I personally use, and share, three mottos-to-live-by to help transform the American Lifestyle towards one of health and wellness.
- “You are what you eat.
- Move it or lose it.
- Breath is life.”
You are what you eat…
When my family and I added a dog to our family and my daughter commented on how he smells like fish. My reply to this was that the main ingredient in the food he eats is fish and fish products, which evoked the comment; but we don’t smell like what we eat. I ask, Don’t we? The food we eat becomes the energy and nutrients for all the cells of our body. In short, you are what you eat.
There is more to the digestive process then just the taste or appearance of a food. In fact, how we eat is as important as what we eat. Do we take the time to truly taste and enjoy the foods we choose? The quality of the food is vital as well. The nutritive value within begins with the soil, air, water of the plant and feed. This is followed by how plants and animals are feed and tended to, the processing and/or additives utilized and more.
We all unique, therefore no single diet is right for everyone. We must each find our own optimum diet by experimenting with foods and with essential nutrient, to discover what kinds and concentrations make us feel and perform at our physical and mental best. There are so many choices and ideas available about diets it can be difficult finding the right diet for you. One key step is to eat whole foods and listen to what your body tells you about those foods. To simplify let’s look at the main components of foods.
Macronutrients: Carbohydrates – Proteins – Fats
All diets are made up of triangle of macronutrients; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The percentage for each class varies from person to person depending on their metabolic type, current state of digestion, health history, health goals, etc. Metabolic typing is a way to identify your individualized nutritional requirements. Metabolism is all chemical and biological activities needed to sustain life. These include nutrition, transport, respiration, synthesis, regulation, growth and reproduction. By finding the bodies fuel type, carbohydrate, protein or fat, we can best supply the body with energy. The goal is to stay balanced within the triangle. Your balance can be found through questionnaires, working with a nutritionist and listening to your own body.
Finding the best combination for you of carbohydrates, proteins and fats can take some time and effort but will help your body function at its best. The fuel you feed your body today becomes the cells, membranes, tissues, and organs of tomorrow. You truly are what you eat.
- Fats the Heal Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus
- Perfect Digestion by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- Fourfold Path to Healing by Thomas S. Cowan, MD
Move it or lose it…
You can be eating the perfect diet for your body, but this doesn’t bring about complete health if you do not have regular activity. A sedentary lifestyle represents the number-one preventable cause of premature death according to the doctors at the Cooper Clinic. Becoming physically active is as important to health as quitting smoking is for a smoker. Government statistics show that 75 percent of U.S. adults are sedentary which means they sit most of the time and are physically active for less than the recommended 150 minutes per week. That breaks down to a mere thirty minutes of activity five days a week or just over twenty minutes on a daily basis.
The most important factor of physical activity is that it should enhance, not diminish energy, strength, and vitality. You should feel lively, strong and energetic during any exercise and afterward. If you feel exhausted and strained at any point, something is wrong with your chosen routine. The three most common mistakes people make regarding exercise as stated by Deepak Chopra (1995) are:
- Performing too little exercise or none at all
- Performing exercises that don’t suit them
- Over exercising ( p.83)
The book Move Yourself recommends a simple routine of step counting and exercise which anyone can follow. I personally use yoga and find the choices of many styles and forms make it possible to find a routine to work with every limitation and mood. As always, the best routine for you is the one which you will do.
Here is what physical activity does for you:
- Movement increases your blood flow.
- Movement makes your nervous system work better
- Movement improves your metabolism. (Mitchell et al, 2008, p. 12)
Good blood flow is important because if our blood vessels are clogged, blood delivery is slowed. This in turn slows the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our cells; similar to an engine sputtering if the gas lines are clogged. Remember healthy cells make healthy organs and healthy organs make healthy people. The increase in blood flow from physical activity helps the nerve cells by shifting the neurons in your brain from a stressed state to a relaxed state. Metabolism is improved through the healthy utilization of blood sugar by the muscles and the clearing of fats from the bloodstream. By having oxygenated, healthy cells, a relaxed state and efficient metabolism, the good foods you eat are better utilized leading to a happier, healthier you. Everything again comes down to the simple cellular state – food, energy and now breath.
- Move Yourself: The Cooper Clinic Medical Director’s Guide to all the Healing Benefits of Exercise (Even a Little!) by Tedd Mitchell, MD, Tim Church, MD PhD, Martin Zucker
- Yin Yoga: A Quiet Practice by Paul Grilley
Breath is life
Respiration is the most important function of the body. Without it all other functions stop. The air we breathe supplies all the cells of the body with oxygen, which in turn maintains the body’s energy production. Breath is life. Oxygen is the most vital nutrient of all, yet most breathe shallowly using 1/3 lung capacity. By consciously participating in breathing and movements you can increase your health awareness and create a strong communication between your body and mind.
According to Swami Rama from the book Path of Fire and Light, “control of the breath leads to health, an increase in strength and energy, good complexion, increased vitality, the growth of knowledge and the extension of the life span“ (1996, p. 66). These are all desirable effects which can come about by making a small change in something you do more than 20,000 times a day – breathing.
Psychologists have shown that there is a correlation between personality types and breathing patterns. According to Yoga, the relationship between the breath and the mind is reciprocal. If a certain state of mind results in a certain mode of breathing, then conversely, by consciously adopting that mode of breathing we can evoke the corresponding state of mind. By consciously making the breath deep, even and regular we will experience a noticeable release of tension and an increased sense of relaxation and tranquility (Rama, Ballentine & Hymes, 1998). In short, breath controls the mind, mind controls the body. Control our breath and control our mind. Every emotion requires a certain breath pattern. It is said that fear is excitement without the breath.
Do you know how you breathe? A simple way to check is to place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Inhale deeply several times and note which hand moves the most. This is much more easily done when in a horizontal position. The average person uses his chest muscles to breathe yet we were all born breathing diaphragmatically. Watch an infant or small child; they use their diaphragms exclusively for breathing. Chest breathing cannot occur until considerably after birth, after the body chest matures.
Chest breathing is not the most efficient for the body. Because of the reciprocity between the breath and mind, chest breathing gives rise to the tension and anxiety associated with the fight or flight syndrome. With chest breathing, the breath is shallow, jerky, and unsteady, resulting in similar unsteadiness of the mind. All techniques aimed at providing relaxation of the body, nerves and mind will be ineffective unless chest breathing is replaced by deep even and steady diaphragmatic breathing. Also chest breathing relates to conceptions of body image. Normal diaphragmatic breathing pushes the abdomen forward during inhalation which may not be considered a fashionable look in our society. One may be holding in the abdomen, tensing it and thereby limiting diaphragmatic mobility which may lead to an increased reliance upon chest breathing to supply the body’s oxygen requirements as well as chronic muscle tensing in the chest and abdomen.
Chest breathing requires more work to accomplish the same blood/gas mixing than does slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing. There is far more blood in the lower part of the lungs than the upper part. Air is not mixed as thoroughly with blood if breathing is done by expanding the ribs as in chest breathing. More work is required; more oxygen is needed, resulting in one taking more frequent breaths. As more blood needs to circulate through the lungs, more work is required from the heart. How much work the cardiovascular system must do it directly related to how efficiently one breathes. Since one of the purposes of breathing is to expose the blood in the capillaries to air, diaphragmatic breathing in the upright position is very efficient. There is evidence to suggest that diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial because it increases the suction pressure created in the thoracic cavity and improve that venous return of blood, thereby reducing the load on the heart and enhancing the circulatory function. High blood pressure of an unknown cause has been shown to respond favorably to a daily regimen of diaphragmatic breathing (Rama et al, 1998, p 37).
By making one’s breath conscious, one becomes more aware of what is going on within one’s body. This creates better feedback loops for understanding the right foods for you and feeling the benefits and desires of physical activity. Therefore, all three of my mottos – You are what you eat, Move it or lose it, and Breath is Life – support and enhance each other. There is no one answer to greater health, other than learning the language of your body and its individual needs. By providing the right fuel, motion and oxygen to your cells, your organs, your body systems and overall self can become happy, healthy and fulfilled.
- Conscious Breathing by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.
- Science of Breath by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., and Alan Hymes, M.D.