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The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

Here I will outline what I believe are the four pillars of optimal health — in other words, the four lifestyle factors you can manage to improve your health. These are all based on sound science, to the best of my knowledge.

The four pillars are: nutrition, physical fitness, sleep and stress control. I will cover these four pillars here without going into too much detail. It goes without saying that if you smoke, drink excessively, or do drugs, then diet or exercise are the least of your worries.

1. Nutrition

Optimal nutrition is all about eating real food, not processed crap. The problem is that most people have been misinformed about nutrition their entire lives, so they really have no idea what food is actually healthy.

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Disease-promoting foods that should be avoided include:

  • Added sugar in all its forms, including High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • Refined wheat. This is just as bad as sugar.
  • Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.
  • Seed and vegetable oils should also be avoided.
  • Most highly processed foods: “If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.”

Healthy foods that should be eaten:

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Grass fed/wild caught is better.
  • Vegetables should be eaten every day.
  • Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine for healthy people.
  • Fruits, in moderation.
  • Some grains like oats and white rice may be okay for healthy people.
  • Nuts can be eaten, in moderation. Unroasted nuts are preferred.
  • High-fat dairy like cheese and cream. Grass-fed/pastured is best.
  • Fats and oils such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
  • All sorts of spices, salt is fine in moderation.

People with diabetes should not eat any grains, starches, sugar or fruit (except perhaps berries). Overweight people should eat no more than 100–150 grams of carbs per day, possibly even less if weight loss stalls. A large part of calories should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats. Excess Omega-6 fats should be avoided, and Omega-3 consumption is encouraged.

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Healthy animals should be the primary source of protein. Sedentary people need little while active individuals or athletes need a lot.

2. Physical Fitness

When it comes to physical fitness, there are sports and activities that are more efficient than others, but in my opinion just doing something is critical. If you like walking, walk. If you like swimming, swim. If you like lifting weights, well — you get the idea.

Personally, I think the calories burned during exercise are useless if you are not on a calorie restricted diet and therefore I don’t recommend you think about calories when exercising, try to focus on improving your physical fitness instead. Optimal exercise would involve a combination of strength training, low and high intensity cardio, and stretching, but the key focus should really be on doing something that you enjoy. If you enjoy doing something, it is much more likely that you will stick to it.

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3. Sleep

Sleep is critical for both physical and mental health, and often ignored. It is very important to rule out a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have one.

I have compiled a few tips to improve sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the last 3 hours before bed.
  • Sleep in a room that is completely dark.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping.
  • Dampen your lights about 1–2 hours before bed.
  • Have bright lights in the morning, from the sun if possible.
  • Don’t ingest any caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Take a Magnesium supplement.
  • Exercise regularly.

4. Stress Control

Stress control is also important for physical and mental health, and it is often overlooked. When it comes to stress, avoiding unnecessary obligations is important. In other words, simplifying your life as much as possible can work wonders.

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If you feel obligated to do certain things, ask yourself if they are something you really need to be doing, or if you can delegate to someone else. Also, writing down a schedule to organize your day can be great. Certain supplements like Magnesium and Omega-3 may help, as well as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising. Meditation is very effective too.

Featured photo credit: treehugger via media.treehugger.com

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Jae Berman

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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