Smoothie cleanses, veggie juice fasts, green coffee bean extract, essential oils, OH MY! If you watch TV or spend any time at all on Facebook or other social media, you are bombarded day in and day out with enticing and alluring quick fix products and methods touting that they will overhaul everything that ails you in two weeks or less! No other changes needed! Easy Peasy! Today I want to let you in on a little secret – there is no quick fix or magic pill out there…
I’d like to say that this is a recent phenomenon that we can all blame on Dr. Oz (1), however, if fixing a lifetime of ailments was as easy as a magic pill or potion, we could just treat “as seen on TV” sales pitches as gospel, and render ourselves a nation of unmistakably healthy individuals. Right? Unfortunately, the so-called Snake Oil Salesmen have been around since the 1800’s, originating around the time of Chinese immigration during the building of the transcontinental railroad. The Chinese brought actual Chinese Water Snake Oil with them as a remedy for inflammation after a hard days work on the rails (2). Funny thing is that the antidote actually worked – some think it may be due to the high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids in that type of snake oil. By the late 1800’s, someone tried to copy this by peddling “rattlesnake oil” that didn’t even contain any oil from an actual rattlesnake – and the Snake Oil Salesman was born!
Why do you think the Snake Oil Salesman persona still strongly persists well into the 21st Century? I think most people are so apt to fall for all the quick fixes and magic pills touted on TV and the internet because in reality, they are very busy people. Full time jobs (sometimes more than one), kids, pets, after-school activities, organized sports, the latest episode of Scandal – you name it and most people are doing it. People get in the habit of thinking they don’t have time to make lasting changes, so if they could just spend the money to take a pill or do a diet for 14 days, all would be well.
Unfortunately, I’m here to let you know the bottom line – THERE IS NO QUICK FIX. I can tell you from personal experience and experimentation, the only way to optimal health and improved body composition is to make lasting changes to your diet and lifestyle. These changes don’t even need to be drastic – like following a strict Paleo Diet (3) – and they can be incremental changes, in other words, baby steps.
In my clinical experience, many chronic conditions such as blood sugar dysregulation (like Type II Diabetes), obesity and digestive distress can be helped or eliminated by a few simple changes. Now mind you, I said simple, I didn’t say easy.
Eliminate grains and most natural and artificial sweeteners
By excluding these two food groups, you take out most of the processed foods on the market today. Start slow – take out artificial sweeteners one week, natural added sugars the next and grains the week after that.
Eat a real food diet
If you’ve tackled the step above, you are well on your way. Real food diet means primarily eating quality meat, a rainbow array of vegetables, healthy fats, some starch, seasonal fruit, nuts and seeds, and a mindfully small amount of sugar. This means you must get into the kitchen and cook! This is where I usually get resistance in the form of whiney voices – “It’s too hard!” or “I don’t have enough time!” The simplest way to go about doing this is to batch cook on weekends. A good friend of mine has a program called 20 Dishes where you can prep and cook a week’s worth of dinners in 60 minutes or less. I also wrote an article called Easy Peasy Meal Planning that walks you through the steps I use to plan all our meals for the week.
I know, I know, I sound like a broken record when it comes to this topic! But I can’t stress enough how life changing this can be. I cover all the benefits of walking in my first post in the series Exercise Smarter Not Harder. If you’re strapped for time, just start with as little as 5 minutes a day and work your way up from there. Take the stairs, park farther away, take a break at work and walk around the building. All those things we’ve been told over the years really work!
Sleep 7-9 hours per night
You will find articles and studies on lack of sleep or chronic sleep deficiency all over the news and internet as of late. I highly recommend the documentary Sleepless in America, which details the life-threatening consequences associated with our nationwide sleep deficiency. The bottom line – a chronic sleep deficit is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure (4) – and you can’t achieve ideal health and longevity without a good night’s rest. Use baby steps for this as well – this week go to bed just a half hour earlier, once you’ve achieved that for a week or so, keep moving your bedtime back until you’re in the 7-9 hour range. You will be surprised at how awesome you feel after a well-rested night!
Like I said…simple steps that might not be easy but let me take a little of the fear out of it for you. My first rule – do not stress about these changes. Stress can negate any of the benefits from the changes you might make. No kidding! Take it one day at a time and one change at a time. If you don’t do it perfectly, that’s okay! I love the quote loosely translated from Voltaire – “Perfect is the enemy of good.” A few steps back is all right as long as you maintain forward progression and be good to yourself. Little by little, these small changes, done one at a time, will become habit and you will be amazed before you are halfway through the list!
What changes have you made to your diet and lifestyle? What tools did you use to help make long lasting changes? Were you amazed at how great you felt?