Checklist for starting a healthy living program
It can be incredibly overwhelming to "get healthy" or "eat clean," partly because there are so many definitions of what that even means.
Let's talk about science, baby
Every human is bio-individual, meaning they have their own genetic needs combined with their own exposure to the world and microbiome that make their specific health needs completely unique. In other words, what works for others might not work for you and vice versa.
Let’s talk about you and me
Because of that bio-individuality, it wouldn't help for me to give you a checklist of specific foods and products to avoid. Rather, I want to teach you how to learn what YOU NEED!
It might be a little more upfront work, but in the end, you will actually know what works for YOU and your unique needs.
First things first—observe what is actually happening inside out.
Life is so busy that we are not always aware of our daily habits. Maybe we think we have a killer morning routine, but we notice we actually scroll Insta every morning for 20 minutes. Or we might think we eat really healthy but forget about our habitual evening chips and dip and lunchtime candy sneaks. And this is a common one, we think we're eating a ton of vegetables because... well…Salad… but when we write it down we realize we're not hitting the 5 cups a day and could do better.
THEN we listen for our body's signals. Yep, our body definitely talks back!
What symptoms are you feeling? How intense are they and for what duration? Do they happen at certain times or after certain triggers? Is our body consistently craving certain activities or foods? All of these little signals are our body's language, and they can actually tell us what we need if we listen closely.
Now that you are paying closer attention to what goes into your body and how it's responding, you need to educate yourself on what that exactly means.
Pay attention to your sources
Look for sources that cite research, and more importantly, sites that reference systematic reviews. A systematic review is an overarching scientific review of all scientific literature on a specific topic. It is the best way to see what the overall scientific community believes. For example, there might be 30 studies looking at whether apples keep a doctor away. If one study says they do and 29 say they actually increase illness, you don’t want to be listening to the person who read the one study. That could be a scientific error or coincidence that leads you astray.
Seek multiple opinions
If you hear advice that doesn’t sit well with your gut, listen to it! Read about the topic and find other experts to see if they can provide a second opinion that aligns better with your needs.
Read the literature
In addition to studies, there are thousands of books on healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Again, it’s important to understand the author’s credentials and research methodology. Different authors will have different beliefs because not everyone responds well to the same treatment. However, the more you read about different opinions, the more you will understand what you think on the matter and can determine what will work best for you.
Sign up for a course or a challenge!
I offer several courses on going gluten-free and learning about gut health, and also have a few free intros to clean eating challenges. Not exactly what you need? No sweat, personalized coaching might be a better fit for you! That’s where I make a customized plan and education approach just for you.
3. Partner with an Expert
Sometimes working with an expert can get you results faster! Work with a personalized practitioner.
I personally offer health coaching for nutrition and lifestyle medicine with a focus on allergies, gut health, and auto-immune conditions, but love adapting programs to fit your specific needs.
If I am not available or you have different needs, I recommend checking the Institute of Functional Medicine database to find someone who meets your needs! Look for someone with experience with your specific conditions or ailments.
4. Make an approach that works for you!
The easy-does-it incremental approach
For many people, a few tweaks and changes will have you feeling better. Make a plan to make small, easy habitual changes you can stick with. This could be learning a new recipe a week, finding healthier substitutes for cleaning products and beauty products you currently use, or changing one daily habit every month.
The intense healing protocol
I know a lot of people have tried what seems like everything and are struggling to find out what is the true root cause of their issues. For this group of people, it is often best to work on a short-term plan that limits potential triggers to let the body heal and to better identify those triggers. When the body is incredibly inflamed over long time periods, it can be very difficult to understand root causes without a period of restriction such as an elimination diet.
Don’t worry if this is you! An elimination diet seems daunting, but the time goes by so quickly! It’s also so worth it that the outcome is an improved understanding of why those issues arose in the first place and what you can do to heal them. This was the first part of my journey and it saved me in so many ways!
5. Challenge, observe, learn, repeat
Life is a journey and so too will be your health journey. This can be a continual process, one where you will constantly be exposed to new experiences.
The goal is to have the tools to understand how to face your body’s unique challenges in a way that allows you to have fun, live life to the fullest, and feel your best. Really, it's a better normal.