The days leading to this Freedom Weekend have definitely been surreal. We have been bombarded by statistics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to the various political and socio-economic uproar caused by worldwide lack of preparedness. We have isolated ourselves to help slow its spread; to keep it short, this drastic change in lifestyle caused heaps of anxiety – on top of the usual – to many, including myself.
I am grateful to Coach Ning Tadena for inviting me to be part of this wonderful online seminar. Thank you for trusting me to be one of the speakers here; I am so honoured to be considered as part of the line-up. Most of all, thank you for this project that helped get me out of my head and be able to fulfil my purpose.
You may still register until June 30, 2020. Use code Julianne50 to get 50% discount for the access. Replays of the talks will be available until July 14, 2020. Proceeds go to the Light of Jesus Mercy Ministries who support abandoned children and elderly in the Philippines.
The basics of a healthy lifestyle include good nutrition, ample hydration, regular exercise, and quality sleep. It looks simple but when you add the demands of our work, family, social, and spiritual life, these healthy habits are usually set aside for something more urgent or exciting. But when you think about it, your body allows you to do all these things, and it’s about time to put health on top of your list.
As a health & lifestyle coach, I help people sort through the clutter and establish health as a priority in life. I help my clients explore the significance of good health and the possibilities it can bring through routines and hacks applicable throughout the day.
As mentioned in my talk, here are the the healthy lifestyle hacks that you may do to optimize your life starting today. Let’s get started!
1. Create balance in your meals.
The Food Plate Model represents how our meals should look like. For adults, a balanced meal would have about 1/2 coming from fruits and vegetables, 1/4 coming from carbohydrate, and 1/4 coming from protein. For example, if I am craving for a beef burger for lunch, I could try to order a lean or grilled patty. To round this out, I’ll add a full salad and have only water for drinks.
Here are some guidelines for creating a balanced meal:
- Consider variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Different colors means different vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content.
- Carbohydrates must be from natural sources and minimally processed, ex. rice vs bread, oatmeal vs oatmeal cookie
- Protein can come from plant or animal sources, just make sure to get the leaner options, ex. fish, chicken without skin.
- In general, use food that have less fat and sugar. Use little to no added fat in food preparation.
2. Check for nutrient density.
Food provides energy and this energy is counted as “calories.” We need calories but if we have low physical activity, a lot of the excess energy is ultimately stored in our bodies as fat. Although a lot of reasons may affect how weight is managed, the intake of too much fatty and sugary foods most directly affects weight gain.
On the other hand, food must also contain body-regulating micronutrients. Some food items such as desserts and processed foods are high in calories and low in micronutrients. Therefore, we say that these are of high caloric density. Let us consume these kinds of food items in moderation.
Here are some food items for comparison. The latter examples must be consumed with less frequency.
- For breakfast, muesli with almond milk vs pancakes with syrup
- For lunch, baked fish pilaf vs fish and chips
- For snacks, sweet potato fries vs nachos
- For dinner, sundried tomato pasta vs creamy carbonara
- For dessert, sliced fresh fruit vs fruit salad
3. Lower your fat and sodium intake.
1 out of 4 Filipino adults are hypertensive. This means that we have a problem in keeping a normal blood pressure because wouldn’t you agree that Filipino foods are so rich? And Filipinos just love to eat too. This means we need to be more mindful about our food intake.
Processed foods and salty foods are high in sodium. What sodium does is it retains water in the body, hence you would have a higher blood volume. This greater amount of blood means the heart has to pump harder, and the blood vessels have to withstand your elevated blood pressure.
On the other hand, saturated fat and cholesterol may deposit themselves onto cardiovascular tissues such as the heart and arteries. This contribute to increased degeneration, as well as to the narrowing and blocking of the blood vessels that may result to cardiac arrest or stroke.
Here are some ways to manage this:
- Choose fresh or frozen over canned or bottled foods
- Learn about herbs and spices and use them for flavour instead of just salt
- Be mindful of salt/sodium added after cooking ex. cheese, soy sauce, catsup, etc.
- Lessen your intake of fast food and processed food especially with snacks
4. Eat fully plant-based at least 1 or 2 days a week.
Going for a plant-based diet is really not that difficult for someone who’s already observing a healthy lifestyle. Going back to the Food Plate Model, a healthy diet already consists of about 60-80% of plant foods. Therefore, going fully plant-based one or two days a week would only mean changing your protein sources to that of plants.
Eating fruits, vegetables, root crops, and whole grains provide a lot of health benefits including colon-cleansing fiber, free radical-quenching antioxidants, and immune-boosting phytochemicals. Other than these health benefits, decreasing your meat intake is a vote towards curbing the environmental impact of the livestock industry.
Here are some plant-based proteins that you may consume:
- legumes and grains ex. quinoa, chickpeas, edamame, peanuts
- nuts and seeds ex. walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
- soy products ex. tempeh, tofu
Try going meat-free every Monday and tag us #MeatlessMondaysPH when you post so that fellow Filipinos can be inspired to get creative with their plant-based food.
5. Introduce probiotics and prebiotics to your diet.
Did you know that 90% of the cells on your body are made up of bacteria? That’s 1-3% of your total body mass! Having said that, you should know that there are bad bacteria, and good bacteria, otherwise known as probiotics. Therefore, we should keep our friendly bacteria happy and thriving by providing them fiber-rich food, otherwise known as prebiotics.
The friendly bacteria in our bodies, especially our gut microbiome, plays a huge role in supporting immune function and controlling inflammation. Your gut bacteria also produces 95% of your body’s serotonin a.k.a “the happy hormone” which influences both your mood and gastrointestinal activity.
Personally, I order the USANA Probiotic because it has no calories, while being highly bioavailable which means that the probiotics do not get killed when it passes through the highly acidic stomach.
Other probiotic foods that I have in my diet include yogurt, miso, kombucha, fresh cheeses such as ricotta and mozzarella, and kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
6. Try green tea with peppermint after meals.
After eating a meal, the taste of food that lingers in the mouth encourages you to eat more. You might recall being in a cycle of wanting something savory, then after consuming this, wanting something sweet. And the cycle just goes on and on, right?
The key is to cleanse the palate and rid your mouth these flavours. But how? You shouldn’t brush your teeth 30-60 minutes after a meal to preserve tooth enamel. My secret is green tea with peppermint.
After meals, drinking plain warm green tea & peppermint helps facilitate digestion, soothe the stomach, and decrease bloat. The minty flavour of this beverage tricks your brain by activating the same neural pathways such as when you taste mint while brushing your teeth – sending the message, “Hey brain, time to stop eating.”
True story: When I am not hungry, but am craving certain rich foods, I will immediately steep green tea & mint and drink it to curb this craving. This trick has saved me a lot of times from the regret that comes with excess calories.
7. Complete your weekly workout checklist.
When it comes to physical activity, one of the standout challenges for most beginners is that they feel like working out is too intense for them. Part of this may be due to the inputs we see from media wherein the people portrayed are always so fit, so fierce, and so unrelatable.
However, you have to keep in mind that each person has to start somewhere and the process must be gradual for it to stick. In addition, goals differ between individuals, and because of this, programs and outcomes differ. Someone whose goal is to increase athletic performance would look different from someone whose goal is to maintain physique. Both of them would look different from someone whose goal is to maintain weight and to age graciously.
To maintain good health, it is suggested to have at least 150 mins of physical activity divided into 4-5 sessions per week. What I try to do is to listen to my body and decide which physical activity to do for the day. In a week, make sure that you get all these exercises covered:
- strength training – upper body
- strength training – lower body
- cardiorespiratory work
- stretching and flexibility
- core-intensive work
I highly recommend the fitness Youtube channels that I’ve linked above.
8. Practice food chaining.
When it comes to lifestyle changes, we should never force ourselves to go from 0 to 100 real quick. Instead, from 0, get yourself to 10. From 10, get yourself to 20. Do things gradually until you reach your goal. In terms of applying this to dietary adjustments, we call this food chaining.
This is a smart and sustainable way to feed picky eaters such as children or family members who have been diagnosed with illnesses that can be managed with lifestyle changes. It requires a lot of patience and bargaining, and it will take a long time. But in the long run, this will help you manage resistance and keep the dining table from becoming a battlefield.
For example, you would like for a kid to eat spinach. Start with something that he already likes, in this case, let’s say chicken nuggets. I would suggest the following slow transition:
- Homemade chicken nuggets with sparse finely minced spinach bits
- Homemade chicken nuggets with more finely minced spinach bits
- Cheesy macaroni with chopped chicken-spinach nuggets
- Cheesy macaroni with chopped chicken and sparse finely minced spinach bits
- Cheesy macaroni with chopped chicken and more finely minced spinach bits
- Cheesy macaroni with chopped chicken and chopped spinach
- Grilled chicken & spinach salad with creamy dressing
- Grilled chicken & spinach salad with light vinaigrette
- Sautéed spinach with garlic, herbs and bacon bits
- Sautéed spinach with garlic and herbs
- Seasoned steamed spinach
Good luck with applying this to your family!
9. Work out your quads – squat!
“I would like to lose belly fat!” “I would like to lose arm fat!”
Spot reduction is a myth. Our bodies don’t work that way because our genetics command which areas store or lose fat first. What we can do is to observe proper physical activity every week, eat a balanced diet and aim for total fat loss. Another goal is to increase lean muscle to increase your metabolism.
However, if you would ask me which types of exercise has a higher potential to burn calories, I would tell you to target your glutes and thighs. Why? If you would look at the muscular system, this area is the largest integrated muscle group in the body. Squats and lunges with all its variations – including walking up and down the stairs – fit the bill.
Some reminders though is to keep a good form when doing squats which include activating your core, keeping the shoulders back, and ensuring that the knees don’t buckle or extend over the toes at the downward motion. Again if you are a beginner, just use your body weight – no use of extra weights. More importantly, remember that it is best to work with a licensed personal trainer until you can be confident in keeping a good form during workouts.
10. Supplement potently but safely.
We can approximate our daily intake of energy-giving macronutrients or calories. But how do we ensure that we are getting not just the minimum (RDA) but the optimal amounts of micronutrients?
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are needed by the body to survive, and not meeting the Recommended Daily Allowances may cause micronutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies may limit our bodies at the cellular level, with diminished capacity to function, regenerate, and recover from daily stresses. With the lack nourishing micronutrients, our cells are left to find compromises which may eventually lead to the development of chronic degenerative diseases.
On the other hand, micronutrients have beneficial effects that we can only experience when taken at the optimal amounts which are higher than the RDA. Which is why on a daily basis, I make sure that my family takes the safest, most potent and bioavailable multivitamin + minerals + antioxidants in the market, the USANA Cellsentials.
On top of this, we also take an omega-3 supplement, USANA Biomega, that is guaranteed free from contaminants to help balance the fats that come with food. These fats include cholesterol and saturated fats from animal sources, as well as omega-6 fats from fried and processed foods.
Personally, I cannot follow a 100% healthy lifestyle all the time. And this is because of uncertain schedules, change in environment, or budget constraints. But I am informed about how to strategically create balance when such situations arise. These life hacks are the result of these moments.
I can just think about the people who are not as informed as I am, how can they manage their health when they don’t know what they do not know? As much as I want to be hands-on with everyone, giving my loved ones easy strategies and ordering quality supplements allow me to rest assured that they are well-nourished at the cellular level, even on days and weeks when circumstances make it difficult.
I urge you to apply all these strategies to your life. And share this article to your family and friends as well because a healthy body truly commands our potential in life. Let us not discover this only when it’s too late.
Have a great life ahead and I welcome you to contact me on Instagram @jsrmalong for any inquiries. Thank you!