Why Physical Health Is So Lost on Americans and How to Find It
Health: We all know we need it, maybe we even have a plan to be healthy in the future but what does being healthy really mean? A lot of adults right now grew up learning about the food pyramid and knowing we needed to exercise. Now the food pyramid has been discredited and the new MyPlate still isn’t very specific. It also seems like the instruction to exercise was quite vague. Most people probably have an image of a bodybuilder going to the gym every day, Olympic athletes, or people on billboards and TV commercials. Not only this but unhealthy foods are advertised to us just as sneakily, unhealthy foods are cheaper and easily accessible, and a lot of the culture laughs at jokes about being lazy. Additionally, a lot of people like their unhealthy foods because they’re used to them and they’re so pumped full of sugar and salt to make you become addicted to them. The truth is, there are a large number of reasons why it’s difficult to be healthy in the US so it’s no surprise our obesity rate is approaching 40%. So what can we do when it feels like so many wheels are churning against us?
The fact that you’re reading this article already shows that you have some interest in health. That’s an amazing first step. Earlier I mentioned that most people hold an image of what being healthy is. The keyword in this sentence is “image” because this is a problem. Being healthy isn’t about the image but more about your abilities and how you feel. When you become healthy your body starts to look healthier (duh) but that’s not what it’s about! Do it for yourself to be more able and to feel better. I think a lot of people lose their motivation to be healthy because the result of your image changing doesn’t come very quickly but the other results do and become more satisfying the longer you live a healthy lifestyle.
After you’ve worked out a wholesome motivation the next step is to research and educate yourself! This, as it turns out, is what might actually take the most effort. Don’t worry though, I have a few steps in this process to help you get started right here. It’s unfortunate that learning about how to truly keep our bodies healthy isn’t as publicized as the things that make us unhealthy but it’s not such a shock when you learn that fast-food is a $200 Billion industry in the US (vote with your dollar!). So here are some tips to give you a headstart.
- Learn what macro and micro-nutrients are
Macronutrients split into three categories: Carbs, fats, and proteins. You’ve definitely heard of these terms before but what you’ve probably heard of them is something like “Wow, this has a ton of carbs in it.” or “I’m on a low carb diet.” You probably don’t know how much you should be getting daily though. Generally, you should be getting 45–65% of your daily calories from carbs, 20–35% from fats and 10–35% from protein. To find out specific amounts of calories that will work for your body type, activity level, age, and gender, just look up a simple macronutrient calculator. Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a personal health expert. Something important to note here, however, isn’t just these percentages but also what is filling each of those groups. There are healthy and unhealthy options in each of these categories. For instance: Saturated and trans fats are bad for you while unsaturated fats are extremely healthy! So even if 30% of your diet is fats it matters where you’re getting those fats from. This will take a little bit of extra research but it’s as simple as looking up “Healthy [fats, proteins, or carbs].”
Micronutrients are all of the little things often found in fruits and vegetables. These are your vitamins: A, C, D, etc. And minerals: Iron, magnesium, calcium, etc. Look up the daily recommended values of micronutrients or check out this complete list from Harvard Scientists to see what you should be looking for. Then research foods that pack a bunch of nutrients into them so it’s easier to get as many as possible. Often times eating your nutrients solves a lot of the physical problems you’re experiencing from simply lacking those nutrients. This takes a lot of practice to make sure you’re getting everything you need but start with a few and work them in over the next few months. You don’t need to get everything in order today!
2. Find ways to exercise that you enjoy
Exercising isn’t just running and lifting weights. It can be doing different recreational activities like rock climbing, mountain biking, swimming, or even dancing. When you’re having fun exercising and not thinking about the fact that you’re exercising it makes it way easier. You also don’t need to exercise every day to be healthy! It’s good to at least be somewhat active every day but there’s no need to be full on working out every day if you’re not trying to be a professional athlete. Additionally, breaking down the categories of health you’re after is useful: Strength, flexibility, stamina, mobility, posture, and agility. Find different things you can do that work on each of these categories that give you more abilities and make you feel better.
3. Learn what’s bad and cut it out as soon as you can
We all know that we shouldn’t be eating a ton of processed sugars or fast-food. So make the conscious choice to just stop. Processed foods, in general, are usually terrible for your body and make you feel like crap. Fresh food is always better and buying fresh, local food, if you can, is the best for you, your local economy, and the world at large!
It’s important to know that being healthy isn’t something you do on and off to lose weight. Diets, as it turns out, are actually mostly unhealthy anyway! Following these simple pieces of advice put you well on your way to being healthy, you don’t need some fancy trending diet to do that. Being healthy is a lifestyle choice. It’s about making the right choices every day, every meal, for the rest of your life. Create these habits now and break your bad ones so it isn’t harder in the future. Your older self, and your loved ones you’ll still be around for will thank you then!