The Ultimate Guide to Getting Healthy

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Everyone knows that staying healthy is important but it seems so hard. Is it any wonder? What foods are good for you? What foods are bad? Reports come out with conflicting info every other day. Is there a ‘perfect’ diet, anyway? Why even try to get healthy if you don’t know where to start? It seems impossible! That’s why this ultimate guide to getting healthy was created.

This guide cuts through the fog and teaches you how to get healthy in a simple step-by-step process. It talks through what healthy means, how to measure if you are healthy and determine what needs improved. It also teaches you the core steps to getting and staying healthy including how to eat, exercise and diagnose food sensitivities. Last but not least, it teaches you the right attitude you need towards diet and exercise. You got this boss! Let’s go!

By sure to check out all the links in this guide – they point you to many great resources. It’s the ultimate healthy living link roundup.

This is an entry in my ‘Ultimate’ series that teaches you how to improve yourself in a balanced way in all your spheres – physical, mental, spiritual and financial. Be sure to also read:
* The Ultimate Guide to Getting Happy
* The Ultimate Guide to Spirituality
* The Ultimate Guide to Getting Wealthy

Disclaimer: the information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical, legal or financial advice. Instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and are to be used at your own risk. View full disclaimer.

This ultimate guide to getting healthy covers:

1. Stop the Insanity

If you take five seconds to Google how to be healthy, you’d think it’s the world’s biggest mystery to crack. You’ll find:

Stop. The. Insanity.

They crank this stuff out because it sells. Some of it we actually don’t know the answers to. Sometimes conflicting research comes out (wait, is wine good or bad for us this week?).

But that’s a good thing. I’m glad science is poking and prodding things to get to the bottom of them. They’re applying the classical scientific method: observe, research, hypothesize, test, analyze and share the results. That’s more robust (and less delusional) than having preconceived notions and trying to twist the world to fit them.

2. There’s No “Best” Way to be Healthy

Anyway, here’s a secret: there is no “best” way to be healthy. There are many ways to be healthy.

That’s because the reality is us humans have known how to stay healthy since the dawn of time. We have one big thing going for us. Our bodies know how to run at peak performance on their own. We don’t need to program them. You just need to give it what it needs and get out of its way.

I’ve had to learn this over the years.

3. My Story

My favorite thing to do when I was young was to explore the woods and fields around my parent’s house by myself.

I was a healthy 8-year old romping around the forest with a Bowie knife on my hip. Making shelters. Tracking animals. Building bonfires. It was magical (and a bit dangerous looking back at it – but man was it fun!).

I was an active kid but ate like crap. Pizza, burgers, soda, cupcakes. The typical (horrible) American diet. My family ate the same way and didn’t know any better.

I Become Underweight

I became depressed and developed anxiety in my teenage years. Got way too skinny from it. I couldn’t rationalize it at the time but looking back it’s clear that it was my mind handling things the best it could. Maybe normal adolescent angst. Maybe the affects of my parents divorce when I was young. Who knows. All I know I was too skinny.

The Weight Goes On…

I put weight on in my twenties.

My doctor told me, “I’m not putting you on high blood pressure and cholesterol medicine at your age. Eat better and exercise and lose the weight.” And so I did. And I lost the weight. I ate better, but still pretty crappy.

… And The Weight Comes Off

Then in my late 30’s, I got more serious about my health. Stopped drinking soda cold turkey. I even know the date of my last soda – December 30, 2015. Most of the weight came off but I was still 10-15 lbs overweight.

Shortly after, I discovered I had a gluten sensitivity (after feeling horrible and going through a lot to figure it out – another story for another time). It made me clean up my diet. I cut gluten which means cutting carbs. I dropped the rest of the weight and felt much better.

My Current State

At 41 years old, I sit at a healthy weight for my height. All measurements are healthy (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood work). I don’t take any medications. I have energy to do what I want – including keeping up with our crazy 12 year old twin boys! Overall, I feel great most of the time.

Disciplined but not Extreme

As you see, I haven’t always been healthy like I am today. I’ve been too skinny and too fat. Both bring their fair share of problems. But even though I’m healthy and disciplined about my health I’m not extreme – and God knows not perfect!

I simply eat healthy and keep an eye on the signals on if I seem to be healthy: my weight, energy levels and stats. Do Intermittent fasting (IF) regularly. I skip desserts most times but don’t count calories.

I exercise – walk the dog, ride my bike, stretch regularly. But I hate lifting weights. I do it enough but I’m not ripped or spend hours in the gym.

Everything in Moderation

All told, I take a moderated approach to my health like I do everything in life.

If I start feeling bad or see something I don’t like (put on a couple extra pounds), I tend to it immediately. Maybe review my diet and clean it up. Or do a 30-day detox and “reboot my systems”. Or do an extended intermittent fast. Everything in moderation.

4. Understanding Our Approach

After being healthy for years now, If I had to boil down staying healthy to the short list, what would I say? What would give you a high chance of being healthy and feeling good enough, most of the time?

I’d say here’s the short list of what you need to do to help stay healthy:

  • Eat a diet rich in fresh foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. Low in processed foods, carbohydrates (cabs), salt and sugar
  • Exercise that includes moderate to vigorous aerobic activity
  • Get high-quality sleep
  • Drink plenty of water daily
  • Fast regularly
  • Have good posture
  • Stretch often
  • Don’t sit for too long

That’s not too bad, right?

Of course, you may have some (many?) questions. Like, how much water do you need to drink, how much sleep to get and… what the hell is a legume? (they’re beans, nuts, peas. here’s a link).

We’re going to cover the details throughout this ultimate guide. But I wanted to give you the short list now to show it’s straight forward. You got this!

5. It’s Simple but Maybe Not Easy to Get Healthy

“Hold on there,” you might say. “It’s easy for you to say how to get healthy, right? But you don’t know my struggles. I struggle with (fill in the blank).”

Here me out. What we all need to do to get and stay healthy is simple but may not be easy.

If it was easy, we’d all be at healthy weights, eat lean and clean, get as much exercise as we need every day and enough sleep every night. Easy peasy!

But real life happens. The kids wake us up, cutting our much needed sleep short. We eat bad foods without even knowing why. Out of habit. Or comfort. Or because we’re depressed. Maybe peer pressure. Or… we maybe we don’t even consciously know why (as we grab for that second cookie).

I get it. I completely get it. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s simple. And that it’s possible.I did it and you can too. And it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

It is possible to get and stay healthy. It is possible. You can do it.

6. It Starts With Your Attitude

Look, getting healthy is 80% attitude and 20% head knowledge.

You can read this ultimate guide or watch all the health videos and read all the health books in the world about getting healthy…

… But if you don’t think you can, you won’t.
… If you’re not motivated and determined, you won’t.
… If you use your physical/mental/financial reasons as excuses, you won’t.

It all starts with your attitude. That drives your behaviors which drives your actions.

7. You Need to be Intentional About Being Healthy

A big part of having the right attitude is that you need to be intentional about being healthy. You need to focus on it every day.

At first, new healthy habits is something you do. But then you do them enough that they simply become who you are.

Your health can’t be an afterthought. It’s easy to ignore… for so long. But it eventually catches up with you.

You need to understand health. Know if you’re healthy or not. Know how to get healthy and stay healthy. You need to be focused, determination and motivated. But a better word is ‘vigilant’. It means, “keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.”

You need to be on guard and know if what you’re doing and putting into your body is going to help or hurt it and then be strong enough to do what is right. That also means not caring when people criticize you or peer pressure you when you make healthy decisions.

8. “But It’s a Celebration”

I regularly skip desserts at events. Because it’s bad for you. Period. High in sugar, low in nutrition. Never good for you. That helps keep me healthy.

I get it. People are celebrating. They’re feeling good. Having a good time. Dessert – it’s what us humans do.

But, man, do I hear it from those I’m with when I say “No thank you” to dessert:

  • “Oh, come on, it’s a birthday/holiday/reunion/wedding!”
  • “Boo – live a little!”
  • “You only live once – YOLO!”
  • “A little piece won’t hurt you!”

Get ready to deal with peer pressure like that. It can be relentless. Especially when it always seems like it’s some birthday, holiday, reunion or wedding. “Every once in a while” turns into into all the time and for any event.

How to Handle the Nay Sayers

I’ve learned the best approach is to let it go in one ear and out the other. What doesn’t work? Rationally explaining why you’re choosing to not eat dessert. But you know what, you don’t need to anyway. No one should be commenting on anyone else’s food and lifestyle decisions.

It’s ironic. The most unhealthy people are the loudest to judge healthy people’s choices. The people that give me the most grief are overweight. Have high cholesterol. High blood pressure. Tired all the time. Yet, they’re giving me health advice. If it was the other way around, it wouldn’t be tolerated. Society is strange indeed!

But, none of that matters. I don’t personally care what anyone does. I learned long time ago that you need to take care of yourself first and then those that you love. That’s about all you can do. You can’t save the world.

So, I just say, “no thanks” to the cake and let any peer pressure run off my back. I recommend you do too and stay strong!

9. Just Start

Now, with that little rant out of the way.

The biggest way to start getting healthy… is to start. You don’t need to completely change your diet overnight. And you don’t need to hit the gym religiously without missing a day ever. Or know everything you need to do. Just start.

You just need a small win to get some momentum going. Like, just decide to eat a healthier option than you normally would for your next meal. Or take the steps instead of the elevator. One little step forward at a time. Before you know it, you’re feeling better.

Just start.

James Clear has written a best-selling book on improving your habits called “Atomic Habits”. Check it out if you struggle with making and keeping positive habits.

And of course, in the sage words of Shia LaBeouf, “JUST DO IT“:

10. Your Big ‘Why’

The biggest step in developing determination is to define your physical goals in detail – your big “why”.

Why do you want to take steps to improve yourself? Simply saying “to get healthy” isn’t enough. Give specifics:

  • “I’m going to be at a healthy weight by the first of the year.”
  • “I want to have enough energy to do what we want on our vacation this summer.”
  • “I want to look like a knockout in my bikini at the beach this July.”
  • “I will stay healthy enough to see my grand-kids get married.”

The more details you give, the more real your goals are. And the more you’re able to focus on them and choose them when distractions come along.

And distractions and doubt will come – you can quote me on that! But the way to counteract them is to remind yourself of your ‘big why’. Your ‘big why’ needs to be bigger than any distraction or doubt that can show up.

11. Tasks

OK, let’s move on (onward and upward!). I’m going to give you tasks throughout this guide. The tasks are step-by-step instructions that you can start doing today to get healthy.

Your first tasks are below. I know it’s a long list. Every section won’t have this many tasks. But these are your first lessons and will set you up for success as you work through the guide.

Document How You Feel and What you Think

TASK: Get yourself a journal. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, on your computer or a fancy leather-bound journal (don’t forget your fancy quill pen!)

TASK: Think about any health issues or concerns you have about yourself. There may be a specific pain. Or a generalized bland feeling or lack of energy.

When was the last time you felt completely healthy and well?

Think about your health goals. Do you want to increase your stamina, improve your posture or develop muscles? Write your thoughts in your journal.

TASK: Remember back to when you were a child. Were you healthy? Full of energy? What were some of your favorite physical activities? Write your memories down in your journal.

12. Go to the Doctor and Record your Stats

You need to know three things for every journey:

  1. Where you are,
  2. Where you’re going and,
  3. How to get there.

With this in mind, the first steps on your journey to getting healthy is to figure out your current physical stats. You’ll compare them to healthy stats in later steps and see where you need to improve.

I’m going to walk you through getting some equipment and going to the doctor to get a physical. This will give you a great idea of where you are right now health-wise. This way, you know where you’re starting from. Then we’ll move onto figuring out what you need to improve.

Get Your Tools

TASK: Calculate your BMI by using an online BMI calculator. This is a good one. Record it in your journal.

TASK: Buy a scale. It should measure your weight and calculate your BMI, muscle, fat and visceral fat. It should also calculate your age. Here’s the one I got. Works great. Measure yourself at the same time daily for seven days. And then only weekly, same day and time, going forward. Record it in your journal.

TASK: Buy a glucose (sugar) test kit. I use this one. Measure your glucose before and after eating daily for seven days. And then every couple months. Record it in your journal.

TASK: Buy a blood pressure monitor. Make sure you get an accurate one like this one. Measure your blood pressure for seven days. And then once every couple months. Measure it after waking up, in the evening and when you feel relaxed and stressed. Record it in your journal.

Get a Physical Exam

TASK: Get an exam done by a doctor. Make sure you get your cholesterol measured. Also get the blood tests below. I listed them in order of importance (most important first) in case you can only afford some of them. We’ll discuss the results in later steps. Place the findings in your journal.

1) Comprehensive metabolic panel
2) Complete blood count (CBC)
3) Lipid profile
4) Vitamin D
5) Vitamin B12
6) Homocysteine
7) T3
8) TSH

Review the exam and and blood test results with your physician. Discuss any concerns either of you have. Let them know you’ll be improving your diet and will start exercising. You’ll also detox from unhealthy foods for a month and performing interment fasting. Discuss if test results show anything that would hinder those plans.

I know that’s a lot to do. Take your time and work through them. Continue once you’ve bought everything and taken your physical exam. You don’t need to wait for results to come back before moving onto the next section. Great job in completing this section.

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13. Eating Well

Do you know what amazes me? The human body is a wonder to behold. Your body knows how to run and run well. It doesn’t need trained.

In all its splendor, you just need to give it healthy food and drink and get out of its way. It’s critical to know what food and drink help your body and which hurt it. We’ll cover that in this lesson.

Healthy Foods

We should use the KISS principle. KISS stands for “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” Keep it simple. Humans have known how to eat healthy forever. Ancient wisdom and modern medicine and science agree in large part in what makes up a healthy diet.

And it’s a straight forward list:

Check out Choose My Plate, a helpful site that teaches you what foods are healthy and why.

Unhealthy Foods

We also have a good handle on what’s unhealthy:

It’s clear: fresh and raw are best. But many factors make eating healthy tough:

Watch this video on how sugar is toxic and is helping cause the obesity epidemic:

Land of Confusion

The list above confuses a lot of people. They’re in a constant fog of war.

Since some things are still unknown, they think it’s all matter of opinion and can eat as they wish: “eat, drink and be merry”.

Other people resort to finding the ever illusive “perfect” diet (spoiler – it doesn’t exist!) or try fad diets. Usually reverting back to eating bad. And usually out of comfort and habit, and being addicted to salt and sugar.

Simply put, people are eating too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things.

The proof is in the numbers:

  • Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity are leading causes of death in the US
  • 71.6% of American adults are overweight (BMI > 25)
  • 9.8% are obese (BMI > 30)
  • 7.6% are severely obese (BMI > 40)
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America

Here’s a lot more concerning facts and stats.

Predictions of the future are more even more dire. By 2030:

Sad. Scary. These stats and predictions show most Americans’ diets are unhealthy. Their health suffers because of it. Don’t be prideful and delusional and think you’re different. You can’t eat bad without paying the consequences. You may not see the effects right away, but they always catch up to you.

Eating Healthy Costs More But is Worth It

Don’t be confused. Eat fresh and raw as often as possible.

It’s the healthiest way to eat. Eating healthy is more expensive. But it makes you healthier across all your spheres (physical, mental, spiritual, financial)

Consider the extra cost as an investment in your health and well-being. An investment worth it since it’s small in comparison to what bad eating costs you. Not only physically but mentally and financially. Being unhealthy can be expensive.

Additional Advice

  • As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Eat healthy to avoid developing health problems. Sure you can fix a lot of health problems if you develop them. But it’s way easier and cheaper to avoid them in the first place.
  • Most foods are preventative but not curative. For example, some reduce the chance of cancer. But if you do get cancer, that same food won’t cure it. Many people misunderstand that. Even to the point where they tried curing cancer with food that only prevents it and they died.

Tasks

Let’s get to your tasks for this section.

TASK: The first thing I want you to check out is MyFitnessPal. This is a free app and website that lets you track what you eat. It’s a great tool when you’re trying to eat less or better. Use it for a week to see what you think.

TASK: Check out this list of 10 documentaries on Netflix that will inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle

TASK: Let’s get a baseline of where you’re at with food. Track everything you eat and drink for a week. Either via MyFitnessPal or by writing it down. If you’re writing it down, record the food or drink, rough size of it and any special notes (was it for a special occasion?).

TASK: After a week, categorize the items on your list. Break it down into what you think is healthy vs. Unhealthy. Cheap vs. Expensive. What are your thoughts on how the items are categorized? Do you see patterns in your diet? Room for improvement? Write your findings and thoughts in your journal. We’ll discuss this list in future sections.

TASK: Here’s an unusual one for you. But you might really like it. It’s called Huel. (I’m sorry – it’s a great product but horrible name). It’s a complete healthy meal in a protein shake. Great when you’re trying to eat healthy but are pressed for time. It can be pricey and they don’t have free trials. But check it out to see if it’s something you’d like.

14. You’re Making Progress

OK, I know this was a meaty section (get it – we’re talking food – ha!) Hopefully it didn’t overwhelm you.

The intention was to load you up with a straight forward list of what eat and not eat. And to give you a lot of tools and info. Of course it doesn’t answer everything but I’d say this section gets you 90% there. Your health would be great if you follow it, if it’s not already.

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15. Your Relationship with Food and Exercise

Improving your diet and exercise can be challenging. Although you need to learn how to diet and exercise, that is rarely the most challenging aspect. Learning the step-by-step instruction is fairly straightforward as can see in this guide.

What’s much more challenging is to recognize and change our relationship with food and exercise since it runs so deep. It also knows how to push our buttons and strike at our weaknesses.

Why Do You Eat?

You need to determine why you eat. Sometimes it is purely for sustenance. But you can also find yourself eating due to boredom, addiction, habit, depression or for emotional support. Read more here about emotional eating and how to stop.

You may also have to retrain yourself that it’s alright to be hungry and avoid eating at the first hunger pang.

You might also need to learn the difference physical and emotional hunger.

Maybe you don’t know the difference between feeling hungry and thirsty and might inadvertently eat to try to quench your thirst.

You may also drink unhealthy caffeinated drinks or eat sugar to push ourselves through the “mid-afternoon slump”, not understanding the causes including our natural circadian rhythm. And you shouldn’t indulge yourself in caffeine and sugar to power through it. You should instead plan lower-energy activities during your slump.

Your Relationship with Exercise

Happiness Hormones

You also need to understand your relationship with exercise.

Resist the urge to celebrate an individual workout session publicly on social media or with family or friends. I get it. You’re proud of your workout – it’s the longest or fastest you’ve done. You’re proud of it and want to show the world what you’ve done! But don’t.

Although encouragement from your support network is important, this may cause you to receive a boost of the “happiness hormones“. These are dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. (you can remember this with the acronym of DOSE). That would satisfy your need for praise and validation and potentially (probably) reduce motivation and determination to continue.

This dynamic applies to everything you do and I encourage you to keep all your endeavors secret until you’ve completed them because of the happiness hormones as well as for spiritual reasons that are outside of the scope of this guide but can be found in my “Ultimate Guide to Spirituality“.

Don’t Buy Items Until You Need Them

As you set out on your journey of improving your relationship with diet and exercise, you should fight the urge to purchase items that you think you’ll need until they’re actually required.

Out of our excitement, we may purchase running shoes, new workout clothes or gym equipment. It is a common mistake – just look at all the used but nearly new gym equipment that is always for resell by well-intentioned owners.

Avoid this temptation and instead use your current shoes, old clothes and just household items to work out with first. Once you get your use out of those then make the additional purchases.

TASK: Think deeply about your relationship with food and exercise through the filter of what was discussed in this section. How would you describe your relationship? Can you identify anything that you’d like to improve about it? Journal your thoughts on it daily for one week.

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16. Your Physical Stats

Many health problems can be detected and avoided by measuring your physical stats and keeping them in healthy ranges. Get your stats into a healthy range through diet and exercise instead of prescription drugs when possible.

Your Weight

Being at a healthy weight for your height is critical. Being overweight can lead to significant health problems including cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. These conditions cause disability and premature death.

The physical pain and mental anguish being overweight can bring, as well as the mental, spiritual and financial stress it can put on you and your loved ones, is frightening and you should make staying at a healthy weight a top priority.

Belly fat (visceral fat) is especially dangerous. It doesn’t just add an additional layer of fat on your belly but the fat is stored within abdominal cavity and around your important internal organs including the liver, pancreas and intestines. This can increase the chance of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and alzheimer’s disease. How can you lose your visceral fat? You guessed it – with diet and exercise.

BMI

The relationship between your height and weight can be expressed as BMI (Body Mass Index).

A healthy BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9 for most people. BMI is one helpful measurement of health but is not the only one and is not appropriate for everyone such as anorexics, body builders and the elderly. You can have a healthy BMI but still have health issues such as high cholesterol.

How can you lower your BMI and get to a healthy weight? Diet and exercise.

“Fat is Beautiful”

Nothing in this guide is a judgment against anyone’s physical appearance or the thought that “fat is beautiful”. Instead it is solely about your well-being and physical health. Being fat may be beautiful to some, but is always unhealthy.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is represented by one number over another. Healthy blood pressure is 90/60 to 120/80. These are new medical guidelines as of 2017. Uncontrolled blood pressure overtime can cause sexual dysfunction, stroke, vision loss, heart attack, kidney disease and heart failure.

How can you lower high blood pressure? You guessed it – diet and exercise.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is measured as total cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL (‘good’ cholesterol).

Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL, LDL less 100 mg/dL and HDL greater than 60 mg/dL is desirable.

Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, and it’s recommended to take steps earlier in life to prevent dangerously high levels of cholesterol since years of unmanaged cholesterol is much more difficult to treat. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol can lead to heart attack or stroke.

How can you lower high cholesterol? Yep – diet and exercise.

Sugar (Glucose)

Normal blood sugar levels are less than 100 mg/dL after not eating (fasting) for eight hours and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating.

Untreated hyperglycemia (high sugar) can lead to a diabetic coma and lead to complications affecting your eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart and can be fatal.
How can you lower your sugar? Correct-O – through diet and exercise (seeing a pattern yet?)

Blood Tests

Discuss the blood test results you got earlier with your doctor. They’ll go over healthy ranges and if any of yours is out of healthy range. Visit the lists below to get more information on each one including healthy ranges. Most of these can also be brought into healthy ranges with diet and exercise.

Fitbit

Think about getting yourself a Fitbit. If you’re not familiar, it’s a watch and is also a health tracker. It’ll measure stats like your steps and heart rate. They have a range of different models and price points.

Your Fitbit can become addicting and encourage you to exercise. You can join up with your friends that also have Fitbits through Fitbit’s social media system. You can send your friends messages to encourage them and you can also compete against them.

I remember one weekend, I joined a competition made up of a group of my friends and co-workers. Whoever got the most steps from Saturday at midnight to Monday at midnight wins. Boy, did I get competitive! I ended up walking and jogging around the neighborhood and our woods all weekend.

Charlie and I went for like three walks that Sunday. I was in the lead late Sunday evening and thought I would win it for sure. But someone in our group went for a jog and moved into first. It was 10 PM that night – and guess what? – I took Charlie back around the neighborhood and ended up winning. I say ‘winning’ but everyone in the group won for exercising so much (even Charlie!). Fitbit has done a great job ‘gamifying‘ fitness and making it fun.

17. Cleanses and Intermittent Fasting

Cleanses

I recommend that you do a 30-day cleanse (sometimes also called a detox). This is where you eat only healthy foods and cut out the bad. It’s extremely productive.

There are many benefits to doing a cleanse. It helps break food addiction, detoxes your body and helps you lose weight. It’s a difficult process for multiple reasons but is considered safe but be sure to consult a doctor first.

I recommend doing the Whole30 cleanse.

The cleanse is simple to understand. For 30 days:

  • Eat real food including meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices and seasoning,
  • All foods should have a simple or recognizable list of ingredients,
  • Do not consume added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, diary, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites,
  • Do not weigh yourself or take any other body measurements for the 30 days.

How Cleanses Progress

The cleanse may be very difficult for you. It all depends on your current addiction and dependencies on the banned foods. If you’re currently pounding down caffeine, sugar and carbs of course it’ll be difficult to cut them all out cold turkey for 30 days. You’ll probably experience detox symptoms such as headache, irritability and body aches typically for the first 7-10 days.

But as your detox symptoms progress and then finally begin to wane, you’ll experience a pivot point. Your body begins to repair and renew itself as it enjoys not having the unhealthy foods and loves having the good foods.

You’ll experience this as bliss, increased energy, clarity of mind and a general sense of well-being and contentment. You’ll carry these feelings to the end of the fast and beyond.

The heightened good symptoms and feelings will level out after the cleanse once the healthier diet becomes your ‘new normal’. But you’ll continue to feel generally ‘good’ instead of generally ‘bad’ which you may be experiencing now.

Prepare for Your Cleanse

You should take some time before a cleanse to mentally prepare yourself. Build your motivation and determination, visualize yourself successfully completing the cleanse and manifest it. (These powerful principles are covered in my “The Ultimate Guide to Spirituality” – I highly recommend your turbo charge your life even more by combining health with spirituality.)

I also recommend that you think deeply on if you want to reintroduce bad foods again after you complete the fast. You detoxed them from 30 days. It would be a shame to undo that work by reintroducing them. But I get it. It is hard to eat clean all the time. If you do decide to reintroduce some, reintroduce them slowly so that your body gets adjusted to them gently.

TASK: Perform a cleanse. I recommend the Whole 30 cleanse (whole30.com). It’s well regarded and teaches the same healthy outlook as this guide.

Take any measurements you can (weight, glucose, heart rate) the day before starting the cleanse and then after finishing it and record them in your journal. Also record your journey throughout the 30 days in your journal.

Intermittent Fasting

After performing your cleanse, I recommend that you perform intermittent fasting (IF) regularly. Intermittent fasting is not eating for an extended period of time daily on a regular basis, sometimes daily and usually at least weekly.

Intermittent fasting has been taught in the world’s old spiritualities including Hinduism and Buddhism for thousands of years.

Modern science is now understanding and validating the ancient wisdom. Fasting kicks off processes in the body that helps it in the short-term and long-term including potentially lengthening your life.

QUICK INFO: Breakfast literally means to “break your fast” of not eating overnight while sleeping. But spirituality and science do not support the saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.

The saying was invented in the 19th century by Seventh Day Adventists James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented breakfast cereal.

Different Types of Fasts

There are multiple time periods to fast and you can try them to see what works for you. Some examples are the:

  • 16/8 method (fast for 16 hours each day),
  • 5:2 method (fast for two days per week),
  • Eat-stop-eat method (do 24-hour fast, once or twice a week).

Check out this article for more options. I’m personally a fan of the eat-stop-eat method.

Fasting can be challenging both physically and mentally like a cleanse. You may feel hungry (‘hangry‘), irritable and weak. You’ll also need to fight against the habit and ritual of eating as you go through the fast. But then near the end and afterwards you’ll feel blissful, content and focused. James Clear does a great job at describing his gains from fasting in this article (as well as a follow up).

Knowing that it helps your short- and long-term health makes it well worth it.

18. Diagnosing Physical Ailments and Food Sensitivities

Diagnosing Physical Ailments

It’s critical to take care of our physical bodies as it’s the only one we have. It’s also important to know how to determine what is wrong quickly so that we can get back to normal and have good health in the short- and long-term.

The body experiences no pain when in perfect working order and pain is a signal that something is wrong either via injury or illness. We can also have underlying health issues without feeling pain.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

The first thing to keep in mind when feeling something wrong is to not jump to conclusions – not everything is life threatening.

Statistically, the underlying cause is probably not cancer or otherwise serious. Man has an existential fear of death and dying, and we typically feel well so it’s common to think the worst when we feel unwell. Fight this urge and try to keep your wits about yourself.

Symptom-Cause-Solution

The approach to diagnosing your physical ailment is to use the symptom-cause-solution system.

What you’re feeling are the symptoms of an underlying cause and once the cause is determined the appropriate solution can be applied.

Many people that feel unwell, in their haste to get better, sometimes misunderstand their symptoms for the cause or try to jump straight to the solution. Sometimes it can take a while to work through the symptom-cause-solution process.

Determine Symptoms

The first steps are to:

  • Determine your symptoms,
  • How long have they been going on?
  • Have they gotten better, worse or stayed the same?
  • Are there patterns such as they get better or worse after eating or sleeping?

The more specific or serious the symptoms, the easier it typically is to narrow down and diagnose the underlying cause.

For example, belly pain is generic and can be attributed to many causes but blood in stools is more serious and can be narrowed down to a smaller subset of causes.

Determine Symptom Severity

The next step is to determine how serious your symptoms are.

In the past, doctors was seen as the sole authoritative fount of medical knowledge that should not be questioned. But now in the age of the Internet, things have changed.

Patients are able to combine their direct experience of the symptoms with what they’re able to find on the Internet regarding those symptoms to try to determine the seriousness and potential cause of the situation. They’re then able to work together with the doctor in more of a partnership capacity to cooperate in finding the underlying cause and work towards a solution.

Just be careful when you’re consulting “Dr. Google” because it’s easy to think you’re an expert after Googling for five minutes. And the worst-case scenarios are usually highlighted and it’s easy to start thinking what you have is obviously life threatening.

Doctor or Emergency Room

The next step is to decide when to go to the doctor or emergency room.

Have good judgement to find the right balance so that you’re not running to the doctor for everything little thing but that you’re not putting off going when you should which could put your well-being and life in jeopardy.

Going to the Doctor

Doctors are good at identifying and remedying acute pain or illness that have specific symptoms and solutions. For example, symptoms of strep throat are well known and there is a test that doctors can run that will tell within minutes if you’re infected with it. They then can prescribe antibiotics to help combat it.

But doctors work within the same symptom-cause-solution process that I explained earlier. If you visit them, they’ll typically say to give yourself more time to rest if your symptoms are more generalized and that have only persisted for a couple days. And then go back to them if the symptoms persist or get worse since that can point to a more serious underlying cause.

Generalized symptoms that can be attributed to many causes include general malaise, nausea and slight fever.

More Serious Symptoms

More serious symptoms that should result in a more immediate doctor or emergency room visit include:

  • A high fever,
  • Uncontrollable vomiting,
  • Blood in your stools,
  • Acute pain in the chest or abdomen.

The emergency room is meant for the most severe illness and injury that could be life threatening; they are meant for and good at treating significant, acute issues but are not as well versed in treating more generalized, chronic pain.

Quick story about this. I was rushed to the hospital because I thought I was dying of some kind of heart issue. I turned out fine but I told the doctor I want to at least know what the heck caused my crazy symptoms. The doctor told me, “Sir, we’ve ruled a lot of things out. We know what didn’t cause it. You’re in the ER. If we find the cause in here, it’s usually not good.” That about sums up the ER.

19. Food Intolerances

Food intolerances and sensitivities are different than some allergies. They aren’t life threatening but they can significantly reduce quality of life.

Most people are familiar with dairy intolerances but there are many more including gluten, salicylates, amines and sulfites.

Hundreds of millions of people are suffering around the world with un-diagnosed intolerances because they are either unaware of them and because many of the symptoms are chronic and it’s easy to blame them on simply getting older.

For example, gluten sensitivity can cause fatigue, joint and muscle pain and brain fog. These are so generalized that it’s easy to miss, ignore, suffer with and to postpone going to the doctor about.

Food Sensitivities Testing

Although some food sensitivities can be tested for, you can’t test for most of them. The only way to determine if you’re inflicted with them is to cut them out of your diet and see if you get better.

It typically takes a couple weeks for them to get out of your system. The 30-day detox covered in previous steps is also great for determining if you have any food sensitivities.

20. Exercise

Let’s talk about exercise. Exercise is important to getting and staying healthy.

What Do I Mean By ‘Exercise’?

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. What do you think of when I say ‘exercise’? Are you rolling your eyes because you think of jogging, aerobics or bodybuilding which you hate? I don’t blame you – I hate those too.

I just mean physical activity when I say exercise. Using your body. It can be jogging or aerobics or just doing normal activity. Walking the dog, taking the steps at work, etc.

So when I say exercise here, I just mean ‘using your body’ – whatever form that takes.

Why Exercise is Important

Why is exercise important? Because human bodies evolved or are designed (depending on where you stand on evolution vs. creation) to need exercise.

Our bodies definitely follow the “use it or lose it ” model. Your body will wear out faster and run worse the less you exercise it. It’ll wear out anyway as you age, but exercising increases your odds of living longer and with better health. But how so?

Physical Benefits to Exercise

There are many physical benefits to exercise:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, many types of cancers and obesity.
  • Keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible, which makes it easier to move around and decreases your chance of falling.
  • Reduce some of the effects of aging, especially the discomfort of osteoarthritis.
  • Increase energy and endurance.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Help maintain a normal weight by increasing your metabolism (the rate you burn calories).

Does this list sound familiar? It should. It’s close to the same list of things we said eating healthy can help with earlier. Diet and exercise really can help avoid many common ailments.

Mental Benefits of Exercise

There are even mental benefits to exercising:

That’s pretty cool and may be surprising to you. Exercise doesn’t just help your physical body but also your mind in big ways.

I See the Effects Of Not Exercising Enough Directly

I get to meet a lot of different people at different customers for my day job.

Meeting strangers is wonderful. They all come in different shapes and sizes, colors and personalities. It’s easy to stereotype people or consider and treat everyone the same. But once you get past the surface-level pleasantries and start working with someone, you get to see and understand what makes them unique. So many people are weird, wacky and quirky – and I love it!

Anyway, I see the effects of not exercising enough directly when I meet with different customers. I’ll go into an old age home (or more politically correct, “an assisted living facility”).

Many of the residents are elderly – most in their seventies or eighties. Some only in their sixties. The same thought hits me every time: this is the result of not exercising enough. Most don’t walk and are in wheelchairs. Most look lifeless. Hunched over. Frail. Mentally fragile. Not alert, not making eye contact. Barely communicating. It’s horrible. I’m not judging at all. It’s sad.

But then I’ll go to a different customer. Many people in their sixties. Full of energy and pep. Full of life. Physically capable. Walking with a bounce in their step. Mentally alert, can still work and be productive. One company president I know is in his seventies. His “aliveness” is palpable. High fives everyone.

Why the Difference?

The differences are stark.

Now, I’m not saying everyone in old age homes wouldn’t have ended up there if they would have just eaten better and exercised.

Your genetics play a large roll in your health. Someone could have eaten right and exercised all their lives but their genetics caught up to them and started making their body or mind give out. Or they could have had a bad accident and landing them in a home were they could receive the long-term care they need. I get there are exceptions. But I think those are the exception.

I do think most people could avoid or delay going into a home if they’d eat better and exercised. There’s a chance you’d have better balance, stronger bones and muscles, stronger immune system and a sharper mind. That all adds up to less chance of falls, injuries, illness and a failing mind and staying out of a home.

How Much Exercise Do We Need?

OK, fine. But how much do we need to exercise anyway?

There are no hard and fast rules but there are popular general guidelines:

  • Aerobic (cardio) activity – Get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both a week. Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular exercise – anything that gets your blood pumping and heart rate elevated.
  • Strength training – Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Strength training is anything that works out your muscles.

So Why Don’t Most People Not Exercise Enough?

So why don’t most people exercise enough. Because it’s easy to ignore.

When it comes to food, we all have to eat. You can’t avoid it. So you either have to make good or bad decisions when selecting what you’re going to eat. That can force you into making better food choices if you decide you want to eat healthier. You have to eat something.

But you don’t have to exercise. You can just ignore it. It’s easy to do. You… just don’t do it. And you’ll still feel fine for a while. You won’t notice the changes that slowly happen over years and decades or you’ll just chalk them up to “getting old”. Your balance gets worse. You don’t have the energy you used to. You feel tight and not as flexible. You sit more hunched.

So How Do You Exercise Enough?

So how do you start exercising enough? First, redefine what you consider exercise.

You need to pick exercises that are fun for you or else you won’t stick with it.

You may love stereotypical forms of exercise. Going to the gym. Running the treadmill. Jogging. Taking an aerobics class. And that’s great. Those are all great exercise and you can happily stick with them if you enjoy them.

Or you may hate all of that but feel like that’s the type of exercise you need to do. You’ve been torturing yourself. Again, you need to refine what you consider exercise and find ones that are fun (or at least tolerable) to you.

What I Do For Exercise

For example, I’ll never go to a gym or take a class. That’s not me. Exercise for me is a solo sport and I do stuff I absolutely love. So in any given weekend, for example, I’ll end up:

  • Wrestling with our 12-year old twin boys for 30 minutes- vigorous cardio.
  • Bouncing on the trampoline with our boys for… as long as I can without passing out! – vigorous cardio.
  • Biking 12-13 miles around Presque Isle – cardio and strength training.
  • Walking the dog around the neighborhood and through the woods for an hour – cardio.
  • Lifting weights in the basement – While listening to music or videos. Don’t love it, but I do what I got to do.

All in all, none of it feels like exercise. But it’s great exercise and I feel amazing afterwards and it keeps me healthy.

I also make it a point to get exercise throughout the day. I take the stairs more than the elevator at work. I do a handful of push ups every morning. It’s a bunch of little things regularly and it makes a huge difference.

Find the Physical Activity That You Love

Turn the idea of exercise on it’s head. Try a bunch of different exercises and see what you like. It might be close to what you’ve tried before but slightly different.

For example, the first time I went around Presque Isle – I walked it. And it was horrible. I hated every minute of it. But then I got a bike and realized I actually love biking it instead and I can’t get enough of it. Same place, same path but slightly different exercise made all the difference in the world.

You may have always exercised by yourself. Try it in a group instead – might be way more fun for you. Or visa-versa.

Try a lot of different things and see what clicks. Here are some ideas.

TASK: Try four new exercises this month that you’ve never done before or in a way you’ve never done them (in a group instead of solo or visa-versa). Record your experiences and thoughts in your journal. Find what you love.

21. Sleep

Sleep is so weird, isn’t it?

We sleep on average for 8 hours a day so we sleep 33% of our lives away. Yet, scientists aren’t 100% sure why we need to sleep. But they have their theories and have a good understanding of what happens when we sleep.

I personally think there is a spiritual aspect of sleep in addition to physical reasons. For example, our thoughts and experiences may be uploading to God while we sleep. I know how woo-woo that sounds but it makes sense within the greater reality I detail in my “Ultimate Guide to Spirituality“. Read that guide if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, sleep is nearly universal. Scientists have found just about every animal needs sleep. The only exceptions are things like a dolphin. It puts only half its brain to asleep at a time so it’s hard to define that as true sleep or not.

The Importance of Sleep

We may not know exactly why we sleep, but we understand how important it is. Getting good sleep plays a vital role in your health and well-being through your life. It can protect your physical and mental health, quality of life and safety. You simply cannot be healthy without getting good sleep. It’s one of the pillars of health.

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps with:

  • Eating fewer calories
  • Can improve concentration and productivity
  • Maximize athletic performance
  • Improves your immune function

Poor sleep is linked to:

  • Getting fat
  • Greater risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Increases risk of type 2 diabetes risk
  • Depression
  • Increased inflammation
  • Reduces emotions and social interactions

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep you’ll need changes as you get older:

Newborns (0-3 months)14-17 hours per day
Infants (4-11 months)12-15 hours per day
Toddlers (1-2 years)11-14 hours per day
Preschoolers (3-5 years)10-13 hours per day
School age children (6-13)9-11 hours per day
Teenagers (14-17)8-10 hours per day
Younger adults (18-25)7-9 hours per day
Adults (26-64)7-9 hours per day
Older adults (65+)7-8 hours per day

Sleep Deficit – Can you Make it Up

If you’re not getting enough sleep, that is called your sleep deficit. For example, if you’re getting two hours of sleep less than what you need each night, after a week, your deficit would be 14 hours.

Can you make this up by taking naps or sleeping in on the weekends? Nope and nope. It may temporarily give you a boost of energy but ultimately doesn’t get you caught up. The only solution is to get enough sleep consistently.

The Right Formula for Good Sleep

Good sleep takes three things:

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Sleep at the right times
  3. Get quality sleep

I’ve covered earlier how much sleep you need. You need to figure out when your body wants to sleep. Some people are “night owls“. Others are “early birds“. Don’t fight your body’s natural cycle.

For example, my body naturally wants to sleep from 11 PM – 7 PM (8 hours). I would love to push that back to 12 AM – 8 PM but I feel wrecked the next morning. Or better yet, I’d love to go with less sleep all together. But then I feel even worse the next day. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.

Strategies to Getting Good Sleep

Follow these strategies to get quality sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Use the hour before bed for quiet time.
  • Avoid heavy or large meals within two hours of going to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed. The affects of caffeine can last up to 8 hours so cut out your coffee or tea well before bed.
  • Spend time outside everyday and be active.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed to relax.

Get Enough Sleep to Maintain Your Health

Hopefully you’re starting to understand how important sleep is. It’s easy to ignore or to say “yeah, yeah” and continue to stay up late each night. You can ignore getting good sleep. But you’ll wonder why you feel like crap and aren’t mentally alert. It wrecks you in the short-term and increases the chances of bad health in the long-term. The worse thing to do is to accept that is “just the way you are”. Where all it would take is to get your sleep back on track.

TASK: Do a sleep study on yourself. Evaluate your sleep. See if you’re getting enough sleep, if the sleep is high quality enough and if you’re sleeping at the right times. Evaluate your sleep for 1 week without trying to make improvements. Then start making improvements over two weeks. Record your observations and thoughts in your journal.

22. Water

It’s important to drink enough water daily.

Your Body Needs Water

Your body needs water to survive. As the rule of threes says, “You can live three weeks without food… three days without water… three minutes without air…”

Of course we get water from many of the foods and drink we consume every day. But we don’t get enough. So we need to drink water directly as well.

The Importance of Drinking Water

Water is critical to many of our body functions. It:

  • Helps create saliva
  • Regulates your body temperature
  • Protects your tissues, spinal cord, and joints
  • Helps excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation
  • Helps maximize physical performance
  • Helps prevent constipation
  • Aids in digestion
  • Helps with nutrient absorption
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Improves blood oxygen circulation
  • Helps fight off illness
  • Helps boost energy
  • Aids in cognitive function
  • Helps improve mood
  • Helps keep skin bright
  • Prevents overall dehydration

Pretty important stuff, right? 🙂

How Much Water Do You Need to Drink?

Figuring out how much water you need daily is tough. It depends on too many factors.

What’s the climate like – hot, cold, mild? You sweat more in heat so need more water. Are you exercising? Then you need more water. What food and drink have you consumed today so far? That all has water in it.

It’s impossible to figure out down to the ounce how much water you need but you don’t need to. You’ll pee out the extra that your body doesn’t need under normal conditions. It’s very difficult to drink so much water that it could be dangerous but there are cases of it but they drank extreme amounts of water. Drinking a little extra around the office is not dangerous and you shouldn’t be worried.

So much should you drink? Many people have heard of the 8×8 ‘rule’ – drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day. That ‘rule’ isn’t backed by science but it’s easy to remember and would do you well.

How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated

The easiest way to tell if you’re dehydrated and should drink more water is the color of your urine. The more clear the better. The more yellow it is, the more dehydrated you are. It’s as easy as that.

Here’s a video that breaks it down for you:

TASK: Monitor the color of your pee for one week. If you notice it’s darker than light yellow, drink more water because that means you’re dehydrated. Drink more and more until you notice that you’re urinating more often. How do you feel? More energized? Able to focus more? No difference? Keep track of your observations and thoughts in your journal for one week.

23. Posture

Us humans are designed to have a certain posture when sitting and standing. We feel good and our internal systems run well when we have good posture and they don’t work well when we don’t. Simple as that.

Benefits of Good Posture

There are many benefits of having good posture:

  • Reduced low back pain
  • Fewer headaches
  • Increased energy levels
  • Less tension in your shoulders and neck
  • Decreased risk of abnormal wearing of the joint surfaces
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Improved circulation and digestion
  • Reduced TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain
  • Improved core and scapular strength
  • Better form during your workouts
  • Appear taller
  • Increased self-confidence

Art of Manliness has a great ultimate guide to posture that you should check out. It teaches you step-by-step how to have good posture.

24. The Dangers of Sitting

Research shows that sitting is killing us. A lot research shows that people that sit for an extended period of time daily have a higher chance of worse health and dying younger. Even if you exercise otherwise. Here are a couple more articles discussing it.

Science isn’t sure if the literal act of sitting is the culprit or if people that sit for that long have bad health habits that lead to the problems. For example, someone that sits and watches TV for hours every evening typically also doesn’t eat well or exercises enough. So this may be a classic case of correlation does not imply causation (just because two things are related does not mean the one causes the other). This is what these researchers think in their article, “Why sitting down ISN’T killing you“.

25. The Solution – Standing, Sitting, Moving in Rotation

In any event, the best course of action to posture and sitting for too long is like everything else in this and my other ultimate guides (financial and spiritual ultimate guides here) – everything in moderation.

Current recommendations are to rotate through sitting, standing and moving every thirty minutes. A standing desk helps with this. Some are manually adjusted. Mine at work has a button that raises it up into a standing position or down into a sitting position.

I follow the sit-stand-move process. I’m regularly rotating through them. I don’t have it down to an exact time with a timer or anything, but I’m regularly sitting/standing and then moving by getting another cup of tea, going to the bathroom, taking a walk around the office. Anything to move every 30 minutes or so.

26. Stretching

Stretching regularly is also important. It keeps you limber and helps to keep good posture. For example, I’ll stretch as soon as I get out of bed:

  • Twist left and right at the waist some,
  • Then hands over head while putting my foot on my other knee (improves balance) and then switch,
  • Perform a couple lunges,
  • And touch my toes.

I do the same things while at work through the day. Here are some other stretching exercises you can do.

These types of exercises really do help. I have a co-worker who for weeks that turned into months, was in horrible pain. Neck, back, leg pain. Needed to keep going to the doctor. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Wasn’t sure but it might be something serious.

He started going to physical therapy and then started feeling much better overnight. Do you know what it was? He started stretching (!). I was blown away. Like, don’t people stretch through their days? Evidently not. I never see anyone else at work do it. But, I’m glad it turned out to be something simple in my co-worker’s case. And it really is simple. A little stretching every day goes a long way (hey – that rhymes!)

27. Conclusion

Alright, this is the end of this ultimate guide to getting healthy. We’ve covered a lot:

  • What it means to be healthy,
  • How to measure where you’re currently at with your health,
  • How to eat better,
  • How to exercise,
  • The right attitude you need to help you get healthy,
  • The importance of getting enough sleep,
  • How drinking water is critical to your health,
  • The importance of good posture and stretching.

That’s a lot. Does it cover everything? Of course not. There have been hundreds of books written on each topic I’ve touched on here. This guide is meant to be very wide but not deep. Meaning I’ve tried to cover every topic necessary to get and stay healthy and haven’t gone into any on topic too in-depth. That’s what all the great resources I’ve linked to are for.

I hope this guide has helped you, motivated you and pointed you to many great health resources and ideas. This is the end of the guide, but just the beginning of the rest of your life. I wish that it’s full of health and well-being. I wish you the best!

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Jason Howe

Jason Howe is the founder of Man the Ship.

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