We all want to be healthy, but so many of us are unwilling to make the dramatic lifestyle changes necessary to reach our fitness goals.
In order to achieve Optimal Wellness, we not only have to let go of our bad habits, but we have to commit ourselves to creating new routines.
If you are serious about making your health a priority, follow these three easy steps to begin a lifelong commitment to well-being.
Step 1: Eat Less Red and Processed Meat
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has released the results of a study on the effects of red and processed meats on our bodies. Specifically, this research explores whether the consumption
of red and processed meat contributes to prostate, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer development.
The data showed that although lamb, beef, and pork probably do not cause those types of cancers—there was sufficient evidence that processed meats such as bacon, corned beef, and hotdogs substantially increase the risk of developing these cancers.
Unfortunately, red and processed meats can cause many health problems beyond cancer. Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist and the author of The Whole Heart Solution, produced research on the association of red meat and damaging health effects. Dr. Kahn’s research found that eating red and processed meats can cause obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Research on negative outcomes from a red and processed meat-heavy diet has existed since the 1950s.
Dr. Kahn’s research indicates that red meat not only contains saturated and trans fats but also contain toxins that are formed during high temperature cooking methods—this can happen when simply grilling or pan-frying your meat. The chemicals found in processed meats are even worse than those in red meat, which has led many people to adopt a plant-based diet.
What You Can Change Today:
Although completely eliminating red meat from your diet might not be feasible for you, the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that you limit your intake of red meat to eighteen ounces a week. Reducing your red and processed meat intake can significantly reduce your risk for cancers and other health problems.
We all know our diets need more fruits and vegetables, but commit yourself to expanding beyond apples and carrots. Explore the entire produce aisle, and you might be surprised how much you enjoy. To satisfy your meat craving, look for produce that contain healthy fats and proteins—like avocados and sweet potatoes.
Step 2: Drink Less Soda
There’s nothing like an ice-cold can of soda on a hot summer day. But while the combination of sugar and fizz might taste refreshing at the time, the side effects of this sweet treat are just not worth the consequences.
Most popular sodas contain harmful chemical ingredients—like phosphoric acid and high fructose corn syrup—that can cause significant health problems. Phosphoric acid can weaken your bones and even cause tooth decay. High fructose corn syrup may contribute to obesity and high lipid levels which both have the potential to increase your chances of getting heart disease.
Switching to diet sodas does not solve the problem. Diet sodas were originally marketed as a healthy alternative, but the artificial sweeteners that reduce the calories in diet sodas may do more harm than good. Many diet sodas contain aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener. When you break down the composition of aspartame, you will find formaldehyde as a chemical component.
In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency classified formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen when the body experiences unusually high or prolonged exposure.
Many diet sodas also contain potassium benzoate which is another potentially carcinogenic chemical that also has links to weight gain.
What You Can Change Today:
Water is the best replacement for soda. The benefits of drinking a full sixty-four ounces of water are well documented and include weight loss, healthy digestion, and clear skin. When water is just a little too boring, try natural juices. Fresh juices can contain the same vitamins as the fruits from which they were made, but keep an eye on the high sugar content in many fruit juices sold in stores.
Protein shakes are designed to be a tasty way to enjoy nutrition and vitamins. To appreciate the full benefits of eliminating soda from your diet, be sure to choose protein shakes that contain natural ingredients and do not contain artificial flavoring.
Step 3: Stop Using Plastic to Store, Cook, and Reheat Food
This is a hard one. Plastic is almost impossible to avoid when it comes to our food: it’s wrapped around our vegetables at the store; it coats our dishes and pans; and it’s the go-to container for our leftovers. While not all plastics are harmful, many plastics contain destructive chemicals like BPA and Phthalates. It wouldn’t be a problem if these chemicals were contained in the plastic, but when these plastics touch our food, we can end up ingesting these chemicals. This happens most frequently when the plastics reach high temperatures in the microwave. These chemicals have devastating effects on our bodies, leading to problems with our reproductive system and contributing to heart disease, diabetes, and even liver toxicity.
What You Can Change Today:
Starting at the grocery store, choose foods that are not packaged in plastic containers. Bring your own canvas bags to the market as a healthy alternative to the plastic bags the store provides to contain produce. Also look for cans and other containers that are not lined with plastic.
At home, buy plastic-free cookware to prepare your foods and use glass containers to store and heat your food.
Tips for Adopting These Steps
Changing your lifestyle and breaking bad habits can be extremely hard, but there are certain strategies that will increase the likelihood of your success.
Make sure you start small and do not try to make many drastic changes all at once. You will make a more significant impact on your long-term health if you gradually ease out of these bad habits.
Instead of only trying to stop yourself from bad habits, focus on the positive actions you can do to stay encouraged and hopeful.
Finally, make sure to create the right environment for your success. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy alternatives to meat. Find a soft-drink that you like and make it available at home and work.
Replace your worn cookware with healthier plastic-free products. If you limit the availability of destructive items and keep healthy options within reach, your commitment to change will be a piece of cake.
Are you ready to take the simple steps to improve the quality of your life? What are some other things that you are doing this week for your well-being?
Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is “[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”