Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

20 Mar

10 Easy Steps to Good Health

The Tuesday 10

It’s easy to get lost in the details – organic or local? wild or farmed? fresh or frozen? – and to me it seems like the majority of health news out there is just obsessing over the minutiae. No wonder we give up and go back to our old habits.

The little things can matter, but on balance, it’s the consistent application of a few simple lifestyle changes that count. Make a few very basic – but significant – healthy changes, and the little things tend to take care of themselves. Or no longer matter so much.

Here are ten simple steps to better health that you can implement, starting right now:

10. No More Rules

First things first: no more worrying about the so-called Holy Grails of Health. Here’s what I’m talking about: Water. Coffee. Breakfast. Sleep. Following the pyramid. Fat. Sunlight. These supposed hard-and-fast rules of health cause more stress than the actual things. How about trusting your body enough to know what’s right for you? You’re up for the challenge, I guarantee it.

9. 90/10 or 10/90?

A lot of us focus on rules, numbers or specific amounts in an attempt to lose weight and feel healthier. We vow to eat a certain number of calories, for example. Even Uncle Sam falls for the magic of numbers (the failed 5-a-day vegetable campaign that is now being retired). But getting healthy is about being healthy. 90% of your regular habits and 10% of healthy habits added to that is just not a recipe for health. It’s got to be the other way around.

8. Eat something green at every meal.

Pretty easy! It should be at least half of the portion size, plate, cup…

7. Absolutely cut out the sodas and sugary drinks.

Yup, they have to go.

6. Don’t eat anything that comes in a box, bag or package.

I’m not talking about a bag of frozen broccoli or a jar of almonds. I’m talking about processed, packaged, preserved foods. This is a big commitment. It is tough. But there is just no way you can be as healthy and fit as you want if you don’t stick to this most of the time. You can cheat (we all do). But keep that 90% in mind. Keep it fresh.

5. Eat meat that isn’t so processed.

Vegetarians don’t have to worry about this too much (unless you’re eating lots of processed mock meats). Fresh, clean, lean chicken and fish is going to do wonders for your health in the long run – you’ll help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sausage, bacon, deli meat, processed meats, on the other hand? Carcinogen special.

4. Eat a salad – every day.

So, I’m a little obsessed with my daily salad. But it’s such a no-brainer! You can even enjoy some goodies on it (nuts, a little cheese, dressing). Who said humans were meant for burritos and sandwiches?

3. Fight stress.

Whether it’s with a run, meditation, yoga, prayer, or a hot bath, find something that makes you feel completely relaxed, and do it a lot. Think of it as your 20-minute love insurance – as in loving your own life! Do this consistently for two weeks – most of us don’t commit to making ourselves feel great on a long-term basis. Try this out, and you will feel flat amazing. It may be the most important thing for your health.

2. Rethink the workouts.

Don’t do it if you even remotely dislike it – you won’t stick with it (who would?). My secret? Just put those sneakers on – that’s literally 90% of the battle. So, don’t think “I have to work out!” Instead, think, “I have to put my shoes on!”

1. Don’t worry.

Most of the stuff circulating in the media is old news with shiny new sprinkles on it. Or it’s based on a press release or a biased study. I’m not saying you should ignore information – by all means, educate yourself. But the general idea with a lot of “news” is to frighten the living daylights out of you so you’ll buy something. You’re doing pretty well, actually. So don’t worry – just keep learning and doing new things. It will all add up.

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19 Mar

Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Is it possible to combine compelling, handy health information with humor? Bees agree: it ain’t no thing! Get clickin’, Apples, and then scoot over to the forum to share your thoughts!

Raising Insurance Rates Everywhere

We know young male drivers get in more auto accidents than anyone. Apparently, it’s all the video games.

Finally, Britain Is Bad at Something!

We might not eat our vegetables, but at least we don’t eat 50% too much salt. Oh, wait, we eat 200% too much. Good grief! Processed food products have got to stop! Salt is in every processed food imaginable. Why? It tastes good, it’s really cheap, and it makes poor-quality ingredients seem more appealing to the taste buds. From salad dressing to burgers, from cheese sauce to pasta, food producers of America are on a relentless mission to turn every body into a giant salt flat.

saltdesert

Gardawind Flickr Photo

Pork: Just Another Meat, Really

Junior Apple Greg wrote in the other day to ask if pork (and ham) is a safe protein bet. While associations of cleanliness don’t extend to our cloven, curly-tailed friends, the truth is that pigs are just as safe as any other meat and the days of pork-borne trichinosis are pretty much gone, thanks to tougher standards for factories farms. Absolute safety of pork (and meat), though, is another issue altogether.

Pork is usually really high in sodium, mainly because so much of the pork people eat comes in processed forms like bacon, sausage, ham and deli meats (and why Mark’s email to the Apples this morning recommended indulging in bacon on an infrequent basis – and make sure to find the lower-fat variety). Even pork loin is often packaged in a saline solution. If you can find organic, low-sodium pork, that’s sayin’ something.

However, the pig farmers of America want you to know that pork is great because, hey, it doesn’t have mad cow disease. Now that’s some marketing. (Imagine the possibilities: “Pork – unlike cheese, it doesn’t melt. Therefore, it’s better.” “Ham – why refill the stapler when you can make a sandwich?” Hey, this is fun! “Pork: Absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China. And therefore better.”) Meanwhile, scientists are attempting to clone pigs that are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. And that concludes our pork dissertation for today.

ham

Boodoo Flickr Photo

Apples, Mark recommends sticking with organic chicken or turkey, fermented tempeh, nuts, and wild cold-water fish.

Web It Out:

Oddity 1: Scientists Create Miniature, Live Hearts
Oddity 2: Why Mark Is Canceling His Subscription to the British Medical Journal

19 Mar

And the Sherlock Award Goes to…

The CDC!

MOTO

Back in 1990, Uncle Sam launched the 5-a-day campaign. I won’t say it’s been a total failure – just a major one (here’s a good analysis). As reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Brightsurf informs us that only a handful of people eat more than a few servings of fruits and vegetables daily (here are the numbers).

I make a point of living on vegetables drenched in healthy fats, with a little protein added in. My diet isn’t really that complicated: simply, I avoid processed foods like the death nuggets that they are.

What I want to get people thinking about is a dietary paradigm shift. This isn’t about adding an extra side of vegetables or substituting fruit for candy. This is about making produce your primary source of energy, of fuel. Vegetables are more than garnish. No amount of antioxidant accessorizing is going to save your health. Accenting with healthy foods – whether it’s adding vitamins to breakfast pastries, minerals to soda, or a scoop of broccoli to alfredo-drenched pasta – is not the same as being healthy.

That’s the real reason Uncle Sam’s 5-a-day target completely misses the mark and is being put out to pasture. Health is not about a magic number (which, by the way, is far too low – we need 7 or 9 servings of produce daily). It’s not about adding. It’s about a lifestyle. And that means a total change, which, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is the hardest part.

Perhaps it’s the misconception that eating fruits and vegetables takes a lot of work. I’ve got two words for that: freezer case.

Web it out:

Then again, maybe it’s all just a terrible conspiracy.

Helpful articles:

Healthy on a Budget

What CAN I eat?

Vegetables that aren’t boring!

Most Popular Posts

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19 Mar

Work Is Weird

A Monday Moment

I just had a funny email exchange with friend and fellow Apple “D” (in case her boss is reading…sheesh). We were catching up on our weekend adventures, and she capped the conversation with “Well, I guess I better stop emailing and get to work. You mean I’m not just here for the free internet?

This is an interesting, if inadvertent, revelation of the problem with work in America today. I’m going to share my thoughts about it, because I think the impact of work on health is sorely overlooked on a lot of health blogs (and that’s what my Monday Moment is all about – plus, it gives you five minutes to slack off). Food and fitness are arguably the most important factors in optimizing our health, but what are we gonna do with that healthy body and mind? We spend most of our time at work, so this is important.

Just who is doing all this blog writing, reading, linking and bookmarking? In a society where IM has become a verb, just how productive are we? (Hmm…wonder what those Bees are up to…)

It’s amazing how blogs and chats and forums are so massively successful in terms of participation. We are a pretty overworked society – no wonder people are IMing (my grammar teacher is turning in her grave right now). No wonder people are signing up for Ambien and Lunesta like it’s candy corn. There’s no time to chill out, chat, and just be.

Entrepreneurs and business brains alike fret over the lack of productivity with workers, but so far, only a few companies get it (“D” hit the nail right on the head). I’m not sure what the source of the problem is, but I’ve got some ideas:

- Literally depressing lighting.

- Too much to do – and too much busy work.

- Face it, work can feel like a prison. Just like school, workers have rules, procedures, and systems to follow. If you need a nap, want to work in a different way, or just have an idea, you might as well be an alien. No wonder people are stressed out and bummed out – they’re micro-managed to death.

- Furniture and space are boring, standardized and offer little privacy.

- Being made to feel like a kid, instead of a man or woman of value.

- Feeling pointless, in short. But when you comment on a blog or join a forum, suddenly, your voice matters. Is it any wonder we’re all talking? We’ve all got something to say!

No wonder people are having a surreptitious blast with the internet. As a business owner myself, I’m baffled by the way things are done in America. Have we forgotten that business is really just people hanging out and doing stuff? (Operative word being people).

And what’s with playing dress-up? I like a fine Italian suit as much as the next man, but there’s something macabre about the whole world of work we create for people. Who designed it this way? And why fight people’s need to hang out, chat, and eventually get around to doing some necessary stuff? The current corporate structure is so discordant with human nature and health needs, and the strange thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

We spend most of our day at work, so shirking a healthy work life is going to be a disaster for your overall health – it’s just a matter of when. If your boss isn’t flexible, tell him (or her) that I said it’s for your health.

In the meantime, here are 5 ridiculously easy, really effective tips for having a productive, healthy, relaxed week:

- First step: Do less to do more. This means learning to say “no”. That’s not a sign of weakness – it’s smart and honest. Another thing: leave at 5. The world won’t fall apart (it won’t), and working smart is more important than working a lot. I admire guys like Seth Godin and Ricardo Semler because they’ve been talking about this issue for years. Eventually it’ll sink in and we’ll all be healthier.

- Second step: Go to bed one hour earlier every night this week, starting tonight. Make sure it’s at the same time.

- Third step: Turn off all PDA’s and phones during lunch and after 5. Period.

- Fourth step: Choose something simple you do daily, and do it differently every day this week. The change in routine shouldn’t add work or be stressful – it should serve to refresh and invigorate you. If you check your email constantly, just check it at a few designated times daily. If you normally eat at your desk, eat at the local Starbucks instead. If you always roll in to work at 9, try 8:30. If you typically communicate with someone via email, pick up the phone instead (I am a big fan of the phone instead of email – I think it connects people and more gets done, which ultimately makes everyone less stressed out). If you typically experience a post-lunch coma every day at 2 and find yourself doing nothing, try “doing nothing” in a better way – try some yoga stretches, do some push-ups, call your spouse to say hi. Oh, and cut down on the carbs, by the way.

- Fifth step: Create your own productivity task plan for the week. Keep it simple – no more than four or five tasks a day (because, like David Allen of Getting Things Done fame explains: every task has its own subset of tasks). Stick to them. You can refine as you get better at it. This will take the stress out of the equation because you’re emptying your brain onto a pad or into a spreadsheet. It’s different from a to-do list, though, because it’s a weekly system that focuses on the most important tasks and organizes them in a productive, effective way. Check out blogs like Zen Habits and Genius Types for great ideas.

You can do this however you like, but the point is that it should make you feel relaxed and give you a sense of accomplishment. If it feels like a task itself, you’re not doing it right. (And make sure your feeling of accomplishment isn’t in creating your weekly system – this is just a tool to actually accomplish what is most important so you feel less chaotic, distracted and stressed out and have more time to cook great food, work out, and live your life. Now that is health.)

19 Mar

The Weekly Health Challenge

Soothe your stress: restrain any road-rage tendencies this week. Put yourself in the other person’s bucket seat. Find a better outlet for any pent-up frustration (it’s amazing how good it can feel to teach a big batch of vegetables a thing or two – chop them up and into the wok they go). If that’s too domestic for you, get outside and go for a run, or pump your favorite music.

Still fuming? Yell about it with a friend until you both start laughing. Channel your anger into humor, amusement, indignation, and positive energy. A little anger is perfectly normal and O.K. – if you express it and use it properly.

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple