throws off our body’s chemical levels (especially soda, which is liquid sugar and wrecks our insulin levels with spikes that lead to crashes and take a long time to even out and wreaks havoc on our bodies). Still, because it’s addictive, it’s hard to quit outright. for controlling sugar, I recommend portion control. I use mini candy bars, small dessert portions, and eat dessert slow with lots of water. It’s almost impossible to quit, but limiting the volume goes a long way. Eat a bit of sugar to take the edge off and try to wean yourself to smaller and smaller amount.
+ Diets – Atkins, keto, fasting, whatever fad comes next… They’re not sustainable. Long term health requires long term change. These things can be a jumpstart to make quick gains in drastic situations, but aren’t sustainable for our bodies. If you need one to get started, great, but you can’t depend on them long term and you can’t jump from diet to diet trying to keep up. Your body will won’t have it and won’t react kindly. It will set you back in terms of health.
+ Exercise – Diet is only part of the equation. A body needs exercise to be healthy, too. Cardio is good for healthy, but be aware it usually doesn’t yield great weight loss results. You need some cardio to stay healthy, but resistance training is the key to weight loss. Think of your muscles like an engine that burns calories for fuel. Resistance training breaks down your muscles and rebuilds them stronger, which takes time and burns lots of calories. Isometrics like push-ups, stairs, and most gymnast workouts are great. Weights are usually easiest, but if you’re looking for weight loss, shoot for high reps and use a weight that you can get at least 10-15 reps on.
Side story on weights:
One of the strongest guys I ever knew was a 130 pound college wrestler who did his entire workout with a 10 pound dumbbell – he would do 2,000 bench press reps with 10 pounds while watching tv. His body was iron. We had another friend (nicknamed “Boob” because his chest muscles were so massive) who was a 260 pound college linebacker (but more of a bodybuilder than a football player). They often argued about what was more effective for strength: high reps or high weights. The finally had a contest on a butterfly machine, taking turns adding weight and doing a rep to see who was stronger. The contest ended when the little wrestler broke them machine on his turn.
The point is, you don’t need to do heavy weights to get strong (and going too heavy can hurt your joints).
It feels great to lift a heavy weight for 1 or 2 reps, but it doesn’t have the same impact on your body. Doing high weights for low reps will bulk your body up. Naturally, this will cause your body to carry more calories to power those larger muscles. When you see body builders on posters, they’ve been starving themselves for weeks to get rid of all the extra calories they were holding in order to support those massive muscles underneath. When you see the before and after pictures on bodybuilding supplements, you’re seeing a picture of what that dude looked like in his training regimen (before) and what they look like after starving themselves for a show (after). It’s not sustainable and it’s not healthy – it’s done for show. Doing lower weights with high reps (always with good form, of course) builds dense, compact muscles. Think of shaolin monks and what their bodies look like – high end isometric training (pushups, etc) and no high volume weights build tight compact muscles.
Again, finding the best way to be healthy is a long-term experiment because every body is different and reacts different to what we do. However, in my experience these are the key things that apply to everyone: water, vegetables, sugar, exercise. These are universal. Every body needs to monitor these things for a long-term health.
Hope this helps in whatever you’re working on – good luck!