The internet is a rabbit hole. If you are one of the many people with health on your resolution list, you are likely finding the topics of health, fitness and wellness are a conundrum. Trying to find accurate information about health and fitness on the internet is a nightmare. But there are three foundational truths that science has proven that are guaranteed to make you healthier NOW.
1.Simple sugars are bad - There is no two ways about it. Monosaccharides, the simple sugars found in processed foods and that which you may casually sprinkle on your breakfast cereal or morning coffee, has been linked to weight gain, tumors, and diabetes (among other things). Do you have a sweet tooth and think that artificial sweeteners are the answer? Well hold on a hot minute, sugar substitutes like aspartame, Stevia and saccharin may be just as harmful to your health. That said, not all sugars are created equal. There are monosaccharides (like glucose, fructose and galactose), disaccharides (like sucrose, maltose and lactose), and polysaccharides (which are actually just long chains of
monosaccharides, like starch and glucose). Generally speaking, the more developed the cellular level (ie. the longer the chain), the “healthier” the sugar, because it is released more slowly into the blood and energy system (also known as the “glycemic load” for the nutrition nerds out there). That’s why even though a banana and 3 Lindor chocolate balls have the same amount of sugar, the sugar in the banana has a different effect on your body.
The takeaway: Avoid adding processed sugar (white, brown, etc.) or sugar substitutes to your food and avoid buying anything in a package. If you need to add some sweetness to your oatmeal, be an adult and put fruit on it. Do we need to talk about baked goods? I think you get the idea.
2. A sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for an early death – There are various definitions of “sedentary”, however, if you sit at a desk hours on end and then go home and sit on the couch to watch TV before going to bed, you can bet that you fall into this category...even if you work out for 45 minutes every day. In simple terms, if you train your body to be sedentary and operate to meet the “demands” (or lack thereof) of a sedentary lifestyle for 90% of your day, some light to moderate exercise for 1 hour a day (this includes walking to your car, walking your dog, or whatever else you consider activity) out of a 24 hour day will not convince your body to operate otherwise.
The takeaway: Even if you are on some fad diet and are losing weight, if you continue to be sedentary you are doing your body harm. You need to move more. This doesn’t necessarily mean working out at some gym and lifting heavy weights or signing up for a 5k, rather, it means making a conscious effort to get up from your desk every 30 to 60 minutes. Do some light stretches, take the stairs, or pick the printer at the far end of your office. Just plain move more and do it regularly throughout your day.
3. Prolonged stress and inflammation, both mental and physical, is the enemy – What happens when you twist your ankle or bang your shin on the coffee table? You swear, you feel sorry for yourself, and then the area begins to swell. Within 24 hours, the acute response is over and you start the healing process. But when your body experiences stress over time, such as when dealing with workplace bullying, suffering from chronic back pain, or eating inflammatory foods (e.g. sugar), the same logic from that twisted ankle applies but on a much bigger scale, called systemic inflammation. Physically speaking, when we are exposed to systemic inflammation for an extended period, you increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes (as cortisol is known to impact insulin levels), and even cancer. Wondering why you’re not getting as much from your workouts lately? This could be the reason why. And that’s just the physical implications. Psychologically speaking, systemic inflammation can also lead to depression and apathy, which might explain why your motivation to get up and head to the gym has all but vanished.
The takeaway: If you’re experiencing chronic stress (be it physical and/or psychological), you could be sabotaging all of your hard work at the gym and in the kitchen. Do yourself a favour and make sure you address all aspects of your life, i.e. overall health and wellness, not just what you see in the mirror.