by Dean Fraser
Our human body is the chosen vehicle we use to travel around this bluey green planet of ours. It is a bit of a no brainer then to take the best possible care of it and give our body the best chance to serve us well until the time to leave.
This section is written from the perspective of more than three decades of direct experience thinking and researching how what I eat affects me; plus, a whole lot of networking with other more qualified dietary experts than myself.
It makes sense that the fewer stresses we put on our physical body and digestive system, by choosing carefully what is taken into it, the easier time it is going to have.
Personally, I have found over the course of the last couple of decades that my own body reacts better to mostly unprocessed food. The more natural my chosen food stuff is, the smaller the list of ingredients listed on any kind of label gracing the packaging, the healthier and happier my body is.
Eating food free from artificial colours, flavour enhancers, e-numbers and preservatives means our digestive system is going to have an easier time coping with it.
Further along the same principal – artificial sugars or indeed too many natural yet highly refined sugars are asking a lot from our bodies to absorb and process these alien intruders that have only really become a part of our daily diet to the extent they are today in the last fifty years or so.
Over-burdening our body and this applies equally to even the healthiest food or drink if we over eat, is putting unnecessary stresses and burdens on our finely tuned digestive system.
Take on heavy fuel – chances are you’re going to get heavy!
I am vegan, occasionally raw vegan (which is eating only uncooked fruits/nuts) and have found it works wonderfully well for me, although I equally accept this lifestyle choice may be considered a little too extreme for some. I have weighed seventy-two kilos, give or take a kilo, for the last two decades and my general health is excellent. I never over-eat; having partaken of a reasonable lunch, I follow it later with a light evening meal. If I snack at all it is going to be on fruit or nuts. I drink plenty of water (but not too much) and get plenty of exercise. If I can’t get out and take a walk (my favourite form of exercise) I enjoy a swim, I also ensure that I take the time to have a 15-20-minute work-out with weights at home every day.
We all have easy access to just about every and any type of possible vitamin, mineral or supplement conceived of or imagined. All we need to do is hit the high street or click a mouse. Yet how many of these vits do we genuinely need to be taking and how many are simply passing through our bodies serving little useful purpose?
During the last twenty years or so I confess, as a health aware vegan, I must have sampled at one time or another pretty much all the myriad of different vitamin and mineral concoctions; the promised goal being to replace the essential elements vegans apparently miss out on through avoiding meat, dairy and fish. Last year deciding it was about time I truly found out where my body was in terms of vits, off I went to my chosen health professional for a complete medical. The pleasing reality was I lacked only vitamin B2, she recommended I take this short term in the form of a high potency supplement and add extra almonds, mushrooms and sesame seeds into my diet for the long-term fix.
The message here is vits are easily obtainable and we can all self-diagnose. If you do genuinely feel you could use some extra vitamins over and above your usual diet, take the time to go and get checked out by a health professional. That way you are going to ensure you are supplementing with something you need short term. Look at what can be added into your diet for the long-term fix.
If you are veggie or vegan, it is almost mandatory to have your B vits checked periodically as a matter of course and for peace of mind. A nicely balanced diet might well leave further supplementation obsolete. The other point to bear in mind here is that our needs are more than likely going to be entirely different during the summer months as opposed to winter; again, if your instinct is suggesting you would benefit from supplementation, a visit to your GP or choice of healthcare professional allows you to know for sure. Facts when it comes to our wellbeing are always preferable to guesswork.
Five a day have become the watchwords when it comes to our intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is a generally recognised standard in order to maintain a natural balance in our diet, although more is always preferable to less and why reach only the bare minimum recommended amount?
Juicing fresh fruit and vegetables is an excellent way of increasing our valuable intake of their beneficial vits and minerals. Pre-packed cartons we can pick up from the supermarket are okay, if there is no other option. To truly get a good balance of nutrients, juicing for ourselves is the way to go. Perfectly serviceable juicers have dropped in price recently, becoming accessible for most budgets and the wonderful thing about juicing for ourselves is we don’t need to add extra preservatives or any of the other stuff commercially produced juice often contains.
For more information about starting out with juicing combinations I recommend the book Juicing for Health by Caroline Wheater or something similar. Or finding a juicing website you can trust the validity of information from.
There’s organic produced food and then there is ethically produced organic food.
Some of the animal waste based organic fertilizers, such as chicken pellet manure, commercially used by growers and directly available to us via garden stores, has been produced as a by-product of factory farming in one form or another. This might be okay for many people; however, with the broader picture of ethics taken into consideration, feeding our plants with the by-product of a brutally “efficient” system of farming can hardly help us to grow happy botanical specimens.
The same applies with pesticides; rather than drenching our food in chemicals, there are more natural ways of doing things. Permaculture is one example, the planting of sympathetic plants to protect one another from likely pests. Using essential oils such as citronella as a repellent to avoid crops being eaten by insects or lavender to discourage weeds are becoming more widespread. There is a wealth of reliable information on the internet from organizations such as The Soil Association and a version of the Organic Consumers Networks exists in one form or another in most countries.
If you are buying most of your foodstuffs in from grocery stores, a little investigation into where their products come from and how they are grown can pay dividends. Alternatively, growing your own fruit and vegetables puts you in control of what products go onto them and happily there is a wealth of ethical organic options out there, either for fertilizing or pest control. We are what we eat…
Many people pay small fortunes in order to self-inflict pollution upon their bodies.
These come in many forms:
1. Smoking, I am a bit of a non-smoker, well okay, I have never felt inclined to even try it. I am all for freedom of choice, mine has been to avoid tobacco. It has been known for certainly all my lifetime that smoking is hardly beneficial to health in any way. On the contrary it can create, as a by-product, its own range of serious problems and issues with the ingested carcinogens. It would be highly presumptuous for me to suggest to every reader of this book they ought to stop smoking, but it would be wise if they did. I believe we are all responsible for our own actions and in the times we live, everyone is aware of the health risks involved in choosing to smoke. If you are doing everything else right and still smoking you are making your body work so much harder to clear the associated toxins
2. Alcohol is often considered fine in moderation, some health experts even going so far as to suggest that a glass of excellent quality organic red wine or pure organic beer is actually beneficial. A rule of thumb is if we avoid overburdening our body with anything that requires a recovery time from eating or drinking we are going to be pretty much on the right track
3. Sugars we have already talked a little about. Sugar has been officially recognized in some countries as being more addictive than some Class A drugs. A typical bottle of some well-known brands of fruit flavoured water can contain the equivalent of up to four and half teaspoons of sugar! It’s not always the obvious places sugars can be found, for example many breakfast cereals have a high sugar content; even a high fruit diet is also a high sugar diet. If we consciously avoid too many sugars and keep this in the forefront of our mind when buying groceries in, we are doing great
4. Junk food isn’t called junk for nothing! An occasional junky indulgence our bodies can cope with. Living off the stuff constantly is, needless to say, pretty self-damaging
5. Deep fried food is recognised by health experts as increasing the likelihood of heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. Again, moderation or avoidance must be the sensible option for all of us
6. Recreational drugs offer a false form of escapism. Far better to live the kind of life where you get high from living your dreams and feel excited to get out bed in the morning to see what the day brings
7. Caffeine, I recently had a detailed conversation with a brain surgeon who stated that neither he or any of his colleagues choose to drink coffee or caffeine rich drinks. Enough said, I would suggest!
I started this section stating people pay small fortunes in order to self-inflict pollution; of course, they pay in far more important, life changing ways, than only spending a little cash. What is the point in thinking big and living success if you are unhealthy or unfit?
EXERCISE IS VITAL FOR ALL
It cannot be overstated how important it is to be fit and healthy in parallel to creating your ideal life. You are clearly going to want to be around to enjoy the fruits of your labours and be fit enough to see your plans through to completion. Comfort Zones will be left behind and there will be days when stress makes itself known…the healthier you are, the easier you will find it to cope and ideally then enjoy the ride!
BODY BREAKDOWN REVERSAL
As your body matures it is usual for it to start losing muscle mass, it being replaced with fat or muscle wastage, resulting in less strength and suppleness.
It doesn’t have to be this way, not at all.
The only reason for this loss of muscle mass is due to a lack of aerobic exercise or put another way – our brain receives the message that we aren’t using our muscles in the way we once did and concludes we must no longer require them. Kick-starting the beginning of the transformational changes in our bodies commonly held to be signs of “old age”.
Yet paradoxically there are many examples of lean and mean octogenarians who are hugely fit and leading the kind of active lives that would put many of their grandchildren to shame.
What is the difference here, what can possibly be their miraculous secret?
In virtually all the cases these individuals have always led active lives and saw no reason to slow down or stop doing what they have always done simply because another birthday passed on by. In other words, they have kept a good high percentage of their muscle mass throughout their life.
GETTING OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN
Exercise is vitally important for maintaining a healthy body and strengthening the immune system’s ability to fend off disease and decay. As I mentioned earlier, your body is the vehicle used to travel around and experience all the wonders of this planet we live upon. Investing in ourselves in terms of eating healthily and partaking of regular exercise is going to be more than worth the investment later down our timeline when we can still run up the stairs and live life to the full.
If you are already pretty fit keep on doing what you do and never be tempted to slacken off just because of another birthday passing by. I have always taken exercise in one form or another. As I mentioned earlier, I decided a short while ago to have a complete medical to ascertain where exactly my body was in terms of my level of overall fitness. Imagine my delight upon being told my results were of the level expected to be achievable had I been a fit twenty-five years old (I am not twenty-five, by the way) and this is not down to any kind of luck, happy coincidence or my genes…it is because I work every day at maintaining my body through sensibly eating combined with plenty of exercise. And you can do precisely the same!
I have spent my time in gyms back in the day and for sure they can be an excellent starting place when venturing into getting fit for perhaps the first time in years. They’ll have qualified instructors to advise you on taking those first steps. It’s vitally important to start gently at first. If you realistically know you are extremely unfit it is definitely wise to consult a health professional before beginning to make changes. Regular gentle exercise is always better than nothing at all and you can always step it up once you start to feel more able. Small steps towards our goals are preferable to none at all every single time!
Many of those who live in urban environments have become completely disassociated from nature. The only nature being encountered is the green blur seen from car or train windows as they rush on by.
Us humans have a deep, you could almost call it primeval, connection to nature that exists right there in our DNA. If we become too disconnected from nature we end up living a kind of zombie-like existence. Wild areas are often regarded as somewhere to fear.
Living 24/7 in completely artificial environments stifles creativity and deadens our intuition. Then the need, if nature is encountered, to take some of this artificial comfort zone out there as well…
I have personally witnessed people walking deep within an ancient tranquil forest, climbing high upon a mountain or even canoeing on a river, while plugged into music through their headphones. Surely part of the point of being in a forest, on a mountain or indeed in a river, is to experience the sounds as well as the sights? It is rather like going to a gig by your favourite band or a classical music concert wearing a motorbike crash helmet; whatever happens, for sure you are only going to get half of the experience! Maybe I am the one missing out here by not taking my music collection with me for a walk, yet I somehow doubt it.
If you live in an urban environment, allow me to make a suggestion and I ask you to at least give it a go.
If you are one of those people who doesn’t usually have the time for nature or perhaps even finds the prospect of exploring wilderness areas scary; how about you take half an hour a couple of times a week to visit your local park? Simply sit and observe. Leave aside the headphones and no sneaky talking or texting on the phone! Look at the trees, the grass and then listen. Hear birdsong? Do the trees make a noise? Rustling poplars or creaking old oaks. Breathe in the scents. How are they different since last time you visited? Soak up the sights, sounds and smells; really feel what it is like to be there.
Slowly, but absolutely surely, your connection to nature will grow stronger and you will find yourself looking forward to these visits to the park. At some point maybe venturing a little further outside your town or city to explore some more untamed nature.
Perhaps you are already very connected to nature and can’t relate in any way to this section so far?
You already live in the country or on the edge of wilderness?
Oh, you can help so many people!
Invite your town or city family and friends to come over to stay with you, as often as possible. Show them your reality and allow them to learn to appreciate the joy of nature through your eyes. Be their guide and show them how beautiful nature is in all her manifestations.
Exercise in nature is my first choice every time. Walking, running or tai chi within a natural setting is far from only taking exercise; it’s wonderfully inspirational. Some of my best ideas have popped into my head way out in the wilderness or in the middle of a deserted ancient Neolithic site; and very rarely in the middle of a busy city!
Extracted from “YOU But Happier, Healthier and More Successful: A guide to making the right choices in life” by Dean Fraser
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