If you’re anything like me and I’ll bet you are, just the words diet and exercise bring up a whole bunch of confusion. If we were to only pay attention to what consumer media says about these things it’s quite clear, confusion is reasonable.
Often people will ask me why I got so interested in these topics and the answer is always: Because I had to. I had to find a way of life that supported my long-term sobriety and my left handed, right brained approach to life–and I have. A way of life in the diet and exercise departments that continues to evolve and improve and one that keeps me passionate and thriving.
Through the years via trial and error and relentless research I have found some basic, common ground truths about diet and exercise that anyone interested can apply–especially recovering folks, (and practice members at Recovery Health Care DO apply these principles very successfully).
An interesting twist is that these practices turn out to be anchored–and continue to be validated and supported by the cutting edge, evidence based journals. Why? Because our genetic blueprint is programmed for health and my own genetic makeup found its way back toward optimal expression. Wisdom of the mind-body? You bet.
Certainly, “your mileage may vary” and each of us needs to find our own, fine-tuned balance in these areas.
So how about a check list where the bottom line is, keep it super simple? Let’s start with food.
Diet – Minimize inflammation and insulin producing foods and maximize nutrient dense, energy efficient and immune system strengthening foods. Strive toward organic or–pesticide, hormone, antibiotic free foods–and it looks like this:
- Grains: minimize to none, difficult at first, but HUGE payoffs – got chronic symptoms? lose ‘em slowly, but surely
- Sugar: minimize to none, sugar is 4 times more addictive than cocaine and awful for our bodies
- Processed foods: minimize to none – I just try to avoid poison these days…
- No kiddin': and the above three take care of 80% of the problem, so easy-does-it because: You Can Do It
- Meat: grass fed, not grain fed
- Foul: chicken, turkey, duck, hen
- Fish: wild, not farm raised
- Vegetables: in abundance, preferably raw and not fried
- Legumes: minimize – difficult to digest and by-products not so hot
- Dairy: maybe – grass fed if tolerable
- Fruit: seasonal, local and fruit has a high sugar content, so easy-does-it
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil – lose the rest
- Nuts: macadamia, almonds – sparingly
- Tubers: sweet potatoes and yams
- Coffee: maybe and look into Bullet Proof Coffee…do some experimenting if you’re a coffee drinker with no intention of quitting
- Water: pure and plentiful - and filtered if tap water
- Supplements: da basics – fish oil, multivitamin, multimineral, antioxidant, vitamin D, probiotics
Tips – You can “up regulate” your genes to enjoy these very often, life saving changes. It will take time. You’ll see/feel significant changes in 30 days, but give it 90–days minimally and of course, one day at a time. Add what’s good and let the not-so-good fall away. Eat when you’re hungry to a place just before you feel, “full” and don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Duh, that. Try it, you’ll like it. Added bonus: Your ideal weight will normalize naturally–this, I guarantee.
Exercise – More good news: Research reveals “less is more” however, our bodies were built to move. Moving improves everything including brain function. Great news for those of us with the brain disorder of addiction. Bottom line is spending hours in the gym is no longer necessary or healthy, but doing something most days is the ticket. Here are the basics:
- Move frequently at a slow pace – walking is great – every day if you’re able and the dog will dig it
- Lift something heavier than usual 2 or 3 times per week – from dumb bells to kettle bells to just your own body weight (that’d be Herby Bells in my case…) – all good
- Every 7 to 10 days do a higher intensity workout – look into Tabata Training – brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, jumping rope, etc. Crank it up once in awhile
- Avoid “chronic cardio” or working out hours on end. Research shows more harm than good and remember, less is more
- Find a day of rest to be a human-just-being (E.G., walk barefoot on the wet grass…) and honor it – every week
- Stretching? Yoga? Dance? You-name-it? Yes. Mix and match keeping in mind the first three on the above check list
Alright, I said keep it super simple and that’s enough to try on for size. Let me leave you with a couple more observations and suggestions. I’m in the gym most mornings somewhere between the hours of 5 to 7am, (30 to 45 minutes). It works for me and I suggest you find a time of day that you will devote to your exercise, whatever shape it takes. I do it because I LOVE IT and you will too when you find the right mix of movement, perhaps music and time of day that’s all yours. Ask yourself, “How do I look, how do I feel and how am I functioning” to know if your “mix” is working. Add and subtract things accordingly.
Side Notes – If you’re not sleeping well 8 to 10 hours every night, (yes, that’s right) none of this matters. Sleep deprivation can be physiologically worse than being perpetually hung over–especially if chronic. So look into it if good sleep is not in your wheelhouse. Also, if you’re looking for appearance and body tone changes, 80% of how our bodies look has to do with what we’re eating and only 20% has to do with how we’re exercising. But remember–diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, that is, exercise is also doing other essential things for our bodies–especially mind-bodies in recovery. One cannot compensate for the other. Treat them both–diet and exercise–with equal interest and importance.
Finally, send me a note or call: 650 474 9411 if you have questions or concerns about any or all of the above. What I have outlined here is a thumbnail sketch of the diet and exercise portions of the Blueprint for Recovery I use when when working with recovering people in my office. I also work with people all over the country via email, phone or Skype. Most of us can use a coach and all great and healthy things begin with a conversation.
Diet and exercise are essential to master a long-term sobriety lifestyle. Personal mastery is what it takes, so start your personal mastery practice today. You didn’t come all this way for nothin’ and…you deserve it.Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with me online too: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin