What do we REALLY need to be healthy? This question gets asked and answered over and over, and funny enough, the surface answer changes over the decades. We’ve been through the idolizing and the banning of many things when it comes to health, including sugar, carbs, meat, breakfast, dinner, white foods, eggs, different types of exercise, meditation… but if you look beyond all this, there are some foundational things that have stood the test of time.
The solid rocks. The essentials. You can dive very deep in each of these, or you can go through the essentials. Regardless, these are the 5 things that will change your life.
Most people don’t need the deep dive, most people just need to actually commit to these essentials. The fact is that a lot of times we keep trying to go deep, trying to find details… things like macro splits, nutrient timing, optimal training range, sleep supplements, self-help books, life hacks… Those are are less important that this: commit to mastering the essentials. Odds are you won’t ever need to sweat the small stuff.
Before diving in, I want to give you a visual, one you may have even heard of before, but not in this context. Imagine that you have in front of you a container, 5 rocks, some pebbles, sand, and water. The container is the right fit for all of it, there shouldn’t be extra space, and there shouldn’t be overflow. Your role is to put the 5 rocks, the pebbles, the sand and the water in the container.
How much fits in the container is actually determined by what you put in first.
If you start with the water or sand, you will have an overflow. You won’t be able to put all the things in the container. If you start with the pebbles, you’ll fit more in, but still not everything. If you start with the rocks, however… it will ALL fit.
The reason for this is because if you start with the big rocks, they will take up the most space, but there’s a lot of empty space around them. The pebbles will take up some of that empty space, plus some space of their own, the sand and water, however, are what fills up all these empty spaces, but they fill up the cracks, they find a way around the bigger rocks, its not the rocks trying to make space through sand and water, it’s sand and water adjusting to the big rocks.
Ok, that’s all cute, but now what?
Here are the 5 things that are essential to health. This is true no matter your age, your goal, your food allergies or intolerances, your fitness level, your faith or lack of. These things are true no matter what, and these are the 5 solid rocks that impact your health, longevity, and weight management.
None is more important than another for general health, however, you will find that depending on where you are in your life and what your goals are, some get more focus than others. Let’s get to it.
There is no sugar coating this, there is no getting away from it. Our bodies reflect what we do with them and what we put in to them and what we eat MATTERS. You’ve felt this before… maybe you had too much alcohol and the headache, or dry mouth, or hangover were there the next day to be dealt with. Maybe you ate too much at a meal and felt “stuffed”, maybe got the meat sweats, maybe even felt uncomfortable after so much food at once. Maybe you’ve gone on a low calorie diet and after a few days you were completely out of energy and famished. Maybe you’ve found (whether you realize or not) that certain foods make you feel better, give you more energy, while other foods seem to put you in a slump or simply leave you feeling off – and this is different for different people by the way, so don’t go listing a bunch of “bad foods” just yet.
The point is that what we eat matters. As I’ve said multiple times, the bulk of our diet should be whole, minimally processed foods. And by bulk I mean 70-75%. This is for several reasons, including nutritional profile – meaning more fiber, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Also, these foods are generally lower in calories per volume of food, so you eat more and feel satiated. Besides all this, processed foods take less energy to digest than whole foods (check out TEF in this post), not anything absurd, but it adds up over time, meaning that after digestion, your net calories are higher in highly processed foods than whole foods.
Allright, so that’s the first Solid Rock. Nutrition. Master the art of eating minimally processed and whole foods. Eat slowly and mindfully. Learn your body hunger cues. Yes, protein matters, yes, how much you eat matters, but those are pebbles, if you’re eating mostly highly processed foods focusing on protein and calories isn’t going to help you much.
But I don’t like to exercise… But it’s boring… But it’s hard… But… Listen, I hear you. We live in a culture where exercise is always associated with fat loss, being skinny and looking appropriately hot. If those are triggers for you, or if you simply do not have the goal of losing weight… it feels like there’s really no point. I want to tell you why exercise is a Solid Rock, and why it’s something to pay attention to. This information is specifically for women, though some applies to men, the numbers are for females.
Weight bearing, high impact and resistance training improve bone density in women. Given that we start gradually losing bone density after 35yo, this is a solid reason to exercise.
Think of it this way, a 20yo sedentary woman and a 20yo active women have a gap in their abilities, however… the gap between a 60yo sedentary or active woman is MUCH bigger. Strength training will build and maintain strength, muscle mass and bone density, it reduces the risk of injury, reduces joint pain, improves mental health. Start investing in your future self. And start NOW. Doing what? Start by walking and strength training, those are the lottery winners of exercise.
Resistance training can increase muscle mass, which increases your basic metabolism, meaning you burn more calories at rest, it also improves your cellular performance, meaning that your body works better from the inside out.
These are NOT all the benefits of exercise… but I wanted to throw my favourite out there to hopefully inspire you to go get moving. 2-3x/week, for 20-30minutes is enough to reap the benefits. You don’t need to be a gym rat.
That’s not completely accurate… what I really mean emotional health, stress is probably the biggest issue for most people, but it’s not the full story. Your emotional health, which includes your mental health, is important for your general wellbeing, your health, and a big one for me: your relationship with food.
Since food is such a big solid rock, our relationship with food matters. Why do we eat? How do we feel about food? How does food make us feel? Are there foods that bring us positive emotions or thoughts? Are there foods that bring us negative emotions or thoughts?
We often turn to or away from food when our emotions are high. Understanding this and managing this is foundational for our mental and relational health, not to mention the impact it has on our physical health.
Aaaaaaah sleep…. the unsung hero, the underrated tool, the seemingly random thing that makes SUCH a difference in our health. I don’t have huge post on sleep yet, though that’s in the works, but this post has a few points, and there are things scattered around the blog, but let me summarize for you:
Sleep is a Solid Rock because it interferes with our WHOLE BEING. Sleep helps regulate hormones, sleep is when our bodies heal and repair, sleep is when our brain solidifies learning, sleep is when we refuel, sleep is when our body slows down all the big processes that it does when we’re awake and does internal “clean up”. Sleep is powerful.
If you don’t sleep you have a harder time making good decisions, you feel hungrier for comfort food even after you’ve eaten, you feel sluggish and your body doesn’t seem to respond as it should, your mental function is worsened, if losing weight you lose more lean mass than fat mass…
Sleep is a Solid Rock because it’s important. Our bodies were not designed to be working all the time, we need rest, we need repair, we need down time. Sleep is an investment, it’s not a waste.
A few sleep pointers:
– Aim for 7-9h per night
– Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
– Have a calming sleep routine
– Avoid screens 2h before bed
– Avoid eating 2-3h before going to bed (this is not universal, there are many people who don’t feel any different, but it seems to be helpful for most people to avoid eating a few hours before bed)
– Sleep in a dark, cool room
This one is deceptively simple. What you think determines what you believe. What you believe determines how you act. How you act determines your life.
What’s important to you? What do you value? What gives you hope? What inspires you to keep going when things are hard? What do you believe you are capable of? What do you believe you are worth? How do you feel about body size and value? Does the shape of your body interfere with your life and relationships? Does eating a certain way make you feel better or worse about yourself? What does taking care of your body mean to you? Do you believe your body is valuable?
These are just a few of the many questions that can, probably should be asked. What we believe matters. It informs how we act, it informs what we prioritize, it informs the foods we choose to eat and how we move our body.
Do NOT underestimate the power of your faith and your beliefs. Too many people live an unhealthy and unhappy life because their focus is on the wrong thing. What you believe shines a light on your decisions, and gives you direction to make the best choices for your health and weight management.
Allright, that’s it. The Solid Rocks.
All of these have layers… they all have pebbles, sand and water in them, but before you can even look at those layers, you need to master the foundation. To be honest, most people don’t need to go beyond the foundation. Mastering the foundation of each of these areas is enough to give you a healthy life, a body you can be proud to live in, and margin to go beyond weight goals.
Master the majors.
I would love to talk to you about these areas and where you can focus on to get the best results where you are right now. Fill out this 1 minute form to book a free Simplify Your Health Strategy Session with me. Fill out form here.
I hope to hear from you soon!