About 14 minutes of reading time.
How often have you ever said, “If I knew then what I know now, I would ___________”? Four and a half years in this journey of reclaiming my health has taught me MANY things! Information overload can be real and I often go down a deep rabbit hole on various topics. It would have been much easier if I had a good guide to get the results I now have, HOWEVER, there is SO MUCH confusing (and garbage) information out there, even from “authoritative” sources! I’ve covered some of that in other posts, but even some of the stuff that I did that worked wasn’t the best approach, and not only that, some of it was difficult to transition to.
Before we get into this, that featured image just above is of my son “on top of the world” at the Grassy Bald Ridge on the TN/NC border. This image speaks to me and is a representation of the feeling of accomplishing what I have so far.
This post will be an attempt to be a “simple” list of things I would do IF I had to do it all over again. The good thing is this stuff not only applies to heart attack recovery, but making healthier choices without the stigma of it being hard, difficult, or being labeled as the stereotypical “health nut.” I realize that haters will always hate, addicts will always defend their choices, and fans will defend their fad diet or products–so this may not be received well by the masses. I truly hope that it will help make someone’s transition to a healthier lifestyle easier and less confusing.
I have one or more VERY GOOD reasons for almost everything I do and consume. I’m going to try to keep this simple and state the basic reason(s) why. ALL of this is not regurgitated “stuff” on the internet, but THINGS THAT I HAVE PERSONALLY DONE THAT ACTUALLY WORKED WELL. I will link to what I think is good additional information if you wish to further investigate–however please note that I still have some problems with some of this information and not everything should be considered 100% golden information. There are a lot of “yes, but…” scenarios that exist.
10 THINGS TO DO TO GET HEALTHY AGAIN.
- Always ask questions and think!
- Be consistent. Don’t make it “all or nothing.”
- Don’t upset the people you love!
- Eat real, wholesome, nutrient-dense food.
- Rest and sleep well.
- Move as often as possible.
- Get physically stronger.
- Don’t listen to jealous or negative people.
- Only use supplements that are needed.
- Be careful with social media.
1. ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS AND THINK!
I blindly followed a lot of suggestions and guidelines from authoritative sources that actually hindered some of my progress. I could have achieved some things quicker than I did if I knew more back then. Many of which you can find in my Managing Cholesterol article which boils down to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. If your doctor or someone tells/suggests you do something, ask why and discuss! ESPECIALLY if it doesn’t make sense! If the answer confuses you or still doesn’t make sense, RESEARCH it (not just a quick search on google because those immediate question/answer snippets they provide can definitely be junk info) and/or get a second opinion. I try to state “why” when I write about many things and include links for further reading that I think would provide good information to support the statement. There is always other information that can support or debunk a claim, but think logically, especially in your own situation. There are a lot of “and/or” and “yes, but” scenarios that exist. We can’t simply say something like, “Cars are bad because people have car wrecks.” Sadly, this type of simple thinking leads to MANY doctors prescribing medications, ridiculous guidelines set for the whole population, influencers/diet pushers claiming certain things, and “this or that” being considered “good or bad.” We all have the power and capacity to think, learn and evolve to become better.
2. BE CONSISTENT. DON’T MAKE IT ALL OR NOTHING.
This is probably the #1 reason why many people give up early on with any attempt at making positive lifestyle changes. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to make a nearly complete lifestyle change! Some changes are easier than others, but it ends up on the person, the addiction, habit, and longevity of those. Some changes are mental addictions, others are physical addictions, and some are both! The “trick” is to start with one thing and change that. Then after a few days or weeks, while maintaining that change, then implement another. Start with an easier change so you can get that confidence boost.
I did this with some things and sure, I reaped some incredible results; at the expense of upsetting/insulting some people close to me and making it more difficult on myself. With the exception of smoking (I’ll NEVER EVER do that 💩 again!) (or any other drug if you are currently addicted to), then “quit” or the like just means to not regularly do. Here is a great analogy. Drinking a random soda or eating a donut one day won’t make you unhealthy, negate all of your progress, and make you fail. Just like randomly walking 45 minutes or eating a healthy meal one day won’t make you healthy all of a sudden. Consistency is what matters. All things add up over time–good and bad. A soda or cereal every day WILL hinder your health over time. Walking 45 minutes most days of the week WILL make you healthier over time. However, walking every day won’t “cancel out” the soda and/or donuts.
Don’t cheat yourself out of living…
There are no cheat meals or days. Some days are better for your health than others. Make most of the days better.😉
3. DON’T UPSET PEOPLE YOU LOVE!
If you are the only one in your family or circle of friends making these big changes, DO NOT say things that may insult them. I said things to continually convince myself that some foods were not healthy. The problem is that I often said them out loud and of course, people around me heard it all. Things along the lines like, “I don’t eat that garbage” or “That’s junk and non-nutritious” or “That would give me another heart attack” or “I can’t go eat there because it’s not good enough.” If they want to go to a restaurant that you used to go to with them… go, eat and enjoy! You can generally find something you can eat to fit your new ways. If not, oh well… enjoy the meal and realize that IT IS OK! Go home and pop an Omega-3 capsule and call it a day (to offset the more than likely really high pro-inflammatory Omega-6 content.) One “bad” meal won’t make you unhealthy just like one salad will suddenly make you healthy.
This is one thing I would definitely go back and change if I could.
4. EAT REAL, WHOLESOME, NUTRIENT-DENSE FOOD.
Forget about choosing a named diet. They ALL have varying degrees of success AND all have their own drawbacks! Start here as the basis. Nutrients matter the most and are generally more bioavailable in wholesome food than in manufactured products.
Some products can yield great health gains because they are of higher quality than typically what is found in processed foods–however, food PRODUCTS are still heavily processed and manufactured! I achieved EXCELLENT results with high-quality and nutrient-dense food such as wild-caught seafood, pasture-raised poultry, and grass-fed beef. There are several reasons for this, but it comes down to the nutrients. If you truly can’t fit those kinds in your budget, then cooking your own food and using a quality Omega-3 supplement will still be better than fast food and many “health” products.
Organic vegetables and fruits are normally better but are not always the best option. You should always buy organic if getting any of the Dirty Dozen! There are times I choose non-organic over organic. If something isn’t in season, then opt for an organic frozen version of the vegetable. Chances are, there will be more nutrients locked in vs the “fresh” that has spent a few days in transport to your region. I’ll discuss cost another time, but sure pasture-raised eggs are usually double the amount of conventional eggs, however, there are at least 3 times the amount of most of the nutrients; and if you’re an animal lover like I am, those animals live a much better life!
THE BEST WAY TO EAT ANY MEAL is in this order: Fiber (vegetables) first, then Fat & Protein, and finally Carbs and Starch LAST! Regardless of the food you eat, this order will dramatically affect the blood glucose & insulin spikes which affect MANY aspects of your health! Cravings, mood, inflammation, hormone regulation, and more! This will also help you consume fewer carbs!
Be sure to check out the bonus section at the end of this article for more food specifics.
5. REST & SLEEP WELL.
I know this is often easier said than done, but it is IMPERATIVE to rest and sleep! Rest and sleep are when repairs occur within the body. If you have a hard time going to sleep, lay in bed with no distractions and do box breathing such as 4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds exhale, 4 seconds hold, and repeat. A “legs-up-wall” yoga pose is also very relaxing and good to do before going to sleep, plus has many other benefits (and some cautions). I’ve fallen asleep like this many times! 😆 Sometimes I’m just very wound up from a late evening exercise session or had too much chocolate before bed, but it generally works. SLEEP IS SO VERY IMPORTANT AND I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH! (WATCH). Something I recently started doing was not sleeping with the TV on and using blue light-blocking glasses before going to sleep and I must say this is helping my sleep be even better!
Sleep and rest are so important, that if you were in a time crunch and had to choose either exercise or sleep, sleep would be the best choice!
A nap is good if you can slide one in too. If you’re having to nap several times a day, then look at what is causing that–more than likely the glucose rollercoaster effect from carbs!
6. MOVE AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.
Being stationary/sedentary for the bulk of the day can negate the benefits of a single exercise session. DON’T BE SEDENTARY EVEN IF YOU EXERCISE! (WATCH) “They” suggest a minimum of 30 minutes of walking a day. I suggest 45-60 minutes total which can be divided into multiple times a day ESPECIALLY if you have a sedentary job/lifestyle. If you do walk, “walk with a purpose” as my sister puts it. This is a nice brisk walk and you should feel good. Walk outside in the sunshine for added benefits!
Work can make this challenging. I ended up making my desk a standup desk. Well, it’s a big counter because of my setup, but this keeps me standing and I rarely use my chair anymore. I’ll bounce around sometimes, do some squats, calf raises, drop and do some pushups, and just stuff to keep me moving around while working. I have a friend who sits at a desk all day. Her husband got her an under-the-desk cycling machine which is a wonderful idea! She pedals while working. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
7. GET PHYSICALLY STRONGER.
Strength training in any fashion is imperative especially as we age. Muscle weakness leads to many issues, AND strength training has MANY benefits! Find a workout plan that you can do AND enjoy. If you are a runner (I LOVE RUNNING) and do strength on the same day, maximize both disciplines by doing running first and then 6 hours later doing strength (especially if doing legs.) This will maximize the benefits of both and running AFTER strength is not very beneficial.
If all you can do is lift cans of beans, then lift cans of beans until you can move up to dumbells!
I saw something on Instagram that said, “Do the small things savagely well.” Whatever you do, do it well. Consistency is key and it all adds up! I didn’t start out able to do or looking like that image of myself to the right!
In the previous section, I mentioned squats. Imagine doing a 1 rep maximum weight squat. Now imagine that effort trying to get out of a chair. I’ve seen people like that, especially as they get older. DO SQUATS! If you can’t go low, then start them sitting from a chair. I think of squats as training for my elderly years. I don’t want someone having to pull me up off a toilet!
8. DON’T LISTEN TO JEALOUS OR NEGATIVE PEOPLE.
One thing that REALLY got to me was when people would say some things and I would dwell on it. Such as “I want to be skinny like you.” That hit me probably the same as if someone overweight was called “fat” right to their face. I’m lean and fit, and most often, they’re simply jealous. Then there are people that will “make fun” of you for eating healthy. Ok. I will. You can eat sickly then! Why do some people need to criticize people trying to better themselves? Jealousy. They are jealous of others and unhappy with themselves. Who knows, you might end up inspiring them to make a positive change.
9. ONLY USE SUPPLEMENTS THAT ARE NEEDED.
It is easy to fall into the supplement trap. There is NOT a single magic supplement to cure disease! Sure, some supplements can assist in curing a disease ALONG WITH making positive lifestyle changes and removing the things that are detrimental. We can’t expect a curcumin supplement to reduce inflammation if we had a sugary beverage before or after it. I believe that some supplements truly are not needed. Why on earth people supplement Vitamin C is beyond my comprehension. You can get MORE THAN ENOUGH Vitamin C from a wide variety of food! Furthermore, MOST of the time these vitamins taken by capsules don’t even get absorbed and are passed through urine. So you could literally “piss away your money” with many of them.
I take these supplements:
- Omega-3 Capsules (help with HDL & offsets Omega-6 intake especially when I eat out)
- Beetroot Capsules (help with HDL and nitric oxide production; and is a good vasodilator)
- CoQ10 (I’m over 40, take a [very low dose] statin, and it is EXCELLENT for mitochondrial health!)
- Vitamin D3+K2 (This combo is great for removing calcium from the arteries o where it is needed such as bones.)
- Magnesium Complex (Many benefits from sleep, muscle contractions, memory, body processes, raises HDL, and lowers LDL and Triglycerides, plus much more!)
10. BE CAREFUL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA!
DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! The only person you should compare yourself to is YOU. We’re all at various stages in our journeys and have different abilities and capabilities. You will NOT see your progress if you are continually measuring yourself to social media influencers, friends, or others in other fitness/health groups. I see this a lot and it is poison. Don’t measure your results using someone else’s ruler!
Speaking of social media influencers. The problem with many of them is I believe many will push certain information to generate clicks and sales without having a personal experience with what they are “selling.” I like to look at the source of who is providing what information. Is this person regurgitating information or does this person have experience with it? What is their agenda? Are they trying to pull you into their “army of dieteers” or “cult?” Personally, I believe that if someone is making a health claim, then they should prove it with their personal results–including test results!
With that said though, there can be some really good nuggets from many people on social media! There’s nothing wrong with some friendly competition and the like and in fact, can lead to personal growth for all involved IF done right. There’s also a lot of good information from the social media influencers. Just be careful and THINK before implementing what they’re saying and don’t take ANY negativity to heart!!! Remember, the block feature is there for a reason!
Another way to be careful with social media is by posting your stuff.
- Don’t try to convert all of your friends to your new way of life. People will change when they are ready. People ARE watching and they watch everything. 😉
- I was very guilty of this. I appreciate some people for pointing a few things out. You know who you are… thank you. You were right.
- Most people who aren’t into what you’re doing don’t care what you do every day. Don’t spam your normal feed with every. single. activity. Post it on Strava which is like social media for fitness where your active friends are and save the notable fitness achievements for the other social media where everyone else is.
- If you post your activities with maps, HIDE the start and end points if you start from and end from where you live! This can be done in your privacy settings for whatever app you’re using. Remember people are watching. You don’t want bad people to know your routines or where you live! Yes, they are out there watching!
The biggest thing of all about social media is LIMIT YOUR TIME ON IT!
BONUS! SPECIFIC FOOD PRACTICES
There are specific reasons why for these items, but again I’m going to keep it as simplified as I can for this article.
- Don’t regularly consume heavily processed food products and fried foods. If you can, eliminate them.
- Don’t consume oils. You can’t really avoid these in restaurants, but a meal with them won’t kill progress.
- Don’t regularly consume much sugar, alternative sugars, or grains. Products made with flour should be considered as grain.
- DO NOT go for the “low fat” food products!
- Don’t get caught up in the “organic” craze for every. single. food. Definitely buy organic for the “dirty dozen” items!
- Don’t think breakfast needs to be “full-o-carbs.” I like my oatmeal, but it isn’t for breakfast anymore. Also, don’t think you must have breakfast in the morning. You can wait to eat your first meal many hours after waking up. The items matter a lot though, so make it predominately fat and protein and eat that first.
- Don’t overcook food or use high heat for too long. High heat will oxidize fat & dietary cholesterol and THIS is what can be detrimental… BTW, I no longer regularly grill food. Note, saturated fat is more resistant to oxidation than non! Don’t fall for “high smoke point oils” either. Refer back to the second bullet point.
- Don’t regularly make a meal from ANY kind of shake, including homemade smoothies. Chew your food. Drink your water. Drinking a shake or smoothie could be better than most fast food though.
- Whatever meal is eaten, eat it in this order: Fiber/Veg > Fat/Protein > Carb/Starch.
- My typical breakfast is eaten in his order: Eggs, Bacon, Strawberries, then Blueberries.
- This controls glucose/insulin spikes which set off a cascade of adverse events…
- The first meal of the day should include mostly fat and protein with only a few carbs from foods such as berries.
- This will allow you to stay full longer throughout the day without the need to snack. You may find yourself not needing lunch on many days too! DO NOT EAT CEREAL, PASTRIES, ETC FOR BREAKFAST!
- Same concept as the above point.
- Prepare meals at home as much as possible. Batch cooking for the week helps.
- Eat nutrient-dense, wholesome foods as much as possible. I call this “Eating Clean.“
- Go for grass-fed / pasture-raised / wild-caught animal foods as often as possible. IF not available, then take an Omega-3 capsule around the time of consumption to offset the Omega-6 concentrations of grain-fed feedlot animals.
- Use grass-fed butter for all cooking when traditionally needing fat. IF it needs to be “clear” or used in higher heat, then use grass-fed ghee. ZERO OILS! Warmed up ghee just enough to be liquified, works great with lemon juice or vinegar for a salad!
- Keep daily carbohydrate consumption to 25% or so. (Yes, runners, this CAN work well!)
- Use 100% Monkfruit Extract instead of sugar.
- Consume fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, full-fat grass-fed yogurt, kefir, etc. It’s excellent for your gut microbiome!
- Eat lots of berries such as organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Enjoy some DARK chocolate with low or no sugar content.
- Utilize 100% coconut BUTTER for “creamy” sauces when cooking for some body and extra punch of nutrients. It’s great for seafood and chicken!
- Vacuum seal ALL meats to be stored in the freezer. Air oxidizes fat and dietary cholesterol…
- Salt food to taste with WHOLE salt
- Use black pepper as much as possible! It helps with the absorption of nutrients and is pretty powerful in itself!
- Check out this handy battery-operated salt and pepper grinder set! Very convenient!
- Enjoy and be thankful for every meal.
It shouldn’t be difficult to get healthier.
That is a lot of information, but it’s pretty simple once you step back and think about it. I could add several more things but I feel the above would have made it easier had I known all of it starting out. Even at that, don’t try to do everything at once! Remember, it took YEARS to reach your current condition, it won’t reverse in a few days or a month or two. Do know that some changes will yield some pretty significant short-term gains. Cutting out / dramatically reducing sugars and junk carbs WILL return very positive results in a relatively short time. Toss out the oils, and that should be compounded. Oh yeah, eat your meals in the Fiber/Veg > Fat/Protein > Carb/Starch order!
One final note, don’t get so hung up on test results! Most represent a snapshot of the moment that the test was taken. For instance, strenuous activity leading up to a blood test can negatively affect the results! My LDL shot up after a heat training run while going through some pretty tough muscle soreness of a difficult strength training activity. Speaking of LDL, don’t think you have “good or bad cholesterol” based on a simple & basic cholesterol test! The only good thing that can come from that test is the ratios. Calculate Cholesterol Ratios Easy! Learn why in this article of what I learned about cholesterol. Get an NMR lipo-profile cholesterol test even if you think you have good cholesterol. You may be surprised at the results.
Keep it all simple. Tackle one thing at a time. Reach out to me if you have any questions or need a buddy! Having a friend in your corner who has gone through this will help a lot! I’m truly blessed by the friends and family who support me in my journey.
Eat clean. Get Sweaty. Rest. Live Well!
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