Your body needs you to realise a couple of things...
I don't know why, but I have been challenged in many ways over the last few weeks to really think about what wellness is all about, what is really important in life, what kind of message I'm trying to share here on Taste & See, and how to best practice what I preach. Here are a few of the things that I have realised our bodies really want us to know as we pursue health and wellness...
1. Your body needs food
We have become so attuned to the idea that we need to eat less (and less, and less) and workout more (and more, and more) to compensate for any calories that we dare put into our mouths. The sad truth is that restriction is not going to support your body in performing all of the complex tasks that it needs to do each day. Your body needs food for energy, to support growth and repair of your cells and tissues, to ensure that your heart keeps beating, your lungs keep breathing, and your brain keeps thinking. Without food, your body won’t have the components that it needs to synthesise hormones, nerve sheaths, hair, skin, nails, and more. Seriously, I know that our relationship with food can be really complicated, but eating food should not make you fear anxious, guilty, or ashamed. Our bodies need nourishment to live and thrive!
2. Your body can detoxify itself
Before you fall for the next expensive seasonal juice cleanse, please know that your body is fully capable of detoxifying itself (free of charge). Detoxification is a natural metabolic process that takes place in our body all day, every single day. No week-long juice cleanse or special detox tea will be the miracle quick fix that you’re looking for, in fact, it's the daily habits that are much more effective in supporting your body’s natural detoxification pathways.
Your digestive system does an amazing job of removing unwanted substances in the food that you eat from the body via your faeces. Fibre plays an important role here, so eat your fruits, veggies, and wholegrains! Your skin gets rid of toxins through sweating, and a healthy immune system neutralises pathogens and eliminates them from the body in no time at all. Your kidneys act as filters that remove waste materials and toxins from the blood, and your liver performs many important detoxification reactions to convert harmful active substances into safer by-products that are filtered out through the kidneys. Instead of spending lots of money on expensive ‘detox’ products, try to support your natural detoxification pathways as best you can by:
- Eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, including lots of fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables, daily
- Drinking enough water each day
- Supporting your gut by consuming high-fibre foods
- Including affordable liver-supporting foods such as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale), ginger, grapefruit, beetroot, lemon, and turmeric in your diet
- Getting sufficient rest (more on this later)
3. Your body also knows how to maintain a healthy pH
If it didn’t, you would either be really sick or dead. There are cases where the body can become far too acidic, resulting in severe acidosis, but this usually happens in the case of severe illnesses and can happen as a complication in diabetes patients. According to some wellness warriors out there, our bodies are “…constantly having to fight against acid-forming foods in our diet, which results in us becoming worn out and sick”, and the so-called ‘alkaline diet’ has made some people very wealthy through spreading messages that include things like:
- “Meat increases acid levels in the body”
- “Cancer cells are unable to grow in alkaline conditions”
- “Dairy causes acidity that results in bone loss”
In all fairness, there are foods that by nature are broken down to produce more acidic or more alkaline by-products, but the body is really good at maintaining blood pH between 7.35-7.45. It does this through the buffering of blood pH, production and elimination of urine, and regulation of breathing rate. You know those urine pH test strips that are sold in pharmacies? They measure the pH of your urine, not your blood. The pH of your urine really doesn’t reflect what’s going on in the rest of the body. By all means, eat more ‘alkaline’ fruits and vegetables. They have many benefits for your health! But don’t stress about measuring your urine pH, eliminating meat or dairy, or eating kale if you don’t actually like it.
4. Healthy movement doesn’t have to be intense exercise
You do not need to go to the gym and do intense workouts six days a week to be healthy. In fact, just moving for 30 minutes every day is good enough to convey health benefits in the long-term, even if that movement is just walking to and from work. If you enjoy lifting weights in the gym, then, by all means, go for it! But if you prefer to walk, do yoga, or even cycle between your home and the office, then don’t beat yourself for not having a gym membership. Finding a routine that works for you, discovering a form of movement that you enjoy, and finding time to move throughout your day can all make a huge difference. But this doesn’t mean that you have to wake up at 4am to hit the gym on busy days, during busy weeks, or ever really.
Another thing, we have become so afraid of allowing our bodies to have a bit of time off, for fear that we might gain weight, lose muscle, or become unfit. Believe me, none of this is going to happen if you allow your body to rest for a week when it really needs it. A strict gym routine that we don’t actually enjoy can become such a burden, adding unnecessary mental stress to our lives and causing more anxiety than it should. It’s perfectly ok to have goals for your body, to want to feel comfortable in your own skin, and to have a desire to feel strong and able to run without feeling out of breath, but if you’re striving for perfection by trying to ‘fix’ your body through intense exercise, you might be doing more harm than good.
5. Your body needs rest
You can have the perfect diet and exercise routine, but without sufficient sleep, your body is likely to eventually just crash. A good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can allow your body to experience. Seriously, the benefits of a sufficient amount of good quality sleep will arguably benefit your health far more than drinking that green smoothie. Sleep allows your body some time to build new cells, strengthen your immune system, and repair damaged tissues. It also helps to reduce stress by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels (which tend to be chronically high in our fast-paced, busy society thanks to everyday stressors and intense exercise). Sleep helps to regulate some of the hormones that control hunger and satiety, and good quality sleep helps boost the mood. In fact, studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can contribute towards depression and anxiety.
This is all a bit confusing...
Despite what you may read on Instagram or in the latest women's magazine, you don’t need to:
- Cut out whole food groups
- Eat only organic food
- Avoid all processed foods
- Avoid GMOs
- Be scared of sugar, dairy, or gluten
- Use expensive supplements or superfoods
- Add protein powder to everything
- Believe everything that ‘influencers’ and celebrities have to say about health and wellness
Instead, what you can do is:
- Be good to your body, and acknowledge that it’s far more beautiful and capable than you often give it credit for
- Nourish your body with good, wholesome foods
- Listen to what your body needs, both food and exercise-wise
- Drink enough water
- Find physical movement that makes you feel happy, rejuvenated, and motivated