Do’s vs. Don’ts for Health in 2020
As we approach 2020, expectations are high and dramatic New Year’s health resolutions are rolling into my feed. Here are my suggestions for what to do (and what to avoid) for efficient and effective results as we begin a new decade.
✔️ [Do] make small and simple improvements.
✔️ [Do] choose a way of eating that you actually like.
If you’re eating a typical American diet, know that nearly any change you make is an improvement. Vegan, keto, paleo, vegetarian, low-fat, high-fat, whole foods, intermittent fasting...it does not matter, it’s almost certainly an improvement. Start by eating more meals with whole (i.e. unprocessed) foods while reducing your fast- and ultra-processed foods intake. Importantly, you don’t want to be too extreme with your nutrition goals. Don’t feel pressured into something crazy just because it’s the start of 2020 and you need a resolution. Start slow, start small, start simple…because sustainability is the key to improvement. The most restrictive, intense diet in the world does nothing for you if only lasts a few weeks.
P.S. Don’t get caught up in fats vs. carbs debate. If you’re overweight, the majority of health benefits come from weight loss; so however you can best achieve weight loss in a sustainable manner, start there. When you’ve achieved your goal weight, then you can start drilling down on the macronutrient composition of your diet, which should be determined by 1) your preferences, 2) your goals, and 3) your genetics.
❌ [Don’t] get tricked into cleanses, detox diets, or promises of rapid weight loss results.
There’s little-to-no evidence supporting these dietary approaches, they are often draconian and difficult to follow, and typically come with a hefty price tag. Most people can dramatically improve their nutrition just by spending more time around the perimeter of the grocery store (shopping fresh whole foods) and cooking meals at home.
[Bonus Hot Take] It's secret time. Here’s a little trick that the diet industry loves to use. By eliminating or drastically reducing carbohydrates in one’s diet, you can flush anywhere from 5-10+ pounds of water from that person over 1-2 weeks. This is a common strategy for weight loss diets. They build a nutrition plan devoid of carbohydrates for the first few weeks (often pairing it a “fat burning” supplement that's actually just loaded with diuretics) and then claim that you can “Lose 14 pounds in 14 days!” What consumers don’t realize is that the “weight” lost is just water, not fat which is the weight you actually care about. This water flushing approach can lead to dehydration and immediate weight regain as soon as you reach for carbohydrates. This is due to the muscles and liver storing glycogen, which is surrounded by water.
✔️ [Do] a stress audit.
This strategy is great. It allows people to retake control of their lives. Simply write down a list (5-10) of things that cause you regular stress. There are likely a few items that you can simply cross out and remove from your life. Major win! Other items may have fairly simple solutions. For example, if your morning commute is a stressful start to your day, make it a goal to leave 10 minutes earlier. Less traffic, plenty of time to get to work, and way less stress! Even just identifying stressors that cannot be changed is a liberating experience. Often knowing what is causing you stress is the key to mitigating it.
❌ [Don’t] wear your stress is like a badge of honor.
❌ [Don’t] Don’t think of stress as unrelated to your health.
Stress is directly tied to your health and is a risk-factor for many chronic diseases. It is tied to your sleep (tossing and turning at night), your nutrition (craving high-calorie, sugary foods), and exercise (feeling too fatigued and overwhelmed to workout). Too much stress can be really bad, make sure you're giving it enough importance in our daily approach to health and wellness.
✔️ [Do] put the highest priority on sleep.
Sleep is THAT important. With our busy lives, it’s common for sleep to be the sacrificial lamb when time runs short. This is a huge mistake for quality of life, long-term health, and disease prevention. Improving daily sleep is one of the most powerful levers you can pull to improve nearly every aspect of your health, weight, and mood.
❌ [Don’t] let sleep medication become a full-time need.
Look, I’m not your doctor, pharmacist, or certified health professional and this is not medical advice. However, if you’re regularly using prescription and/or OTC sleep aids you should speak with your healthcare professional. The research around these pharmacological agents is looking really bad. According to Matthew Walker, PhD, neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of New York Times bestseller Why We Sleep, “the quality of sleep that you have when you’re on these drugs is not the same as normal, naturalistic sleep. They’re classified as “sedative hypnotics,” so the drugs actually just sedate you — and sedation is not sleep.” Proper time spent in natural sleep, including each stage of sleep, is absolutely essential to your health. The world needs to stop sedating and start sleeping! Easy sleep-enhancing strategies include reduced screen time before bed, establishing a consistent bedtime, blackout curtains and removing all light from the room, cooling your room to mid-60’s at night, removing large late-night meals, and solving your stress.
✔️ [Do] move more.
✔️ [Do] choose an activity or exercise you enjoy.
Exercise gets a bad rap. People think it’s strenuous and boring, and that you need to either spend an hour trudging away on the treadmill or elbowing your way through clanging weights and loud grunts. I’ll let you in on a little secret, how much your move each day is comprised of two components, and one gets little attention but is wildly important.. Let’s call them 1) true exercise and 2) general activity. Obviously, exercise is important and finding something (e.g. walking, lifting weights, tennis, etc.) to get your heart-rate up and target your muscles is essential. But don’t forget about daily general activity! For example, creating a habit to stand up from your desk and walk around can be majorly beneficial for your overall health. Healthy choices like using the stairs, parking further away from work, and giving the pups an extra long walk will really add up over time!
❌ [Don’t] overdo it.
❌ [Don’t] get burnt out.
If you’re just starting out with - or getting back into - exercise, don’t dive into an insanely intense training program just because it feels like you need to do something extreme to get results. When it comes to reaping the benefits of exercise, consistency is everything. Similar to dieting, you could do the most intense exercise program on the planet for 3 weeks, but if it's so miserable that you quit by February, you’ve achieved virtually nothing for your long-term health, weight loss goals, etc.
✔️ [Do] reap the benefits of connectivity and access to information.
✔️ [Do] follow academics and truly unbiased health authorities.
While few and far between, there are people providing incredible information and insights relevant to health, totally free of charge. But be careful. Always listen with an open - yet critical - mind and ask yourself, “What does this person stand to gain from saying these things?”
❌ [Don’t] follow blindly.
Here’s another secret, health is rarely black and white and each scenario is ripe with caveats and counter arguments. Anyone claiming to have “the one true answer / solution” is almost certainly wrong, misguided, or narrow-minded. Be sure to follow a plethora of respected authorities to find the general consensus about what you’re interested in. Also, understand what type of information you should be learning from each person. Should you be taking dietary advice from a personal trainer? Probably not. Be wary of influencers with pretty pictures, perfect bodies, and thousands of followers. Be skeptical of these people and the products and programs they are pushing. Let them introduce the product to you, but that is where their influence should stop. You need to do your own thorough investigation of the brand, product, and supporting research and make your own informed decision.
Choosing Health Products
✔️ [Do] chase research.
✔️ [Do] chase transparency.
✔️ [Do] chase reputable and respected brands.
Choose health products that directly support your health foundation, being your core nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Supplements are not magic and I promise that the latest, greatest “”fat burner” will never overcome a surplus in calories. And that the new "superfood antioxidant powder" will not outperform a diet rich in not-so-exotic fruits and vegetables from your local store. Supplements are supplementary, it says it right there in the name. They can support healthful nutrition but can never outweigh a poor diet. In summary, supplement to support your foundational health (i.e. great multivitamin to support nutrition or a formula to support a healthy stress response) and should carry appropriate expectations.
❌ [Don’t] get swept up in masterful marketing.
❌ [Don’t] chase silver bullets.
❌ [Don’t] buy into wild claims.
The wellness industry is worth billions and billions of dollars, and it’s not because it’s amazing at improving health. It’s because the industry is incredible at selling products, built on false hopes and (often) downright lies. I’m looking at you, crystal healers. Also, avoid chasing symptoms with products and instead focus on your core health with lifestyle changes and foundational products, and often these specific issues with resolve.
[Bonus Hot Take] Choose boring! Every day there are new, trendy, exotic ingredients and products being brought to market - sometimes supported by a study or two, but often not. Don’t choose these products. Choose the boring, tried-and-true ingredients supported by hundreds and thousands of studies. When it comes to your health, you don’t want to be the guinea pig. What do you think will provide the most benefits?
- [Option 1: Boring] establishing an optimal level of vitamin D, a vitamin that acts like a hormone and has physiologic activity in 36 organ tissues? Cost: $
- [Option 2: Exotic] an herb from halfway around the world that was shown in a single study to kill cancer cells in a petri dish (FYI...these studies rarely translate into what happens in the human body). Cost: $$$
Community / Support Group
✔️ [Do] join or create a support group to help you achieve your goals.
Whether you’re meeting a few friends at the gym each week or sharing recipes in a group chat, this support and accountability can often be the difference between sticking to your plan or falling off the wagon. Plus, it makes everything more fun.
❌ [Don’t] expect what is working for your friends, family, or neighbor to work for you.
Just because your best friend is loving keto combined with distance running and yoga, doesn’t mean that’s the Truth (with a capital “T”). Frankly, you may need the exact opposite, which is important to remember as you assess what health strategies you’re going to try and how long you try them before determining if they are working for you.
Rootine Supports Your Foundation
Hopefully, we’ve conveyed the importance of starting your new year with simple, sustainable, and foundational health changes. Opt out of that “2-week superfood master cleanse” and opt in to easy and consistent changes, like cooking a meal every day.
Rootine is the most foundational health product you can take, it is custom-created to ensure you’re getting the vital nutrients that your body needs, and it fills in the gaps left by your diet, genetics (yes, your DNA plays a huge role in which nutrients you need), and current nutrient status.
Don’t let you health progress lag because you’re not hitting optimal levels of key nutrients.