Welcome 2014! Happy New Year to all! I suspect many people will head into the New Year with intentions toward a healthier lifestyle.  I am noticing a lot of advertising for the benefits of “cleanse” and “detox” diets.  I am not here to lecture you on the benefits and drawbacks to these types of diet plans, but rather to offer you support if you’ve resolved to try any sort of healthier plan for 2014.  Whatever you have chosen, I urge you to educate yourself before moving forward.  Know also that there is no one right answer to better health.  For every unique individual there are specifics which work better for some than others.  A diet plan that makes your best friend look vibrantly healthy might leave you or me with little wind in our sails.  Try, try and try again- be flexible in your commitment to good health and don’t be afraid to try something new toward your goal of health and wellness.

Now that you’ve heard my preamble, I have to let you know that as much as I support you in any of your goals toward good health, I lovingly encourage you to take smaller steps all year long, versus to take on any major diets, detoxes or cleanses which might be unsustainable and will not see you through to lasting health. Support your body with consistent healthy choices all year long.  I would like to offer five easy steps to begin your trek toward lasting health:

1) Up your water intake.  You’ve heard me preach this before, but it bears repeating.  Water is a building block of life.  Don’t like water? You wouldn’t be the first to admit this to me, so I encourage you to get creative.  Try herbal teas hot or cold, water steeped with lemon, ice water or carbonated water with lemon, lime or other fruit.  Hydrate first thing every day- yes, before coffee! Carry a water bottle or thermos with you wherever you go. Notice how you feel as you increase water in your life.

2) Increase leafy greens, especially greens such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage.  Wait- don’t stop reading here! “Cruciferous vegetables contain a number of anti-cancer compounds,” says raw food expert David Wolfe.  He goes on to explain that any other primate on this great earth eats over 100 varieties of plants per year! David wants you to eat raw green veggies- and frankly I do too.  How? Have fun and experiment.  Look for resources on blending green smoothies.  Take it easy at first, a lot of noses are turned up to green drinks, but I promise you that if I can blend smoothies palatable to my children, you can blend these powerful antioxidant-rich power foods to your taste.  Still not convinced? Then ease your way into greens with some creative salads.  Try salads topped with pomegranate seeds and other fruits, sunflower and pumpkin seeds or raw unsalted nuts, herbs, sprouts, artichoke hearts or olives- anything that picks your salad up from lame to lavish.  Know that when you feed your body greens you’re feeding your body life and energy.  Notice how you feel as you add more greens to your plate.

3) Chew.  Ha- you think you’ve got me on this one!  You already do this.  Do it more.  Can you chew each bite of food 50 times? 100 times? In order for us to absorb the nutrients of any of the foods we eat we must begin the process with chewing well.  This is one of the reasons I love smoothies- it helps make the nutrients in the green power foods more available to my body.  However, if you’re like me you do not want to drink all your meals, so notice how much you chew and challenge yourself to do it more.  I hope that this has residual effects for you, too.  It’s about more than chewing, but slowing down and relaxing.  What do you notice during the times you’re not chewing much? What do you notice about how you feel when you try to chew each bite more? Start to pay attention to these little things.

4) Give thought to making some reductions.  Normally I like the idea of adding in.  It’s a powerful thing to see what healthier foods you can bring into your life without stressing over what you should cut out.  Focus on more (good), not less.  That one step alone- adding in healthy things- can change the way you feel, reduce cravings, and help crowd out less healthier food choices.  However, there are some things you might want to give thought to taking in less of and I am only encouraging you to consider it at this point.  What would a day be like with less or none of any of one of the following: meat, dairy, wheat, sugars and sugar substitutes? I am not telling you to lose these things forever, I am simply suggesting you experiment and see what balance feels good to you. Try, try and try again.  Pay attention to how you feel. 

5) Get educated.  Let’s face it, there are countless people out there who want to tell you how to lead your life.  It can be confusing and overwhelming to try to weed out what is best for you when the choices are unlimited.  I have trouble buying socks when the choices are too many! I’m guessing you probably aren’t faced with the same paralyzing sock dilemma, but being human it’s easier to do nothing when faced with too many choices. What can you do to learn more? I suggest reading some books and articles that will give you choices.  Take 10 minutes a day to read a book.  Go online and investigate the PCRM- take their 21-Day challenge http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/kickstart/kickstart-programs.  Watch documentaries such as Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross.  Read more about what interests you. This year I challenge you to read one more book on a healthy subject than you did last year.  How many books will that be for you this year?

Remember, you don’t have to do anything extreme.  Just incorporate new, healthy habits and notice how you feel.  Remember that health is not only about what you eat.  Relationships, spirituality, work, exercise and finances can all contribute to how healthy you feel.  If you find yourself struggling with any of these, consider finding an expert to work with.  Remember that ultimately the answers to what is healthy for you can be found within you, but only if you try and pay attention to how you feel.

I wish you a joyous and healthy 2014 and hope to support you in your journey toward the life you desire! As always, I love to hear about you- what healthy steps work for you and what are you going to try? Leave your comments here or on A Balanced Life's Facebook page.  Best Wishes!

Mary LP
01/02/2014 5:25am

I am eliminating sugar and attempt to eliminate wheat, and add more greens. It will be darn hard but I know that I must.


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    Jennifer Loebel