4 Steps to Health (That Have Nothing to do With Weight)
Updated March 22, 2017
In May 2016, I shared an article on Facebook that left me pretty unimpressed.
While I agree that “Get a checkup” is a good start, here is how I would’ve written the rest of the four steps to health.You don't need to lose #weight to get #healthy. Start here instead. Click To Tweet
1. Eat More Greens
There may be lots of conflicting info out there when it comes to nutrition and eating, but I think almost everyone can agree that vegetables are good and we can make room for more.
2. Drink More Water
This is probably a reminder more for myself than anything else, but often in nutrition there is so much focus around food that we forget to talk about hydration! Not getting enough fluids can lead to headaches, fatigue and decreased concentration. Think about it: our bodies are about 65% water, so we want to make sure that we get enough so that all the intricate chemical processes that happen in our body do so properly and efficiently.
How much is enough?
The Dietary Reference Intakes say that an Adequate Intake of water is 2.7 L (11 cups) for women and 3.7 L (15 cups) for men. Yikes! That is a lot more than the 8-10 glasses that often gets referenced. So where do these higher numbers come from?
First off, “Adequate Intake” in the DRIs actually implies that there isn’t enough data to actually give a Recommended Dietary Amount, so for many people, this may be too much or not enough.
Secondly, these values include all fluids that we take in a day, which includes water, other beverages like coffee, tea, milk, juice, etc. and the fluids found in some foods, like vegetables and fruit. It’s often stated that we get 20% of our fluid from food, but that still leaves us with 9-12 cups that we should be drinking. This leads me to my final point, which is, who drinks out of an 8 oz glass anymore? With most glasses being at least 10-12 oz, it’s easy to see where that final “8-10 glasses” number comes from.
Your best bet? Just look at the colour of your pee – if it’s clear or lemon juice coloured, you’re probably drinking enough. If it’s darker (like, apple juice coloured) then you should probably drink more. Also know that certain supplements can make your pee go a little neon 😉Who came up with drinking '8 to 10 glasses' of water a day anyway? Click To Tweet
3. Move More (in a Way You Enjoy)
One of the points that I agree with the U of A article on is that “Exercise is good for a lot of things, but weight loss isn’t one of them.” I get that exercise feels “productive”, like you’re doing something to try to lose weight. At the end of the day, the evidence shows that exercise and lifestyle have less impact on weight than we think.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t exercise – we know that activity improves mood, blood sugars, blood pressure, sleep, energy, and lots of other wonderful things. On top of that, the latest research shows that simply sedentary time can be detrimental to health.
I know for many people, spending hours at the gym or on the treadmill can be daunting. Decreasing sedentary time can be as simple as setting an alarm to go off throughout the day to remind you to stand up, walk around a bit and stretch.
If you want to get active, try to figure out what brings you joy – is it being outside? Moving in a group? Finally getting some alone time? Playing a sport?
Last year, I realized that Muay Thai, a sport I trained in for over seven years, no longer brought me joy. So, I cut back on the number of days a week I trained, and in the meantime, got back into tap dancing (unfortunately the class I was in switched days and no longer fits in my schedule 😞), discovered barre, and also met my favourite yoga teacher. As the weather gets warmer, I’d like to carve out a little time for running/playing Zombies, Run!, get better at cycling, and maybe go on a few hikes.
The best part is, now I feel more joyful when I go to Muay Thai classes, as I’m no longer pressuring myself to train harder all the time.
4. Get More Sleep
This is definitely another instance of “Do as I say, not as I do” (I am actually typing this in the afternoon for once, not almost-midnight-the-night-before-the-newsletter-comes-out) We obviously know the benefits of sleep on our mental health (we’re more alert, in a better mood, have better concentration, etc.) but I think we sometimes forget the multitude of effects that adequate sleep has on our physical health. Proper sleep helps us recover from the mental and physical stresses of our day, reducing the risk of illness and injury. From a nutrition standpoint, not enough sleep can actually impact the hormones that regulate our appetite.
Obviously achieving good health is more complex than this, but I would say this is a good place to start. What do you think? What are your steps to health? Please share your insights in the comments below!