A whole food, plant-based diet is my gold standard for longevity.
My diet is plant-based and made up of primarily whole foods. Not only is a plant-based diet better for the environment and animals, but it is also better for human health and longevity. My standard daily meal looks something like this: Açaí smoothie bowl with granola, lots of fresh fruit, or steel-cut oatmeal in the winter, for breakfast. A veggie-heavy salad, including kale or mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, alfalfa sprouts, legumes (peas, lentils, beans, etc.), a quarter of an avocado, and freshly squeezed lemon, for my lunch. For dinner, my favorite meal is a macrobiotic bowl. Check out my post about the macrobiotic diet here, and see photo below for an example of a typical dinner of mine.
I try to vary these ingredients by what's in season and listen to my body when I shop. If I look at fresh corn or green beans, for example, and my mouth starts to water than I know my body wants it. Listen to your body too! The healthier you eat, the more in tune you begin to be with what your body really needs. I've tried lots of different diets, and have found that during the summer a combination of raw fruits and veggies during the day and cooked starches and veggies at night works best. During the winter I eat more hot oatmeal and soups during the day and cooked vegan dishes at night. Whole-food, plant-based is the key, no matter how you tweak it for your own personal best. One of my favorite free resources on health and nutrition is here. Check out my plant-based restaurant guide here.
If you aren't buying eco clothing, you could be risking your health.
Your skin is the biggest organ of your body and what you put on it matters just as what you put in it. If you wear clothing that isn't certified eco-friendly, sustainable, or made with organic fabrics, they are likely to be contaminated with high levels of toxic phthalates. According to Greenpeace's Detox campaign, AZO dyes, PFCs, PCP, and Phthalates are all harmful to human health but can still be found in clothing manufacturing practices outside of the EU where they have been banned. Not only are these materials harmful when worn, but also can lead to health issues later down the line due to their pollution of our waterways. Read more here. Some of my favorite sustainable apparel brands are Amour Vert, Apiece Apart, Arkins, Bassike, Cossac, Elizabeth Suzanne, kowtow, Mara Hoffman, Older Brother, People Tree, Rachel Comey, Reve en Vert, Siizu, Susana Colina, and Where Mountains Meet.
Self-care is necessary but needs to be safe.
Caring for ourselves is necessary to care for the planet and one another sustainably. If we are depleted and unhappy, we cannot give our all to any cause. Nurturing our bodies and taking the time to recharge are increasingly important in our modern societies. Not only are we living in high-stress work and political environments, but we are also surrounded by pollution of all forms (noise, air, water, and light). Many of us think we don't have the time for self-care, but if you have the time to read this blog post, you have the time do something for your body. When we go to take a bath, use a body brush, oil pull, or whatever other self-care practice you can easily do at home, the products you use need to be safe. They shouldn't add to the pollution and stress that our bodies regularly encounter, but should be free of harmful chemicals. According to the Ethical Working Group, "Personal care products are manufactured with 10,500 unique chemical ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens... like coal tar and formaldehyde (both human carcinogens), and lead acetate (a developmental toxin)." If we are fortunate enough to be able to invest in a luxury such as a massage, have our nails done, or any other kind of self-care treatment, it is important that those services are also done with non-toxic products. The EWG also points out that the government doesn't oversee personal-care products' safety. "No health studies or pre-market testing are required for these products." Always check the ingredient list on the back of products to see if they are safe. An excellent guide for toxic versus non-toxic ingredients can be found on the EWG website. Check them out here for more information.
Nature improves your wellbeing.
Spending time outside, breathing in the fresh air, and being surrounded by nature have all been said to improve one's mood. I have experienced this firsthand during my lifetime. I truly feel happiest when the sun is shining and can roam among the trees. Only now, however, is science beginning to catch up with what people like myself have intuited for centuries; Nature makes us happy. According to a recent article published by National Geographic. "Neuroscientists, are starting to look at how people’s brains respond to different environments. What they’re seeing is that if their volunteers are walking through a city or noisy area, their brains are doing different things than if they are walking in a park. The frontal lobe, the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life, deactivates a little when you are outside. Alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger." The positive effects that nature has on our health are proven to help regardless of who you are.
According to researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School in another National Geographic article, "People living near more green space reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment (all of which are also correlated with health)." Whether your camping in a National Park, strolling along the beach, having a picnic in a local park, or hiking a State Forrest trail, the very act of being in nature can increase your wellbeing and mental cognition by lowering your stress. It's "therapy that has no known side effects, is readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” It exists, and it’s called “interacting with nature,” Stephen Kaplan.
Skimping on sleep doesn't make you more productive.
If you regularly skimp on sleep to work through the night and think that you will get more done, you are wrong. Sleep is crucial for productivity because memory, creativity, and mental cognition all require adequate recovery time from our daily lives. A 2016 study by RAND shows that "sleeping less than the recommended hours of sleep has a detrimental effect on workplace productivity." Every year in the US alone, "an equivalent of about 1.23 million working days are lost due to insufficient sleep." Not only does mental function rely on your quality and duration of sleep, but so does staying healthy. You are more susceptible to illness and injury if you are sleep deprived than if you get a full 8 hours. In Australia, according to David R. Hillman; et al., "Sleep disorders contribute to a range of other health and social problems, including 9.1% of work-related injuries, 8.3% of depression, 7.6% of motor-vehicle accidents, 2.9% of diabetes, and 2.1% of hypertension. Sleep disorders rank in the top 10 risk factors for other health conditions in Australia."
I always try to be in bed around 10 pm so that I can wake up fully rested. I have noticed that my body and mind function best after 9 hours of sleep, but the amount required for everyone varies slightly. Installing yellow filters on my electronic devices and using yellow tinted LED lights in my home on a dimmer switch have helped my internal clock sync with the natural cycle of the day. When the sun goes down, my brain gets the signal that it's time for bed, and when the sun comes up, it knows it's time to rise. Try to get in touch with your biological clock to feel what works best for you. Check out the computer app I use to adjust my screen light depending on the time of day here, and if you have an iPhone get instructions for your phone here. Installing a dimmer on your light switch is pretty easy. Just make sure you buy a LED light that says "dimmable" on the box. Check out how to install one here.
Think before you click and consume media; it can change your entire day.
Because we have almost constant access to media with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and televisions, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid the news. Sensational, negative stories are the easiest at getting attention and most likely to go viral because human psychology favors them. In an article for Recode, Mary E. McNaughton-Cassill states, "...that the brain is predisposed to attend to negative information. When media content makes us feel angry, scared, or sad, we orient toward the disturbing story to make sure we know how to protect ourselves." Consuming pessimistic news takes a toll on our mental outlook as well, and adds to the amount of stress that we perceive in our everyday lives. British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey told Vice that his research suggests "negatively emotive news can increase the likelihood of catastrophizing your own anxieties and worries, by making your overall mood significantly more negative." It is important therefore to carefully choose what media you consume. I have a strict policy of only watching one recap of the headlines per day. I trust Democracy Now's reporting and fact checking wholeheartedly, and they have an excellent 15-minute daily headline report available for free online. After I know what's going on for the day, I choose to limit my further consumption to things that bring me joy or knowledge. No Facebook clickbait allowed. Check out Democracy Now here, but beware of reading for too much time!
Exercise smart, or you could be doing more damage than good.
Did you know that working out too hard too soon can be bad for your health? That doesn't mean exercise is bad, just that you don't want to overdo it when beginning something new. Staying trim and healthy is 80% diet and only 20% exercise and genetics. You can't exercise your way to health if. If you are trying to compensate for years of eating poorly by going hard at the gym, and not addressing all aspects of your well-being, you're likely to cause serious permanent damage to your muscles and joints instead of gaining your desired results. Physical activity is great when done properly, so I advise taking a class or working with a personal trainer if you want to push yourself. If you are beginning a new routine, do exercises on your own that are less strenuous and gradually increase your exertion over time. Some of the workouts I love are long distance walking (on a treadmill or elliptical if I can't outside), biking, pilates, yoga, light weightlifting, targeted mat exercises, and indoor rock climbing. When I want to push myself to tone up for my modeling work, I always have a trainer. These all keep me physically fit, but don't threaten to cause serious injury to my body.