The 5 Priorities for Optimal Health
As I wrote in my Instagram post yesterday, you get what you give your body. My relationship with my body has gone through so much throughout my life. Back when I was a competitive figure skater, my health was not my priority— performance and results were. I didn't quite grasp the magnitude of the concept that the body I had then, would be the same body I have in 80 years.
The way I regard my health and body now is vastly different than even two years ago before my surgery, or several years back when I decided to become a trainer and make health and fitness my life. I have much more respect for my body now-- and because of all of my autoimmune issues that forced me to really hone in on how I was treating my body, I've learned so much along the way on how to set my priorities.
All training clients have the same goal, really. Optimal health. Because optimal health equals feeling strong and healthy, feeling fit, and probably looking pretty awesome because they tend to go hand in hand.
When I first explain to them my general hierarchy of priorities from a trainer's perspective for achieving that optimal health, some can be surprised at the ranking order. After all, my title is officially personal trainer/fitness coach-- how on earth did I rank working out so low?!
Because, these priorities for optimal health are like a pyramid. Without the foundation one one thing, you cannot possibly hope to achieve the next level higher successfully. How do you think you're going to train as hard as you are capable, with 5 hours of sleep and crappy quality foods in your body?
It doesn't bother me so much when people complain if they're tired, they're unhappy with their health, or their body feels crappy, because none of us are perfect and we've all been there! HOWEVER, it does drive me bonkers when they do so, but then have the balls to act like the victim and wonder why this is happening to them…when they are the ones who chose to stay up Netflix marathoning til 2am, eating pizza, and drinking a bottle of wine solo. Your daily choices matter.
You know that saying, treat others how you like to be treated? Same goes for your body. Treat it the way you want it to treat you. Fact of the matter is, when you nurture and support your body, it reciprocates. So, how do we make sure we’re prioritizing the things we need for optimal health? I break it down for you right here:
Sleep is THE holy grail of health and fitness. It's the magical time when your body processes all of the work and happenings of your day. Without an adequate 7-8 hours of sleep per night, your body starts to break down with immediate short-term effects as well as contributing to long-term effects. It stalls your fitness progress, increases your appetite for not-great foods, wreaks havoc on your metabolism and hormonal balance, and invites creation of new bad habits like increased caffeine intake and poor nutritional choices. Without proper sleep, the rest of the pyramid falls apart.
FOR MORE ON SLEEP AND MY 3 TIPS ON HOW TO GET THOSE ZZZ'S, check out THIS post.
Water. Tons of it. Many times that we think we are hungry or we're feeling a lag in energy, it's really due to us being dehydrated. Women's bodyweight are usually 45-50% water, Men's are around 50-60% (more natural lean mass). Did you know that if you are even being slightly dehydrated can affect athletic performance up to 25%?
Tip: Use an eco-friendly reusable bottle. I use a 40oz reuseable waterbottle, and make sure to go through at least 2 refills in a day, and a whole 3 if I'm working out that day.
I cannot stress how important it is to get your greens and an adequate amount of veggies in. Your body literally depends on these as your building blocks of vitamins and nutrients. Instead of focusing so much on all the not ideal foods you need to cut out, focus more on ADDING the good stuff in.
C) ULTRA-PROCESSED CARBS/SUGARS
Need I say more? In moderation. Don't you notice that once you start adding in a little sugar to your life, you crave more? It's a never-ending vicious cycle. Also, watch out for the sneaky ways sugar sneaks into your food.
Quite honestly, I really hate fads like juicing, cleanses, detoxes, elimination diets when they are done for the sole purpose of trying to lose weight or better your health. They are a band-aid for a bigger problem. What happens to you when the cleanse/detox ends? Learn sustainable nutritional habits and lay that foundation for yourself. No quick-fix will lead to optimal health, long-term.
Everyone knows I LOOOOOVE coffee. In a big, big, all caps way. But I've learned to really moderate my caffeine intake. Ever notice how you grow more tolerant? Suddenly one cup doesn't have the same effect, and now you need 2 to perk you up? I avoid caffeine after 1pm to not interfere with my sleep cycle, and I like to view coffee as something I enjoy, not that I NEED.
As for alcohol; Everyone seems to have different definitions of "moderate" drinking.
Fact of the matter is, its not about the calories consumed, so much as the aftereffects it has on your body. Dehydration, taxing your organs (hello liver), disrupting quality of sleep, etc. Not exactly in line with optimal health. By all means, I don't advocate abstaining completely unless that is something you personally want, but if you truly desire to lead a healthful life, alcohol isn't really your best friend or advocate when consumed too much.
3. Stress Management
I like to call it stress management, rather than "destressing" or "eliminating stress." So why is this so important? Stress hormones like cortisol can keep your bodyfat levels high (especially in the stomach area), cause issues with sleeping, increased appetite, increased insulin resistance (aka your body doesn't process sugars/carbs well and essentially likes to turn it into fat). Then elevated adrenaline levels can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can be utterly miserable.
4. General Physical Activity
This one is simple and easy. Get moving.
Take the stairs, take a 10 minute break to walk around the block, get up from your desk chair every hour to stretch your legs. Think about riding your bike or walking to work. Play tag with your kiddos. Go do something active for date night. Incorporating movement and encouraging your body to move the way it was built to will lead to a healthier body and mind.
5. Working Out
I mean, I can't sing enough praises about getting your butt to the gym or running or dancing or whatever your heart desires to get your sweat on. It's truly such a rewarding thing to learn how to train and see how capable you and your body are, and how strong you can be. I could go into the boring science about it, but I think we are all on the same page here that there are really no downsides to working out.
The only repercussions that you might have is a better butt, stronger legs and arms, and more confidence 😊