This is a "knock on wood" post. I really shouldn't put this out into the universe, but I will anyway because it’s had such a positive impact on my life. I haven't been sick for almost three years. I haven't even had a minor cold. Going back a little further, I've only been sick twice in about five years.
Before that, I probably caught a minor cold (or worse) at least every three to six months, especially in the winter. I thought getting sick a few times per year was part of life.
It’s been awesome not being forced to periodically slow down (or stop) my normal activities.
I obviously don’t know all the factors, and maybe I’ll get sick right after submitting this post. It would serve me right!
However, I did make a major lifestyle change almost 5 years ago, and I have to believe at least one of these changes have prevented me from getting sick.
In hopes of helping others improve their quality of life, here are the changes I made:
1. Eat nutrient dense foods
I’ve written before about my experience losing 30 lbs about 4 years ago. I believe the biggest factor was a change in my diet.
My typical day used to include cold cereal for breakfast (Life and Lucky Charms were my favorite), sandwich and chocolate bar for lunch, and heavy starches like pasta or potatoes for dinner (with dessert after, of course).
4 years ago I starting making 2 liters of green smoothie every morning, which would last through breakfast and lunch, and then I would usually eat a huge salad loaded with vegetables (with white wine vinegar as dressing) for dinner (with no dessert).
I haven’t been as strict since I lost the weight, but I still make sure I eat primarily nutrient dense foods (i.e. mostly vegetables and fruits). I drink at least a liter of green smoothie per day, and I regularly have a huge salad as a meal. I haven’t eaten much cold cereal over the last 4 years!
2. Limit refined sugar
I began limiting refined sugar at the same time I started focusing on nutrient dense foods. In fact, I don’t think I had any sweets while I was losing weight.
As I mentioned, I thought dessert had to be part of every meal. And snacks between meals. And bedtime snacks. I was definitely addicted to sugar. I blame it on my Grandpa Smith, who kept his work desk stocked with chocolate bars, and his mother, who we called “Candy Grandma” and was famous for her chocolates.
Limiting sugar has given me numerous benefits, and one of those benefits could be an improved immune system.
I haven’t been as strict since I lost the weight, and once in a while my addictive tendencies return. However, I make a conscious effort to eat far less sugar than I used to.
3. Exercise consistently
I’ve always been fairly active, but about 5 years ago I started exercising almost every. I started lifting weights, and then I trained for and ran a half marathon. I continue the habit of lifting weights 2 times per week and running 3-4 times per week.
It’s good to have regular formal exercise sessions, but even moving more helps. I use a standing desk, which forces me to move more during the day. I also use my iPhone to track my steps, and I shoot for 10,000 steps every day. I try to go for a walk at the end of the day if I’m not quite there.
4. Get adequate sleep
This hasn’t been a major change because I’ve always made sure I get plenty of sleep. But I believe it’s important enough to add to the list.
I have trouble functioning on less than 7 hours, and I usually get at least 8. I would love to add an extra 2-3 hours to my day by getting less sleep, but I don’t think the trade-off is worth it. I’d rather have a focused and productive 16 hours than a sluggish 18-20 hours.
Besides, if you don’t get enough sleep, your body may force you to rest by getting sick.
I have intentionally been light on science and details. It’s partly because I simply don’t know much, and it’s also because everyone is different.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll go 3 years without getting sick if you follow this list. I can’t guarantee I won’t get sick tomorrow and return to my pattern of getting sick several times per year.
All I know is these changes have worked for me so far!
Now it’s up to you to research and experiment to figure out how to improve your health. Improved health comes with many benefits, including less down time from being sick.
Question: What practices have improved your health?