Figuring out how to adopt a healthy lifestyle can be tricky. Everyone has got something to say on the matter.
From doctors and homeopaths to wellness practitioners and random hippie bloggers, Google is virtually bursting at the seams with supposedly helpful tips.
Faced with such an onslaught of information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
How on earth are you supposed to know what advice to follow and what to ignore? No wonder it’s easier to take the M&Ms and Netflix route. Getting healthy can wait, right?.
Unfortunately, it can’t.
With COVID-19 making its way around the globe, getting a handle on your health has never been more important. Given how easily it spreads, we can’t rely solely on avoiding it.
A more practical approach is to ensure we’re as healthy as possible, so that our immune system is strong enough to fight the virus off should we contract it.
According to South Africa’s COVID-19 Coronavirus Resource Portal, 82% of COVID-19 cases are mild. They’re saying most people can stay at home and get better without hospital treatment.
We’re definitely seeing evidence of this in our stats. Of the 2,632,106 tests that have been conducted to date, South Africa has had 408,052 positive cases, 236,260 recoveries and 6,093 deaths.
I’m not trying to downplay the severity of the pandemic, but it’s important to remember that our health is largely within our control. There’s a lot we can do to protect ourselves besides wearing a mask and sterilising vigilantly.
Understanding How to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Health plays a big role in our overall sense of wellbeing. Obviously. If you’re not feeling well, you’re not going to feel happy. But for a lot of people —especially those dealing with bigger health challenges than the flu, for example— returning to a state of good health can seem almost impossible.
There are plenty of doable ways you can upgrade your health, starting right now. Snacking less, exercising more, etc. However, the bigger issue at play here is your mindset. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our health is in our doctor’s hands, rather than our own.
We need to change that. We need to take back the responsibility for our health and wellbeing. Of course, there will always be a place for the medical profession, but we need to work with our doctor rather than hand over the reins completely.
These five TED talks will inspire you to do just that. Offering you a range of tips and advice as well as case studies of people who’ve walked this path already, they’ll help you figure out how to adopt a healthy lifestyle in no time.
Well, as long as it takes to read this post and watch the talks.
Grab a cup of green tea and some carrot sticks and dive in. If you’re more of a coffee and Oreos kind of person (us too!), go ahead and treat yourself. By the time you’re finished watching you won’t be so keen to indulge in your old vices.
At least, not as often, anyway.
1. What’s Wrong With What We Eat by Mark Bittman
In this talk Mark Bittman, a New York Times food writer, asks an important question: What’s wrong with the way we eat now? In his opinion, we eat too much meat and fast food and not nearly enough plants. He also bemoans the fact that home cooking has become a thing of the past. All of which, he says, is putting the entire planet at risk.
Mark’s sentiments are echoed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the filmmaking duo behind Cowspiracy and What The Health. Both of which are must watch movies if you’re serious about taking charge of your health.
Bittman is not making a case for veganism. By his own admission he’ll probably never stop eating animals. However, he does advocate being mindful about the food we eat. If we follow Michael Pollan’s 7 Rules for Eating or, as he so succinctly puts it, we ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’ we’ll be well on our way to a healthier lifestyle.
Tip #1: Eat less meat, more plants and stop ordering in so much.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but if you’re like most people you typically ignore the advice you don’t want to hear. I know I often do.
Now is not the time to do that. Take a look at your current diet. If it needs an overall, give it one. You’ll feel better for the effort. Plus, your pants won’t be so tight.
2. How to Live to Be 100+ by Dan Buettner
Determined to find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner studied the world’s Blue Zones —five places in the world where people live the longest and are healthiest. Most people will immediately say they never want to get that old, but what if you were still fit, active and completely compos mentis at 103? Maybe receiving a letter from the Queen wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.
Dan boiled his learning down to nine common traits, which he claims are shared by Blue Zones inhabitants around the globe. These are people who eat right (mostly plants), have the right outlook on life and make a point of connecting with others. Along with the resulting health benefits of living like this, following the Blue Zones diet will also save you money.
Tip #2: Live like a Blue Zones centenarian.
People in the Blue Zones echew convenience. It’s not something they try to do, they’ve always lived this way. They cook their own food, tend their own garden and walk where they need to go. They’re active in their communities.
Our Western lifestyle makes it difficult to live exactly like a Blue Zones centenarian, but we can at least come closer than we are right now. Give it a try and see how you feel. Better yet, round up your friends and family and have them join you on your quest.
3. How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds by Mick Cornett
When Mick Cornett took over as mayor of Oklahoma City, the mid-sized town had a big problem. It had cracked a spot on the Men’s Health list of the most obese towns in America. With more than a few pounds to lose himself, Mayor Cornett realized that for the city to thrive it had to become healthier, too.
With this in mind, he decided on New Year’s eve 2007 to put the city on a diet. Oklahoma City, like so many other cities in the US, was designed around cars, not people. Mick changed that by making some simple but effective changes, such as making the streets more pedestrian friendly and creating more than a 100 miles of cycle paths. Later, his city made it onto Men’s Health’s list of fittest cities in America.
As much as you’re responsible for your own health, your environment plays a big role. Mick Cornett recognized this and its wisdom Dan Buettner confirms in his latest book The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People.
Tip #3: Leave the car in the garage. Walk and cycle more.
You might need to drive to work or to the doctor, but you don’t need to go everywhere in your car. There are so many benefits to walking and cycling, it’s worth making them a part of your lifestyle.
4. Own Your Body’s Data by Talithia Williams
High-tech self-monitors that measure things like heart rate, sleep, steps per day, etc. might seem like the domain of competitive athletes, but Talithia Williams argues that all of us should be measuring and recording simple data about our bodies every day.
A self-confessed stats geek, Talithia is all about the data. For many of us, myself included, the mere mention of the word has a soporific effect. However, she makes a good argument for waking up to the benefits of owning your own data.
For one thing, it can help you accurately diagnose a thyroid disorder. Who knew? On a bigger scale, it can assist you in avoiding a potentially expensive misdiagnosis. As Talithia says, medical doctors are experts on the population, only you are the expert on you.
Tip #4: Get a fitness device and monitor your sleep, heart rate, exercise, etc.
Sporty and I both got fitness devices recently. (I got a Fitbit Inspire and she got an Apple Watch.) We weren’t against them before, we just didn’t see the point. But with the gyms being closed during lockdown, we needed to find a way to earn Vitality Active Rewards.
Apart from motivating us to exercise more, our devices shed light on our sleep quality, track our resting heart rate, remind us to get up and move throughout the day and more. We might not be mining the data to the extent that Talithia is, but we’ve still seen the benefits of tracking it.
5. Your Genes Are Not Your Fate by Dean Ornish
Just because heart disease or diabetes runs in the family doesn’t mean you will automatically be saddled with them. In this talk Dean explains that while our genes may be our predisposition, they’re not our fate.
If we make bigger changes than we otherwise would have, we can actually change how they’re expressed. Changes to our lifestyle are powerful and dynamic and we don’t have to wait very long to see the benefits.
When you eat healthier, manage stress, exercise and love more, your brain gets more blood flow and oxygen. More importantly your brain gets measurably bigger. One study revealed that walking for three hours per week for only three months caused so many new neurons to grow that it actually increased the size of people’s brains.
A bigger brain is great, but there are other benefits, too. Your skin gets more blood flow when you change your lifestyle, so age less quickly. Your heart gets more blood flow, making it possible to reverse heart disease. Clogged arteries become measurably less clogged and you can even stop or reverse the progression of early prostate cancer.
Tip #5: “Your genetics load the gun. Your lifestyle pulls the trigger.” Mehmet Oz aka Dr. Oz
This comes back to mindset. You may have a family history of cancer or high blood pressure or whatever, but that’s no reason to accept it as your fate.
Instead, take a look at your lifestyle and see what improvements you can make to ensure you have the best shot at health. There’s something incredibly empowering about taking charge of your life.
Where to From Here?
I hope you watched all the TED talks or that you at least plan to on the weekend. Please do, they’re packed full of excellent advice and actionable tips.
Find something to add to your daily and weekly routine from each talk. These tips don’t require a lot of time, it’s more about tweaking your current lifestyle. Making small improvements that, over the long run, will yield significant benefits.
Start small and go slow, but challenge yourself. Set daily and weekly goals so you’re constantly improving. The aim is to get to a point where you feel confident in your ability to remain healthy.
You can do it! Sporty and I have faith in you. Pretty soon, you’ll have faith in yourself too. Let us know your thoughts and if you questions leave them in the comments. We’ll do our best to help.