I have a little saying: if you’re doing 10 things right, you’re 90 per cent of the way there.
The details are important, of course. Potatoes and broccoli are both vegetables, but the green stuff is a lot better for you. Walking and taking a kick-boxing class are both heart-pumping activities, but you’ll get a lot more out of the class. Knowing the “details” of nutrition and fitness is challenging and rewarding. Knowing the details can also be completely overwhelming at times! Just when you think you “know” something is healthy – low-fat milk, for example – along comes some health expert like yours truly who says, “Bring on the butter!” Thanks, Mark.
Today I’m going to let you in on my little 10/90 rule. If you’re doing the following 10 things, you’re already 90 per cent there. (And by there, I mean on the road to good health for many years to come.) I’m not saying the details aren’t still important – they are. The details often mean the difference between good and great. But the details change. As we continually learn more, we must constantly adjust.
So start with the 10/90.
These are my 10 healthy things, but I’d argue that if you’re doing 10 healthy anythings, you can’t help but come out ahead of the pack. Way ahead! So many people never work out, always eat processed and fast food meals, slurp soda all day and alcohol all night, never get a handle on the stressful factors in their lives, and never deal with negative issues in their lives, either. And that’s the norm.
Try 10 to be 90. (An A- ain’t too shabby.)
10. Move Daily
I work out for 45-60 minutes nearly every day. Whether it’s beach sprints or resistance training, I never skip exercise. To me, the idea of avoiding exercise is like not brushing your teeth. Gross, huh? So is not exercising. The leaner and stronger you get, the better you feel – and the longer you’ll live.
Key point: not only will you live longer, you’ll live longer without disease. The last thing I want is to be 75 on six meds and chained to a walker. So I take major action to avoid that. But even if you get out and walk for 20 minutes, or stretch every morning, some type of daily movement to get your blood flowing and your muscles lively is the right idea. The more, the better, obviously.
9. Drink to Lighten Up
I’m not talking about beer here – although that’s certainly one way to lighten up. I mean liquids that literally purify and lighten you. Water is an obvious one, but I’m not that strict about it. (I swear, I’m really not that hard core. Although I readily admit to having a hard core.*) Some days I have very little water – I just don’t bother with the “rules” of water intake. Drink when you’re thirsty. It seems to work very well for cats and dogs.
I’m also not opposed to caffeine. Coffee and tea are healthy and provide antioxidants. But whatever you do, just avoid the liquids that fatten, depress and numb you (soda, smoothies, juices, milkshakes, cocktails). Drink stuff that’s going to keep you light and refreshed.
8. Eat Green Stuff at Every Meal
I don’t care if it’s broccoli, salad, spinach, brussels sprouts or kale – if you’re eating something green at every single meal, you’re on the right track. Only about 1 in 4 Americans eat anything beside potatoes and ketchup on a daily basis, so if you commit to ruthlessly slaughtering plants as a way of life, you’re going to be healthier than just about everyone. Far more important than how many meals you eat, or when, or how much, is eating green stuff every time. It’s easy to keep calories low and blood sugar in check if you do this.
7. Hey, Meatasaurus: Choose Your Protein Wisely
Clean, lean…cruel? It’s up to you and your personal level of comfort. I recently wrote about the trouble with meat of all kinds. Everyone has to find their own fit when it comes to clean, lean, cruelty-free protein sources, but one thing that applies to everyone is this: avoid processed protein. The backbone of the American diet – bacon, pepperoni, sausage, ham, hamburger meat, deli meat – is also a very effective nail in the coffin. (Note: soy is also a processed protein.) This is by far one of the most important aspects of health. Processed meat and excellent health don’t go together. Ever.
6. Don’t Eat Processed Foods
This could easily be rules 9 through 1. Move daily and avoid processed foods, and you’re literally doing what the vast majority of Americans don’t do.
I always say (along with every self-help guru) that doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. People waste their lives waiting to live. They hope to be healthy, they dream of better bodies, they wish for greater health, they itch for fulfillment. But they don’t make changes. Insanity.
A good rule of thumb is to look around at what people usually do, and do the opposite. Americans eat processed foods. Wanna be healthy? Don’t eat processed foods.
5. Have Fun!
Yesterday I made a quick case for the need to party. It’s vitally important to good health. Go have fun! Cheerful people are healthier. Simply enjoying your life will cover a multitude of forgotten antioxidant smoothies and canceled appointments with the therapist.
4. Love Somebody (you)
Whether it’s a pet, your kids, your spouse, your best friend or your parents, make sure to foster loving, trusting relationships. At the end of your life, what’s more meaningful: knowing you shared love and made the most of life, or sitting around with a big pile of stuff? Take care of your body and your spirit so that you can really make the most of your relationships for years to come. That’s what life is all about, and it’s why we want health to begin with. Love doesn’t hurt, right? Love is the exact opposite of hurt. But we get used to hurting ourselves, and it spreads. There’s very little love anywhere, if you think about it. Look around – most people are hurting, not loving.
If you’re hurting yourself (not loving yourself) by being unhealthy in some way, how can you ever expect to experience love with anyone?
3. Find a Pillow You Can Drool On
I’m not really a big fan of the whole 8 hours of shut-eye rule. What’s more important is the quality of sleep. Invest in a bed and a pillow you look forward to crashing into every night. I’d rather spend 100 bucks on a great pillow than on a pair of jeans. This is one of those things I’d even recommend using a credit card for. Normally, I don’t advocate spending beyond your means, but 6 or 7 hours of quality sleep every night (or 8, if you can) will add years to your life and keep the wrinkles at bay.
2. Be the Boss: Let Things Go
You are in charge of your soul – no one else. How are you going to care for it? One of the most important things you can do to ensure longevity and good health is to trust yourself enough to let things go. (Sounds weird at first, but think about it.)
For one thing, studies actually show that moving on makes you live longer. But “moving on” isn’t about repressing emotions (unhealthy) or playing “tough guy” with yourself (denial). Bad things happen and it takes time to grieve them and work through all sorts of negative emotions. By all means, give yourself all the time you need. You’ll know when it’s time to let go (and don’t beat yourself up if you take longer than others). You’re the boss, after all!
“Fidelity to self” is a maxim I live by (thanks, Marcus Aurelius). Have faith in yourself in all things, and moving on will be possible. In fact, I think that this is the only way to move on and get the most from life. If you give your personal authority over to others – even experts and those with good intentions – it will be much harder to let go and move on.
I believe that many times we “get stuck” in the wake of something negative because we’re not trusting ourselves enough to lead ourselves out of it – we submit that power to someone else. When you make yourself C.E.O., your soul becomes free, and the bad stuff just dissipates in its proper time, as it should. But most people never do this, because it takes a massive leap of faith. We’re conditioned to cheat on ourselves, essentially, by giving our personal authority to others. As the soul dies, so goes the body.
1. Bad stuff happens. Rejoice!
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – was it Nietzsche who first said this? It’s really true. You all know that I am a big believer in reducing stress. Whether from the inflammatory free radicals in processed foods, the pollution and noise in our environment, or the fast-paced nature of our lives, stress is stress. Aging is essentially stress. That said, a little stress is actually good for you. Think of how we prune rosebushes and trees every year, only to see them grow back fuller and stronger. When you get pruned by life, realize that it’s an opportunity to grow. You’ll be stronger for it.
So there you have it. The 10/90 plan for a healthy, long life. It’s not too hard, is it? Move around, eat green stuff, drink liquids, don’t eat processed stuff, have fun, love somebody (start on yourself), spend some quality time with your pillow, be your own boss, and be glad that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
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Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.