Being healthy is so much more than NOT eating animal products.
Rather than a list of what healthy people don’t do, I want to give you a list of what healthy people do do. Many people switch over to a vegan diet and think they are protected from illness and guaranteed good health because they aren’t eating meat or milk, yet they are consuming very little of anything that is fresh, raw, or whole (potato chips, soda, french fries, and boca burgers are all examples of things that are vegan but not necessarily wise food choices to make on a regular basis).
I think it would be ideal if everyone ate essentially a plant-based diet.
However, I am realistic, and I know that not everyone will choose to be vegan. That’s fine. You can still achieve great health through abiding by some essential principles. I have studied and have tried to find out what it means to experience and have a true sense of health and wellness (not the fad diets or gimmicky health-in-a-bottle supplemental programs) through observation of people who experience it as well as reading as much as I have been able to get my hands on.
The following, is what I have come up with so far. This is certainly not a set in stone, all-comprehensive list:
If you are “healthy” you
1. Are long (good posture, healthy spine), lean (maintain a weight that is within a “healthy” range for your age, height & gender) and strong (you have lean muscle mass and are able to lift reasonably heavy objects), your heart is strong (you are able to do a strong cardio workout, running, for example, for 30-45 minutes without stopping and not feeling winded or wiped out).
2. You have regular waste elimination (having bowel movements daily, ideally 1-3 times a day), a sign of proper nutrient absorption, assimilation, and waste elimination.
3. You are generally positive and optimistic about your life, and life in general.
4. You enjoy intimate relationships with family as well as close, meaningful friendships.
5. As a whole, you have plenty of energy to perform day-to-day physical and mental activities.
6. You rarely get sick, if ever. If you do, it’s only about once a year, but the duration is no more than a few days.
7. After you eat, you have more energy than before; you feel light and ready to to go.
8. You don’t suffer from indigestion, heartburn, or constipation. Likewise, you don’t suffer from aches, pains, or feel sluggish, confused, or forgetful.
9. No matter your age, your skin is vibrant and youthful looking, your eyes are clear, your hair and nails strong.
10. You are limber and flexible, you enjoy and want to move your body because you feel strong and light when you do.
11. You don’t suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Now this definition of health may seem unattainable or not realistic to some of you. I am hear to tell you, unless you are dead, there is always something you can do to become a more a healthier you.
Everyone, no matter their age, can enjoy better health by applying these principles that I have found that all healthy people do and have in common, which aren’t all diet related.
These are things that that extremely healthy people DO:
1. They eat foods “closest to the source.”
Here are some examples:
Instead of drinking apple juice concentrate, or canned applesauce, they would eat an apple or make raw applesauce in a blender.
Instead of white bread, they would eat 100% whole wheat bread with no additives or preservatives or sprouted grain bread.
Peanut butter instead of peanut butter cups, bananas instead of banana cream pie, raw peach instead of canned peaches, you get the idea.
Foods closer to the source (think, “whole” foods) have a higher water content, fewer if any preservatives, more fiber, fewer calories, greater amounts and higher quality of vitamins and minerals. Conversely, foods farther from the source are lower in water content, contain more preservatives, less fiber, more calories, ect.
Here is an excerpt from a great book by Wini Linguivi:
I’ve found that women who consider fruit a forbidden food tend to binge on highly processed food. Denying themselves an apple or an orange just doesn’t make sense if they wind up eating a bag of cookies. So if you haven’t been eating fruit, trying having one or two servings a day. I’ll bet your cravings for processed sweets will disappear [...] Try to eat fruit as it came off the tree or vine, fresh and unprocessed. (Lean, Long, & Strong, p. 273)
2. They consume 5-10 servings of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables a day. Juicing and making smoothies are a great way to get in more fresh fruits and veggies.
3. Their diet is very high in fiber (going beyond just the RDA of 25 grams) that come from natural plant sources in food (as opposed to just taking isolated fiber supplements like Metamucil or laxatives) such as cooked or sprouted whole grains and legume.
4. They have a healthy relationship with food. They rarely, if ever, over eat, and generally only eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. They aren’t constantly going on and off diets (yo-yo dieting) or are in a constant cycle of gaining and losing (their weight stays stable).
5. They exercise daily and 6 days a week they do something structured or planned, for an average of an hour. They cross-train and are well-rounded and include cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises as part of their fitness regimens.
6. They severely limit, or completely omit the quantity of animal products, high-fat foods in their diet. If they do eat meat, it’s in small portions, on an infrequent basis (so not with every meal, but rather once a week or once a month, for example), and is usually fish or chicken. This makes the diet extremely low in fats (especially saturated fats which typically raise cholesterol) and cholesterol.
7. They have a spiritual “path” and are connected to something greater than themselves. This is often connected with religious beliefs but is not always synonymous. They pray and meditate on a regular basis.
8. They know how to manage the stress in their lives.
9. They are connected to other people, have a sense of purpose and direction, and are enjoyable people to be around. They are not involved in “toxic,” draining, or abusive relationships.
10. They are grateful and show their gratitude for what they have through serving others, being humble, and cultivating a general attitude for gratitude.
One last thought.
We can all do better, and no one’s perfect. Everyone is at a different place, and it’s important to acknowledge that.
Good health is not a destination. You will never “arrive” there. It’s a constant process that requires vigilance and determination, but is worth all the effort.