10 Habits I Adopted from Studying Holistic Health
This time last year I was diving head first into the Holistic Health Coach Certification Program with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I was a very different person back then compared to who I am now. Nothing could prepare me for the life changing experience that would take hold once I started this program and more importantly, started healing.
At the time, I was struggling with a mysterious chronic illness that I, and my doctors, couldn’t seem to pin down. A multitude of blood tests, doctor’s visits, medical screenings and scans, yet I was usually sent home with a birth control sample or an anti-anxiety prescription. The pain and illness I was experiencing had to be more than something in my head, which is why I set out on IIN’s program; I was taking my health into my own hands.
Through the program, I began to make changes day by day, from my eating habits to my relationships, and to my lifestyle. Through these adjustments I have helped heal my body, my mind, and my spirit. At first, I thought I was only telling myself I was getting better, until I started hearing it from friends, acquaintances, and family members. They say I look healthy, and for the first time in my life, I feel it.
So, what changed you might ask? I’m here to tell you. Of course, there are more than ten things that changed, but these are the ones that I believe could slowly start to change your health mentally and physically if adapted into your routine. Here goes nothing…
1. Tongue Scraping
I know, you’re thinking “what? What is tongue scraping?” It sounds really weird, but trust me, it’s going to leave your mouth not only feeling clean, but your food is going to taste better! Tongue scraping is an ancient Ayurvedic Practice and one of the first changes I implemented early on. Every morning before you even THINK of drinking or eating, run to the bathroom and scrape that tongue with a metal tongue scraping tool. Our tongues harbor so much bacteria and overnight it builds up on the surface of the tongue. In my IIN course, one lecturer actually described it as the front door rug. Imagine everyday, coming home, stepping into the house and rubbing your shoes on the rug, over and over again. Eventually that rug is going to build up so much muck and grime that it won’t be recognizable! The same principle goes for our tongue. Scraping not only helps detox the body, but helps the immune system, helps bad breath, and I swear it makes my food taste better because the food can actually reach my taste buds! Also, the color and consistency of what you scrape off of your tongue can help indicate the level of digestive acidity in your body. The thicker and whiter the contents, the more likely you are to have a poor digestive system with low agni (digestive fire) while the thinner and clearer the contents are, you may have too much agni and an overactive digestive system. Listening to our body in this way helps us to find health conditions early on, before it’s too late!
2. Drink Clean Water
Okay, so everyone says this one right? It’s a no brainer, we need water to live, so we should drink it, duh. Well, if it’s that easy then why don’t I see every person on this planet carrying around a reusable water bottle?! They literally hand them out for free, people! I always thought I was good about drinking water, but it’s not just about how much you drink, but the quality of that water. There is a lot of debate and discussion about the quality of water, especially in the United States. I’m not here to talk about politics, but if you’re still drinking tap water with the impression that it’s “safe” then I urge you to do some research into the subject matter. All I’m going to say against tap water is that I don’t know if I trust my government enough to judge what is “safe” for me to drink, all things considered. I would highly suggest investing in some type of water filtration, whether that is through a cheap pitcher water filter, or something more expensive like an alkaline filtration system. Do whatever seems reasonably affordable to you and work from there. Carry a reusable (metal or glass, avoid plastic as much as possible) water bottle with you wherever you go to constantly remind yourself to stay hydrated.
3. Chew Your Food
Through my time with IIN, I learned a lot about our digestive system and how it works to break down food into nutrients. In one of my lectures, we were learning about how the body digests food and how we can help ease that process. We should be chewing our food to an applesauce consistency with every single bite. I know. This one really got me. Once I realized how well my food should be chewed I observed myself eating and was shocked to realize, I hardly ever really chewed my food at all. Oftentimes in our society we are eating on the go, or eating quickly to move on to the next thing, eating while distracted, and we aren’t really paying attention to what’s on our plate, let alone when it goes into our mouth. We often take a few bites just to swallow it down and move on to the next fork load. Sometimes we don’t even wait until it’s swallowed to shove more down our gullet. When we truly chew our food to a digestible consistency, we’re able to taste our food better, absorb more nutrients, and it will actually help us become fuller faster. The more small bites we take and the more we chew, it actually signals to our brain that we are eating MORE, whereas if we are taking huge bites and barely chewing then swallowing it down, it signals to the brain that we did not get enough and may leave us wanting more while our body struggles to break down the food we just consumed.
4. Go for a Walk
This one right here has been the biggest game changer for me. In my younger years, I struggled a lot with body image, and frequented the gym to try and minimize the circumference of my tum-tum. I would abuse myself with three mile runs, high intensity workouts, and weight lifting that shredded my body in a bad way. I have nothing against the gym or people who encourage a gym lifestyle, but I knew it wasn’t for me. That lifestyle always ended up burning me out and leaving me exhausted, still hating the body I harbor. There is an untapped fountain of gym toxicity that we could get into, but I’ll leave that for another time. Fast forward to now, I go for nature walks almost every day and not only has it helped me lose weight, but it has helped my mental health improve. I have made it a habit to go on a 20-40 minute walk everyday, not worrying about my time, or the distance, just enjoying the present moment and the blessing of having a body that can still do these things with ease. There have been mornings where I’ve woken up, cortisol high, stress already creeping in, but as soon as I put on my tennis shoes and get outdoors, it all slowly fades away. I breathe in the morning air, listen to the birds, and wave to my neighbors as we pass each other. There are a multitude of studies that back up the longevity of walking daily and I encourage you to implement this change, if nothing else.
5. Ditch the Plastic
This one is a bit more of a financial struggle, but so so worth it when you start to see the benefits. I used to eat out of plastic containers, drink out of plastic cups, use plastic cookware, plastic hair brushes, toothbrushes, cutlery, clothing, the list goes on and on. Slowly however, I swapped out plastic for wood, bamboo, ceramic, glass or metal. I now always look for 100% cotton when buying clothing or shop secondhand. This isn’t only good for the environment, but for your endocrine system. Plastic is full of hormone disruptors that inhibit our lymphatic system, our hormones, and our mental health. Throw that plastic loofah away girl, it ain’t worth it. I don’t care if it’s recycled plastic, it’s still plastic! This change was slow and a bit more difficult, but so so worth it. Not only have my hormones balanced more, but my conscience feels better! My home isn’t perfect, there are still a lot of things to change and I’m hoping that as the “anti-plastic” movement keeps progressing, we will be presented with even more affordability to combat this crisis.
6. Read Food Labels
When shopping in the grocery store I expect to pay a decent price for a quality good. What I don’t understand is the willingness of the consumer to not bat an eye at the price of a product in comparison with what the quality of that product is. I’m mostly talking about processed food here. I can’t educate you in one blog post about all of the god-awful ingredients that are put into foods simply for profit and shelf-life extension. Once you start going down that rabbit hole the truth is shocking. I can’t pick up one general processed food item in a commercial grocery store without finding one thing wrong with it, one thing that could cause cancer, hypertension, diabetes, or Alzheimer's. The term ignorant bliss does come to mind, but when it comes to your health and longevity, I don’t think there’s much chance at a good gamble here. Don’t leave it up to fate. Avoid foods with complex ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Avoid artificial flavorings, dyes, and additives that extend a product’s shelf life. There are a ton of amazing apps out there that can help you avoid such ingredients in your food. My favorite app to use is called “Sift” and not only do I use it to detect poor ingredients, but allergens as well!
I don’t care what you believe in, I’m telling you, prayer helps. Whether you’re praying to a god, an angel, the universe, the sun, the moon, whatever it is. Praying can be looked at as a form of meditation or a practice of mindfulness. Prayer allows us to feel connected with the world around us and therefore, aid our mental health and calm our endocrine system. Prayer has actually been shown to reduce oxidative stress, feelings of loneliness and depression. It can also help us through our own struggles by building a stance of objectivity. My prayer practice involves praying over my meals every day, thanking each and every person it took for it to get to my plate. There is a great deal of energy in trade and commerce of this world, and I would be foolish to not honor it in some way when the food before me has the ability to heal and nourish not only my body, but my spirit. It’s a practice of gratitude. I also pray every night as I lie in bed, waiting for sleep to take me. I pray for blessings and safety for those who are in my life, and sometimes even those who aren’t anymore. I find that in hard times, it can be hard to practice prayer, but once you come to it, there’s a feeling there, of unity and hope. An idea that it’s not just for nothing, that we’re all connected in some way, even if we don’t know what that is.
8. Eat Your Vegetables
Holy cow, this one is near impossible with the SAD Diet (Standard American Diet). I mean, it’s in the name, it’s just plain sad. I’m not saying that you have to go vegetarian or vegan tomorrow, but having more vegetables on your plate than a protein source is going to extend your life considerably. Not only that, but it’s gonna help your digestive system so much more. Technically, every American should be eating up to six cups of vegetables a day, but we hardly come close. When I say vegetables, I’m talking about broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, swiss chard, peppers, onions, cucumbers, squash, and so much more! Potatoes don’t count, sorry! I often find myself struggling to get the proper servings so I shove them into a smoothie with some pineapple and mango! Problem solved! Do whatever you can to get an adequate amount of veggies in your diet. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll poop better!:)
9. Manage Your Finances
I know, gross. I hate to think about money or the chokehold that it has over me, but the reality is, money is what makes the world go round. Being financially responsible can seem challenging at first, but I’ve found through consistency and honesty, it can be achieved. We live in a time where capitalism is king and everyone wants your money. Whether it’s for a product, a course, an e-book, or a night out, everything is grabbing for your wallet. Money has always been the most overwhelming part of adulthood for me, well, money and health insurance. There are many different tactics and saving methods out there, but I did it the simplest way possible. I bought a $10 budget spreadsheet on Etsy and haven’t looked back. Consciously keeping track of the money you’re bringing in and the money going out is key to finance management. I’m not talking about investing and growing money, I’m talking about simply keeping track of it. If you can get that part down then you can move on to the big kid stuff. With financial stability comes a feeling of safety and assuredness that affects our physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re struggling financially or need advice from someone. Chances are there is someone out there that can give you advice, or at least share a lesson with you that they learned during a financial hardship.
10. Listen to Your Body
This is the big one. Think of your body as a billboard sign. You drive past it everyday, not really paying attention to what’s on it. For a long time, it’s the same old advertisement day in and day out. You’ve skimmed it a hundred times, you know what it says. Then one day, a group of workers come, and start tearing it down for the next advertisement. You may notice this, or you may not, why would you look at the billboard anyways? You already know what it’s going to say. Then suddenly, after a long weekend off, you’re driving by when you’re blinded by the flashing lights, the neon colors, and the giant words that spell out “HELP” on the billboard. You slam on your breaks, other drivers honk at you, swerving out of the way. How did you not notice the signs? That’s kinda how our body works. When something is out of alignment, the body will send a gentle whisper at first. It could be a small discoloration, a bump, a sore, fatigue, digestive issues, a headache. Usually it’s something that we write off, pop a pill for, and move on with our day. However, that’s not normal. When our body experiences pain or illness, it’s usually because it’s trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s that you really should lay off the dairy. Or maybe it’s that caffeine actually makes you manic. Or maybe you just need a day off. Or maybe it’s something even bigger that you never considered. I’m not saying any of this to scare you, and I’m not saying that if you have chest pains you should immediately look it up on WebMD and face the fact that you’re probably dying. No. I’m asking you to listen to the signals that your body is sending you on a daily basis. When you eat food or use certain products, listen to how they make your body feel. If it doesn’t make your body feel good and healthy, then it’s not meant for your body. We abuse and disrespect these bodies every day. I think there is truth to the statement “the body is a temple”. What could be more important than the vessel that carries our consciousness, our soul, our being? Take care of your body, fill it with nourishment, kindness, and peace. The rewards will follow.
Now, I don’t want you to happily skip away from this post thinking you’re going to make all these changes in a week. It took me a full year to do these ten things consistently. Something I’ve found is that it’s much easier to add one thing at a time, instead of pushing ourselves to change so much at once. We are habitual creatures, and habit building is key to enact change in our lives.
If you’re interested in learning more about habit building or living a holistic lifestyle feel free to reach out to me. I am a Certified Holistic Health Coach and would love to team up with you to help you make your Health Goals a reality! In my coaching practice we design a plan that is unique to you and to your bio-individuality. Together we can help you find your creative wellness and start you on your journey to healing!
That’s all for now, see you next time!
Vi is a certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. The opinions and thoughts of this post in no way represent IIN or its affiliate programs. VHARMON's opinions and suggestions are not to be taken as medical advice. You should always discuss any health issues with your doctor. Stock Images provided by Canva.