I recently drove back and forth to Toronto to attend a friend’s birth and was able to catch up on some much needed podcast listening. I listened to a few Bulletproof Radio episodes, and I like the closing question Dave Asprey sometimes asks his guests which is “what are your top  take home points”. Here are my top 5 health tips:
I have tried ALL the diets, and I’m sure I will continue to jump from diet to diet depending on what I read, what my body needs, or what I just feel like experimenting with. But the one constant is having a very vegetable heavy menu. Whether it’s a vegan or paleo diet, or a non-diet which excludes nothing, it’s vital to crowd your diet with as many veggies as possible. Here are some places to augment with vegetables:
- Breakfast: sneak finely sliced kale into your eggs and smoothie, or have a pile of sauteed veggies with your toast (like cabbage, kale, garlic, sweet potato), or veggie baked goods like paleo zucchini breakfast cookies or carrot apple muffins.
- Lunch: big salad or soup, and get fancy with your homemade dressing.
- Dinner: there should be at least 50% veggies on your plate.
Fasting is really important for our health. Our bodies are still operating from a place of scarcity and we have not yet adapted to our current environment of plenty and excess. Fasting is natural for us, and very much helps to offset many of the damaging inflammatory patterns and insulin issues that plague our healthcare system. But fasting also has to work in your life. I love that hardcore people like Dr. Peter Attia can bust out a 7 day fast once a quarter, or a 3 day fast every month, and it inspires me. However, longer fasts are not an option for me right now socially. With two little kids at home I require a TON of patience, and fasting often leads to less of this. So for now I’m sticking to time restricted eating, and when my kids are a little older I’ll work more towards extending my fast. But my fasting window varies depending on how I’m feeling, and I believe it’s important to listen to the signals sent up by the body.
My standard fasting window is from 6pm to 10am, but often I will go to noon if that suits my schedule better, and I think an 18 hour fasting window is just fine for now. However, if my kids have me up in the night I find that I have to eat when I wake up. This has to do with an early cortisol peak demanding more glucose in the bloodstream sooner in the day. So I suggest to start playing around with fasting, in whatever form works in your life, and listen to some of these fasting experts to get motivated to do more when you can.
In my practice the most important indicator of overall life balance, and therefore long-term physical and mental health, is the patient’s job. I often spend time counselling my patients to consider either changing career or considering part-time hours. Forty hours per week, plus commute time, plus night before prep etc is a huge portion of your life, and can crowd out health-promoting activities like sleep, exercise, proper food choices, and simple downtime. On top of that many people have the overwhelming burden of stress built into their jobs. If you love what you do then it can definitely be worth it, but to make it a sustainable lifestyle usually supports need to be in place to make sure you’re also meeting all of your physical/mental/spiritual requirements as well. If you are a parent as well, there is additional strain on your resources. Even though it can initially seem unfathomable, many of my patients come around to the idea of perhaps working part-time while their kids are young in order to stay happy in the short-term and healthy in the long-term.
Do exercise that you enjoy
We are meant to move. This seated existence sure is comfortable and relaxing, but is damaging to our bodies over time. The most important type of exercise is any kind of movement that you enjoy, and can therefore be maintained for all of the years of your life. My preferred type of movement is incidental exercise! I curate my life around being forced to do physical activity so that I don’t have to motivate myself to do it. I walk or bike to work, I bike my kids to daycare, shop locally so that I can walk there and have a load to carry home, I lift my kids a LOT, I use a kneeling chair at work to make myself uncomfortable and shifty all day, and I sneak in 5 minutes of yoga multiple times per day just to keep some mobility. I also cross country ski when the weather compels me, I aim for a couple hot yoga classes per week, and maybe a couple of short runs if I have intense cooped up energy to burn. And that’s really all that fits into my life right now, but that’s okay, it works for me right now.
Really there is no right answer to what is healthy. We are all so unique that what is “best” varies from person to person. Some people do really well on a vegan diet, other people thrive on a paleo diet. Some people feel great doing intense exercise, while for others this kind of exercise would exacerbate a cortisol imbalance. My role as a naturopathic doctor is to help you navigate what diet/exercise will work best for you, and it’s your job to do the work and experiment! I support you by helping you define your goals, setting you up on a structured plan and then become your biggest cheerleader to help keep you motivated to make the change you need.