Imagine your immune system in peak condition, protecting you from illness and disease.
How would it feel to look in the mirror and see yourself at your ideal weight?
This can be much more than an exercise in imagination.
You can experience this level of fitness and the profound sense of well-being that comes with it -- and you can accomplish it this year.
Not only that . . . you can do it while still eating foods that you enjoy and engaging in exercise that brings you pleasure.
Here are 10 things you should do to make this the healthiest year of your life. Make these choices a habit and you'll feel the difference within days. Within a week, you'll see the difference. And within a few months, you will find yourself staring in the mirror at a vision of health and fitness.
1. Drink plenty of pure water.
Drinking enough water strengthens the immune system, promotes weight loss, improves the skin, and carries waste from the body. Drink a quart of water each day for every 50 pounds of body weight. Drink spring water from a trusted source or tap water that has been filtered to remove chlorine, lead, and fluoride.
2. Increase your physical activity.
Many of the diseases we are prone to are the result of a sedentary (see "Word to the Wise," below) lifestyle as well as an unhealthy diet. Your body is meant to be used and will quickly deteriorate if it's not. Physical activity should be as high a priority as eating and sleeping. Do the things you enjoy, but be sure to engage in some form of aerobic exercise at least five days a week and some form of resistance exercise at least two or three times per week.
3. Limit your carbohydrate intake.
Learn about the glycemic index and avoid carbohydrates that are too high on it. This includes potatoes, corn, grain products, baked goods, sugars, and other sweets. Stick to low- and mid-range glycemic-index foods, such as non-starchy vegetables, greens, nuts, berries, beans, and fruits.
4. Consume good sources of natural fats.
Completely avoid any products made with hydrogenated oils. Start reading the ingredients on the labels of the foods you eat. You'll be surprised at where these "artery bombs" are hiding. Replace vegetable oils with olive oil and organic unrefined coconut oil. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats found in fish oil, grass-fed meat, walnuts, olives, organic eggs, and flaxseeds.
5. Eat protein at every meal.
Your body needs protein every day. A lack of protein sends your brain the signal that food is scarce and prompts the body to protect itself from this "famine" by storing excess fat. If you're a vegetarian, rice protein powder is an excellent source of pure protein with no carbohydrates to raise insulin levels. Also consider spirulina, a microalgae that is 60% protein.
6. Eat a natural diet.
Whenever possible, insist on organic fruits, vegetables, and berries. Organic produce is more nutritious, free of harmful pesticides, and it even tastes better than conventional produce. Don't believe it? Have you ever eaten a perfect home-grown tomato? If so, compare that with the taste of a mass-produced tomato that looks beautiful but tastes like a rubber ball. Also, choose grass-fed meats, organic eggs and poultry, and wild-caught fish known to be free of contaminants.
7. Eliminate artificial sweeteners.
As bad as sugar can be, artificial sweeteners are worse. The worst offender is aspartame, marketed as Nutrasweet or Equal. It has been responsible for more adverse reactions reported to the FDA than all other foods and additives combined. It has been linked to tumors, seizures, headaches, altered brain function, chronic fatigue, optic-nerve damage, and a host of other maladies. Avoid Splenda as well. For an all-natural, no-calorie sweetener, use Stevia extract.
8. Get enough rest.
While the body is at rest, your brain organizes memories, muscles are repaired and restored, and the immune system is rejuvenated. The right amount of sleep will boost creativity, improve your mood, and even decrease your chances of obesity. For optimum health, most people need seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
9. Expose your skin to sunlight.
There are numerous health benefits associated with moderate sun exposure -- and despite what you may have heard or read to the contrary, populations with the most exposure to sunlight actually exhibit the lowest rates of cancer. The key is to never allow your skin to burn -- which means that it's generally best to enjoy the sun before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. when UV rays are lower. If your lifestyle does not allow you to be in the sun for a short time each day, consider supplementing with cod liver oil. Among its other outstanding benefits, the cod liver oil will compensate for the vitamin D you may be lacking as a result of not getting enough sun.
10. Take a few sensible supplements.
You should get most of your nutrients from high-quality whole foods, but any nutritional program can be enhanced by supplementing with appropriate vitamins and minerals. In upcoming issues of Early to Rise, we'll be giving you recommendations on supplements that we think you should consider.
The road to total health and wellness is not about making a single decision that will take you to your goal. It is about making many small decisions every day. Decisions that become habits. Habits that lead to success.
It's about taking a few minutes a day to plan what to eat and when to exercise.
It's about choosing a bottle of water when your mouth is craving a soft drink.
It's about sitting down to a salad when you're tempted to snack on chips.
It's about going out for a 30-minute jog instead of hitting the couch after work.
It's about waking up an hour earlier to get in a workout before you start your day.
If you commit to making these small, positive decisions and following the plan laid out above, you will very quickly begin to experience changes in your life.
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