Advertising
Advertising

7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health

7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health

Health is wealth – you’ve probably heard that before… and it’s absolutely true. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to enjoy it.

But here’s the thing – living healthy isn’t as difficult as most people think. In fact, with a little nudge in the right direction, healthy living may be one of the easiest things to achieve.

So, in this article, I’ll take you through simple, not so popular, but proven ways of kicking your health up a notch. Let’s get into it.

1. Adopt a Pet

Alright, pets can be scratchy, chewy and downright messy at times, but that’s not all about them. Pets can also save your life… at least so says the experts. “Pets lessen our stress levels, resulting in decreased cortisol production, reduced blood pressure lower risk of heart attack,” says Megan Tieber, DVM and leading pet expert at Tuft+Paw.

But that’s not all – there are so many other science-backed reasons why you should consider owning a pet… especially if healthy living is your goal.

  • Pets can help you stay active. If you lack motivation for exercise, a pet may be all you need. In a particular study, the researchers found that almost half of dog-owners effectively exercised for half an hour each day for at least five days a week. [1] That’s 150 hours of exercise per week… exactly what the CDC recommends![2]
  • Pets can help to fight depression. Depression isn’t a good thing and no one should have to go through it! The good news is that pets can help. According to a study conducted on college students going through depression, there was a 60% reduction in depression symptoms after the participants spent a few hours with a therapy dog. In an Australian study, cat owners reported better psychological health than non-pet folks. [3] What’s more — studies have also shown that cats can help to improve the physical and mental health of kids.[4]
  • Pets can keep you away from the doctor’s office. Believe it or not… it’s true. According to an Australian study conducted on dog owners, it was observed that dog owners had 15 % fewer visits to the doctor that folks who owned no pets.[5] Make of that what you will.

2. Start a Garden

You probably didn’t think you could improve your health by getting your hands into the mud… but as far as scientific evidence goes, gardening can actually benefit your health on so many levels.[6] Here’s how.

Advertising

  • It exposes you to vitamin D. Remember vitamin D… you know, the sunshine vitamin? Well, as it turns out, gardening (outdoors, that is) can help you get an ample amount of this important vitamin. Among other things, vitamin D helps to strengthen the bones and immune system.
  • It’s a great form of exercise. If you want to work out without even being conscious of it, then all you need is gardening. Gardening is a nice form of aerobic exercise that gets you breaking a sweat without even paying attention. The various moves involved, such as bending, twisting, squatting all work various muscle groups and help to improve stamina and flexibility.
  • It can help to fight loneliness. Gardening can have a huge impact on mental health. In many occasions, people who keep a garden have reported improved mood. Furthermore, community gardens can offer a unique opportunity for socialization, especially in seniors.
  • It lowers the risk of dementia. According to a 16-year long study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, physical activity, particularly gardening can help to reduce the risk of dementia. [7]

3. Break up with Belly Fat

Sorry to burst your bubble buddy… but if you want to live a long, healthy life, you absolutely need to get rid of excess body fat… especially belly fat. But why is belly fat such a big deal? Well, let’s just say it does way more harm than puncturing your swagger and social acceptability.

Among other things, belly fat accumulates around your internal organs and this has been linked to various metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.[8] And that is really not good.

The easiest way to know you have excess belly fat is by monitoring your waistline. Usually, a waistline that exceeds 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is considered abdominal obesity. And this is a better indicator than weighing scales.

Okay, enough of talk! How can you get rid of belly fat? Let’s take a look:

  • Juice up with detox teas. I know this sounds nonsensical but hear me out. Weight loss teas – or detox teas as they’re sometimes referred to – benefit the body in so many ways… including weight loss. For instance, studies have shown that green tea can help you to lose a significant amount of weight within a short period of time.[9] However, if you’re shopping for weight-loss teas, make sure you do your research and read other people’s reviews before spending a dime… trust me, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches down the line.
  • Get rid of sugar. Okay, listen up – if you don’t let go of excess sugar (and sugary stuff), all your weight loss efforts will be in vain! Sugary drinks are particularly easy to abuse. Studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of obesity in children by 60 percent.[10]
  • Eat more proteins. Did you know that proteins can help you lose weight? Well, it can! In fact, it is one of the most important macronutrients that can help you in this regard. So if you want to lose weight and keep the weight off, then stuff your plate with proteins and cut out the carbs. [11]
  • Exercise more. Okay, if you’re really serious about losing abdominal fat, then you need to exercise… no matter how little. Now, I’m not talking about abdominal exercises – those simply don’t work! To lose abdominal fat, focus more on cardio exercises like walking, running and swimming… these are way more effective.

4. Sleep Sleep Sleep!

So, you’ve probably heard how sleep is so important for brain health and productivity, right? Well, it’s true! There is no substitute for quality sleep when it comes to maintaining good health.

Apart from messing up your brain chemistry, sleep deprivation can distort your appetite, increase stress, induce insulin resistance and increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.[12] And that’s really nasty.

Advertising

So, whatever you do, no matter how busy you are, don’t substitute anything for a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Have trouble sleeping? No worries… I’ve got you covered. Here are a few things to try for a better night’s sleep

  • Stay away from electronic gadgets close to 1-2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by smartphones, computers, and TV has been shown to affect sleep quality.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime. It allows your internal clock to function properly and release the sleep hormone (melatonin) when you need it.
  • Take a warm bath before going to bed. It helps to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
  • Take a melatonin supplement.[13] It is a natural sleeping aid that works effectively with your body to improve sleep quality.

5. Ditch the Diet… Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle Instead

Diets. Don’t. Work.

It’s that simple. Sure, any form of dietary restriction that results in taking significantly fewer calories will help you lose some weight in the short term. But in the long term, most diets just fall like a pack of cards! In fact, dieting can even predispose you to future weight gain.

So, what should you do? Well, instead of focusing all your attention on this diet or that diet, why not just make positive lifestyle changes. Take a daily walk to the park, slot in a tape and dance around the house when cleaning or cooking, ditch the cheap McDonalds doughnuts and eat fresh fruits and veggies instead.

These seemingly simple lifestyle changes are way more effective and easier to maintain in the long-term than a restrictive diet. However, what you eat really matters too. If you really want to be healthy, you need to ditch refined junk foods and switch to clean, whole foods instead.

Nuts are particularly helpful. So, if you need a healthy snack to keep your mouth busy, without endangering your waistline, roasted almonds may be all you need.

Advertising

6. Eat More Eggs

Okay, so you’ve probably heard how eggs ad saturated fat are bad for health. Well, that is just nonsense. Eggs are so nutritious that they are sometimes even referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.”

Eggs are usually discriminated against because of their high cholesterol content. But guess what – studies have shown that this has no effect on blood cholesterol in most people.[14]

What’s more? In another study involving over 260k participants, it was observed that egg intake had absolutely no association with the risk of heart disease. [15] What more do you need, right?

7. Take Care of Your Gut

Okay, listen up – the pillars of your health are founded in your gut! Almost every imaginable health condition originates from a problem in the gut. But how’s that even possible?

Well, as it so happens, the gut is home to millions of bacteria… referred to as the microbiome. And these bacteria hold the key to your ability to adequately digest and utilize food, immune response and a host of other important stuff.

Interestingly bad lifestyle choices like eating junk foods, stressing yourself excessively and sleep deprivation and excessive antibiotic use can all have a negative impact on your microbiome. So, what happens when you piss off the bacteria in your gut?

Advertising

Well in most cases, your metabolism gets affected and you gain weight. But in darker cases, the immune system gets compromised and that opens the door to various diseases.

Okay, enough with the doomsday talk. How can you take care of your gut to avoid all these nasty stuff? Here’s a low down:

  • Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber serves as food to the bacteria and it can also help to mediate the proper passage of food along the gut. High fiber foods include popcorn, oats, almonds, carrots and chia seeds.
  • Eat slowly. It will aid proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, which promotes gut health.
  • Take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are supplements containing good bacteria that can help to promote the balance of the microbiome. Just be careful and ensure you get the right one.
  • Drink more water. The good bacteria love it. It also helps to keep the lining of the intestines nice and healthy.

The Bottom Line

Living healthy isn’t as hard as most people would have you believe. Sometimes, it comes down to the simple, overlooked things. However, your health goals will remain an ever-disappearing mirage if no action is taken.

So, get off your butt and get to work. Go on… plant a garden, adopt a pet, eat some eggs, hit the mattress, walk around, drink some weight-loss tea, make some changes in your pantry… just do something. And it doesn’t need to be a big step… start at your own pace. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

One thing is certain though – you can achieve your health goals… with a little work, of course. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: The impact of dog walking on leisure-time physical activity: results from a population-based survey of Michigan adults.
[2] CDC: Physical Activity Basics
[3] TendfOnline: Psychological Health in a Population of Australian Cat Owners
[4] Research Repository St Andrew: Quality of Life and adolescents’ communication with their significant others (mother, father and best friend) in adolescents: The mediating effect of attachment to pets.
[5] Informit: Pet Ownership is Good for Your Health and Saves Public Expenditure Too: Australian and German Longitudinal Evidence
[6] The Daily Gardener: Gardening Benefits: What You Should Know?
[7] NCBI: Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly
[8] NCBI: Ratio of visceral‐to‐subcutaneous fat area predicts cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes
[9] NCBI: Effectiveness of green tea on weight reduction in obese Thais: A randomized, controlled trial.
[10] Science Direct: Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis
[11] NCBI: The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance.
[12] NCBI: Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults
[13] Nootropics Resources: Melatonin: Everything You Need To Know About the Natural Sleeping Pill
[14] NCBI: Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations.
[15] BMJ: Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

More by this author

Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

10 Best Healthy and Natural Weight Loss Supplements 5 Killer Stomach Workouts for Impressive Abs and Core 7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health How to Sleep for Improved Health and Productivity How to Start Eating Healthy No Matter How Old You Are

Trending in Health

1 Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack) 2 8 Best Teas for Weight Loss and Fat Burning 3 The Effects of Stress on Your Body And Mind (You Never Knew) 4 7 Signs You’re Burnt out (And How to Bounce Back) 5 How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

Advertising

My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

Advertising

You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

Advertising

This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

Advertising

Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

More About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next