1. Go green for a day. Drink and eat only items that explode with green greatness for a day. Chlorophyll is the pigment in plants that takes credit for the color. Inside your body, chlorophyll floods the bloodstream with oxygen, critical vitamins, minerals, and powerful phytochemicals (phyto = plant) that protect your cells from damage. Think beverages like green tea, green juice, and green smoothies, and foods including green salad, green soup, steamed leafy greens (kale, collard greens, beet greens, spinach, lettuce, bok choy, and broccoli, to name a few). Green up for great health!
2. Bounce. Stimulate your immune system by bringing on some bounce. The lymphatic system is a network of organs, ducts, and vessels that works as a major player in your immune function. Lymph moves through the vessels, eliminating toxins, and dumping them into the bloodstream to be removed. Unlike the circulatory system, there is no heart to pump the fluid through the body. Instead, muscle contractions propel this process. Pump up this activity by flexing or stimulating your muscles. Use a rebounder (mini-trampoline), trampoline, a track, or even a forgiving surface and just gently (or, for the athletically-inclined, moderately) bounce. Any plyometric movement (jumping, jogging, jacks, squat jumps, jump rope, etc.) helps enhance detoxification.
3. Ingestion intermission. Give your digestive tract a mini-vacation each night from the energy-intensive process of digestion and absorption, and allow your body to focus on repair, recovery, and rejuvenation. Stop eating about 3-4 hours before bed and then bring on the meals slowly and gently in the morning. Begin your day with some water (add a squeeze of fresh citrus or herbs, like mint leaves, if you prefer). Then have some tea. Once you begin to feel true physical hunger, enjoy your first solid meal. It should be several hours since your last meal and, in that time between, your cells are detoxified and eager to start anew. Bonus: the food you first eat will taste even better!
4. Eliminate artificial sweeteners. This includes stevia, sugar alcohols, and the stuff in brightly colored packets at restaurants. They are designed to be hundreds- to thousands of times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). Replacing sugar with these products increases sweet cravings, confuses your hormones, and most likely helps you keep on or even gain weight. Opt for whole food sweeteners like 100% pure maple syrup, date syrup, date paste, and fruit purees. In three weeks or less, your cravings will subside, your taste buds will recover, and you will notice you are now sensitive to the sweetness of natural foods.
5. Challenge yourself to eat the rainbow every day. Each natural color of the rainbow in foods represents a wide range of phytochemicals. For example, reds, oranges, and yellows contain carotenoids - like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthan - which boost immunity and protect your eyesight, promote glowing skin, and provide cancer-fighting antioxidant power. Blues and purples are rich in anthocyanins that protect your DNA from environmental stress. Bright orange-yellow in spices like turmeric is anti-inflammatory and wound healing. I merely tapped the surface of the greatness of greens in tip #1 above. In addition to the chlorophyll pigment, leafy greens also provide hefty doses of calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. Because the beauty of plants on the outside reveals their secret super strength inside your body, try to eat two servings of every single color (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white) every day to maximize your exposure of the vast variety of benefits. (Note: candy-coated chocolate and other colorful candies do not, unfortunately, offer the same benefits...)
6. Take on three 10-minute intense movement sessions a day. Gain the same benefits from exercising in shorter bouts as if you clumped them altogether. Walk fast, jump rope, climb stairs. Try performing a circuit series of a few exercises in rotation…for example, do 10 pushups, 10 mountain climbers, one-minute held plank, 10 squat jumps, and repeat the series three times. Other activities you can maximize in mini bouts include:
- Run (with your pooch or a friend)
- Do walking lunges across a hallway while holding weights or heavy water bottles
- Exercise with resistance (kettlebells, tubing, your body, weights)
- Workout DVDs or online videos (many mini workouts are now easy to find)
- Dance to your favorite music
- Kickboxing, boxing, or other martial arts practice
7. Drink plenty of clear fluids (water, tea)…but only in between meals. Because cells are composed of mostly water, maintain hydration by sipping fluids throughout the day, especially during and after a workout, or in the heat. Water is best and tea offers health advantages, so opt for those choices over sweetened or calorie-containing beverages. Liquids dilute digestive enzymes, so avoid drinking them within 30 minutes before a meal and about an hour afterwards.
8. Aim for at least 30 grams of fiber a day. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest an intake of 14 grams fiber per 1000 calories consumed daily. Diets high in fiber reduce your risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Fiber keeps you full and lean and sustains steady energy. Foods highest in fiber include all beans, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Here is an example of how easy 50 grams of fiber looks in a 1600 calorie day:
Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal with 1 cup blueberries an ¼ cup walnuts
Lunch: 2 slices whole wheat bread with ½ cup hummus, ½ cup cucumber slices, and ½ cup tomato slices
Dinner: 2 corn tortillas with 1 cup pinto beans, 1 cup brown rice, ½ cup salsa, and ½ cup guacamole
9. Slather your skin safely. Your skin is your largest organ of the body, working to protect your insides from foreign invaders. Slowly switch out all of your skincare (and hair) products so they are free of any harmful chemicals like: phthalates, parabens, PEG, petroleum, triclosan, fragrances, artificial colors, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, sodium methyl sulfate, preservatives, and silicone. Replace them with pure, natural, chemical-free versions to support your skin.
10. Stop counting and start listening. Forget calories, fat grams, and carbohydrates. The more we count, the more confused we get, and it has no benefit to the waistline. Instead, tune into your true signals of hunger and satiety to know when to eat and when you have had enough. If you eat a widely varied, high fiber, whole foods diet, you will get the perfect amount of macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) you need naturally. When you feel hungry: STOP, close your eyes, and ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry? Does an apple sound delicious?” If the answer is “yes,” eat. If not, try curbing your eating by staying out of the kitchen and treating yourself to a non-food reward like:
- Taking a hot bath with a splash of essential oil or salts
- Surfing your favorite websites
- Reading a juicy book
- Searching social media for supportive friends, groups, and inspiration
- Playing good music
- Texting, calling, or emailing someone who makes you feel good