A Recipe for Optimal Health

I’m tired of clicking intriguing article links, only to give you; obvious information, pages riddled with advertisements, pushing a particular product-supplement-etc, or having to click “next” to find the next thing on their list.  Occasionally I’ll come across some valuable information, however, I’m often hating on myself for clicking on such time-wasters.

Now, even though I’m not a doctor, dietician, or certified physical trainer… my life and profession has been centered around teaching and perfecting certain elements of human performance.  And, as we know, human performance has a lot to do with how we take care of it.  Many of you have asked me the rather “loaded” question of, “What do you do to stay healthy?”  Now… I’m going to list most of my “SECRETS”  in one clean, straight-forward, AD-free, COST-free post.

Disclaimer: This is my recipe for health, and therefore, may not be the best for your personal.  Most of what I do has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for all humans.  However, since everyone is different, and comes to this with different experiences/injuries/limitations, make sure you ask a professional if any of this is right for you.  A “professional” being – a doctor, nutritionist, physical therapist, etc.  Avoid seeking the second opinion of your favorite YouTube star, Kardashian or even well-informed gardener.  Ultimately we are in charge of our own personal health and wellbeing, so…I leave the rest with you.  As for the information below.  Take it or leave it, but in the meantime; ENJOY!

Change is never a matter of ability, it’s a matter of motivation or drive.

-Tony Robbins

SLEEP

The most under-rated element of our health is our quality and quantity of sleep.  I am personally able to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. That is the amount that I feel and know I can function best on.  If you toss and turn or wake up with a sore neck, back or other… you need to investigate the cause, and ways to improve it.  Sleep is FREE, and most of us CAN get the right amount of restful sleep as long as we make it a PRIORITY.

 

COLD SHOWERS

I know. I KNOW! Everyone loves a hot shower.  But in a world where not only is everything temperature regulated, and people’s bodies are overly inflamed…why on Earth would you add heat?  If you jump into a cold shower, or at least, bring a shower from lukewarm to cold, it will help condition your autonomic nervous system, stimulate your immune system, jump start your metabolism, aide your body in regulating temperature, and (besides a monthly water bill) this too is roughly FREE.  Not only is it good for the skin, muscles and organs, but it’s better for the environment.  You’ll be less likely to taking Earth-cryingly-long-showers, am I right?

If it’s hard to do at first… imagine you’ve stepped back in time (no electricity, no precious heat pump) and you are bathing viking-style in a cold lake or under a waterfall.  Using this imagery has helped me in the past, and still does.

 

STRETCHING

Over the years, I’ve come to view stretching as “A waste of time.”  HOWEVER, please understand what I mean by “stretching.”  Most everyone has a view of stretching that looks like this – a person getting ready for a race in a runner’s stretch, a martial artist trying to straddle himself into doing the splits, or a yoga practitioner trying to sink deeper into a particular asana/posture.

In regard to healthy muscles, they don’t necessarily “need” to be stretched like many assume.  They need to be warmed or “activated.”  Although light movement might have a “stretch-like” component, it’s not intent on stretching for stretching’s sake.  Move the body – slowly, gradually, with purpose.  Move the joints.  Focus on your body’s ability to move functionally and with ease (painlessly) through standard ranges of motions.  Five-to-10 minutes of this is likely all you’ll need to get your body in prime condition for more demanding movements.

 

MOVEMENT

For a while now, I’ve chosen to say “Movements” over the dreaded “E-word.”  That word, dare-I-say, “Exercise” is only something that we have to employ into our lives, because we are no longer are doing the things and producing the actions that the body was meant to do.  Walking isn’t exercise, it’s something we should be doing a lot of naturally.  In addition, we need to get to a level of fitness where we are highly-functional, or at least, maintaining a decent level of function.  For some, this is going to take effort, practice and patience.  The movements I’m talking about are hanging, jumping, crawling, squatting, kneeling, lifting, pulling,….that sorta thing.  If we are having a hard time getting up from a seated posture, that is a problem.  If we’ve minimized our movements so much that we are either walking, standing or sitting, that too can be a problem.  Like it or not, the body needs a variety of movements.

The late Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), founder of the Feldenkrais Method, when ask about the source of physical pain/discomfort simply stated, ” Pain is the lack of variety (in the body’s ability to create) movement.”  He also believed that thought, feeling, perception and movement were closely interrelated and influenced each other.  I subscribe to this notion as well.

 

DIET

When you really want to steal someone’s life-force, take away something pleasurable to taste.  I mean really!  Diet is as dear to some people as religion and there isn’t anything anyone can say to make them change their mind; including an early death.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Well, at least I’ll die happy.”

There are a lot of fads – Paleo, Low-Carb Diet, Atkin’s, etc.  There are diets that get quick results and some that simply aren’t realistic or sustainable.  Whether someone wants to subscribe to a particular diet is one thing,… but there ARE things that we know to be TRUE, regardless of all the hoopla.

Kale, Carrots, Avocados, Apples, Peaches… things that grow from the Earth are healthy for you.  Some are delicious and some, to be honest, are an acquired taste.  If grown correctly (organic, no-GMO), and eaten without eating “in excess”, you’re doing very well for yourself.  But I don’t have to tell you what’s healthy, because we already know.  Good, healthy food, however, is not very convenient (most of the time) and people “behind the curtain” (in the food industry) know how to market it and make foods more addictive.

Two things that we know:

  1. The body thrives in an alkaline state (slightly higher pH range)
  2. Certain foods (predominantly red meats, processed foods, wheat/gluten, sugars) carry with them an inflammatory response.

When we eat right, our begins to cleanse itself and not only do we begin to feel more focused and energetic, but (in many circumstances) certain aches and pains disappear.

Remember: It’s up to US to understand ourselves, our particular food allergies, what our body reacts well and poorly to, and to eat responsibly.

One thing worth mentioning as well is “It’s not just what you choose to eat, it’s also what you choose NOT to eat that makes a difference.”

 

HYDRATION

Forget the fact that we are basically 80% water.  The body needs to be adequately hydrated!  To be honest, I have never had the recommended “8 glasses of water a day.”  I do, however, start my mornings off with a glass of water, and try to have several throughout the day.  Hydration should never be neglected just because it is plain or boring tasting.  If you have a hard time drinking water, because of your modern, lavish tendencies, then you can always infuse a glass with fruit, a squeeze of lemon or lime, or try the sparkling or mineral variety for a bit of a kick.

 

INTERMITTENT FASTING

This is something that I’m only recently coming to realize.  Interviews with people like Wim Hoff, Steve Maxwell, former athlete/actor Terry Crews and others have educated me on elements for creating optimum health that I have, for whatever reason, over-looked.  Now, I don’t like the word diet… but I dislike fasting even more.  I’ve grown up eating just about anything I could get my hands on.  Later in life, I am being told “You shouldn’t eat that” and “eating that will kill you”, etc.  Nowadays I hear that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is completely wrong.  What is this world coming to?

Well… here’s some of the rationale (in layman’s terms).  The body, despite many people’s disbelief, doesn’t always have to eat to gain carbohydrates, proteins and fats – needed calories for energy.  Sometimes, the body needs more time to rest, recover, and spend its energy on something other than digestion.  Digestion takes a lot of energy and by choosing to “fast”, the body’s can spend this precious resource on other things.  For example, actor Terry Crews (famous for his muscular physique, aside from his great acting chops) doesn’t eat anything until 2pm.  He gives his body approximately 16 hours of recovery time.  Keep in mind, he might have a glass of water, tea, coffee at some point in between for some added energy and to satiate his hunger but is done so, as needed.  Wim Hoff is a vegetarian and doesn’t eat anything until 6pm.

Now I’m not saying we all should be this… but certainly give it a thought the next time you get a cold or feel like you’re coming down with something.  Sometimes all you need is rest.  Sometimes you need to be patient and give time for your body to strengthen and rebuild.

 

BREATHING

Believe it or not, breathing is one of the most important, AND (most likely) least practiced element of anyone’s fitness regime.  As a student and teacher of qigong and taijiquan, I was able to learn early-on the incredible power of the breath.  The magician David Blaine was able to use his understanding of breath and mediation to lower his heart rate and blood pressure at will, and this control has aided him on many of his great feats.  If know of the Dutchman Wim Hof or listened to him on the Rich Roll Podcast (which is how I found out about him), you’ll learn that he is such a believer of cold and of the power of the breath that he used this power to become the holder of more than 20 world records.  Some of these accomplishments are:

  • shirtless adorned in nothing but shorts, Wim scaled above death zone altitude (22,000 ft) on Mount Everest;
  • barefoot, shirtless and again in nothing but shorts, Wim completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland;
  • he summited Kilimanjaro in less than 2 days, again in nothing but shorts;
  • above the polar circle, he swam a world record 66 meters under a meter of ice;
  • he can sit in an ice bath for almost 2 hours; and
  • in 2011, he ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water

But there’s more.

Under doctor supervision, In 2011 Wim voluntarily allowed himself to be injected with a poisonous E. coli endotoxin certain to make any human being very ill. The idea was to demonstrate that by using his meditation and breathing techniques he could effectively control his autonomic immune system response and nullify any deleterious health implications.

Wim did not get sick.

(from bulleted-points to this point, taken from Rich Roll’s RRP231)

Though most of my specialized breath-work comes through my taijiquan or “Tai Chi” classes that I teach, I DO spend several times a day whereby I calm myself, and focus on my breath.  I concentrate on the qualities of slow, soft and deep as I want to breathe to be slow and unforced, soft and without urgency, and as deeply as possibly to avoid the shallow, chestful breathing that we experience most.  You can do (and should) try this yourself, daily, in either a lying, seated or standing fashion.

If you want to learn more about Wim Hof and his incredible methods, I recommend that you check out his page, The Iceman.  Or watch this short documentary by Vice,

 

 

TIME

Surprisingly, when I ask my clients (many of whom are in some kind of pain), are they doing this or that (i.e. icing, sleeping well, eating right, moving/exercise)…I get the answer that you’re expecting to hear, “If I have time” (inconsistency), or “No, I just don’t have time.”  You absolutely should not lie to yourself.  It’s not a time deal, it’s a priorities deal.  Obviously your body is going to get worse and worse until it demands you do something.  Perhaps you’ll have to sacrifice a certain amount of sleep to wake up early and start your hydration/meditation/activation cycle, but once you do it, you’ll be glad you did.

And the more you do this, the more it creates a habit.  The creation of a sustained and habitual routine is what is most likely to get you to your destination.  Of course, your case might be different, and you’ll require some specialized treatment…but we all have to do our part in the healing process.

And keep in mind, if you’re wanting to improve on any area of your health and wellbeing, you can’t (or shouldn’t) focus on only one or two categories – it takes a holistic approach.

The first step is to create the habit.

Your body will take it from there.

STAY HEALTHY AND HAPPY

Michael Joyce, LMT#6096

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A Great Way To Enjoy Water

Infused WaterJust another thing that I learned from Pinterest… H2O infusing.  Not that I hadn’t see or thought of it before, but there’s something about the visual…of seeing bottle after bottle of juicy fruits suspended in sparkling clear water that suddenly makes my body thirsty.

We all know we need plenty of water.  Having a tall glass of water (infused or not) right after you wake up is one of the best health moves you can do.  Hold off on that coffee, muffin or whatever else needs a large dose of energy to digest until your body is adequately hydrated and prepared.  The recommendation is 45 minutes to an hour.

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For anyone wishing to shed a few pounds (beach season is just around the corner), drinking this tasty infused water will also satiate a bit of the ol’ appetite so you won’t overeat at breakfast.  If you drink more throughout the day (which you’ll be more apt at doing now) you’ll find that you’ll feel full sooner, and you might have a some take-out or extra lunch to take home!

Juicing can be expensive, but a cucumber and lemon infusion will cost a little over a buck and last you the entire week.

RECIPES

infused water 4Berry Madness – Strawberry halves, blueberries & rasberries

Cucumber Tonic – Cucumber, lemon/lime, rosemary

Immunity Bomb – Strawberry halves, kiwi slices

Vitamin C+Plus – Orange slices, Mango chunks & mint

 

HEALTH BENEFITS (via Dr. Weil)

Cucumber – Cucumbers are very low in calories and do provide some vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese plus a number of flavonoid antioxidants.

Mixed Berries – All are anti-inflammatory, a good source of fiber, rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, and offer immune-boosting antioxidant activity.

  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps to repair and regenerate tissues, protect against heart disease, aid in the absorption of iron, prevent scurvy, and decrease total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. Research indicates that vitamin C may help protect against a variety of cancers by combating free radicals, and helping neutralize the effects of nitrites (preservatives found in some packaged foods that may raise the risk of certain forms of cancer). Supplemental vitamin C may also lessen the duration and symptoms of a common cold; help delay or prevent cataracts; and support healthy immune function.

Rosemary – Rosemary contains compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh rosemary is a good source of iron, while dried rosemary is a good source of calcium and fiber.  Historically, rosemary was used to stimulate and strengthen the memory.

Mint – Menthol, the active ingredient in mint that gives it its characteristic flavor, is more concentrated in peppermint (Mentha piperata) than in spearmint (Menthe spicata), and is considered an aid in digestion and a stomach-calmer.

Stay Healthy & Hydrated my friends!

Michael Joyce, LMT#6096

*Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.  – http://www.drweil.com/

Yoga drinkMichael Joyce, LMT6096 is a MyoSkeletal Alignment Specialist, and teaches Tai Chi, Self-Defense and Classical Fencing in Winston-Salem, NC.  He is also the founder of the martial blog The Combative Corner.

He is also hard at work on his second book – one on Women’s Self-Defense (based on his OutFoxxed Program)

WHAT WE EAT AND WHY

photo 1-1Let me just say that nothing gets me into more “heated debates” than does diet.  I’ve lost numerous “friends” on Facebook for posting one-to-many healthy meal pictures or nutrition-minded status updates.  What many of these people don’t understand is that my heart compels me to spread this message:

  1. because I know and feel just how effective healthy eating can be and,
  2. because my profession centers around diet, which is the bedrock or our health & well-being.

THANK YOU FOR BEING OPEN-MINDED

Quite a few of my students and clients are (or know someone that is) either struggling with their weight, trying to manage their pain, or both.  If this sounds like you or someone you know and are interested in reading further – please enjoy! Keep in mind that this article is “Why We Eat What We Eat” and not “You Need To Change Now or Die.”  Thank you (again) for being open-minded.

THE ARGUMENTS

“BUT I LOVE MEAT”

Who doesn’t?  Jenny and I both love the smell and taste of meat and have from birth till 2013 eaten the standard, American diet of animal meat, dairy, processed foods, etc.  Manwiches (aka ‘Sloppy Joes’) were my favorite food (back in the day).  So YES, the smell of a burger on the grill makes us hungry, but the bottom line is this – the pleasure to my taste buds do not outweigh the life of another animal.  Besides, the main purpose of eating is to give the body energy (and energy that is closest to the source).  On an additional note, there are products out there that gives the food you’re cooking a meaty smell (i.e. Liquid Smoke – bbq & mesquite flavors). Just sayin’.

“ANIMALS ARE HERE FOR US TO EAT”

I can only speak for myself, but I’m the kind of person that feels empathy for the creatures of the world.  By all means, call me a ‘hippie’ or ‘precious flower’, but I don’t personally feel that an animal should die in order for my belly to be filled – especially when it can be filled with things that are better for me… things that medial research knows (for certain) will lower my risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc.

Obviously in the primitive age we had to hunt and eat meat out of necessity, and over the course of thousands of years our habits became anchored into who we are – first as foragers/scavengers, then as hunter-gatherers, later pastoralists, and now consumers of anything and everything we desire!  But I’d like to think that we’re a kinder and gentler Ape then we were back then.  We have pets – some people have pets instead of children (like us!!!) … yet we would not think of ever eating our pets. Would we?

I feel (and hope) that many people will come to make that shift, but it will only come when they’re ready.  The more conscious the world becomes of the value of life, the impact on nature, their health and well-being the more they will turn to a plant-centered diet and never look back.

Green Salad Avocado Lentils“EATING HEALTHY COSTS TOO MUCH”

It’s all a matter of perspective.  Health care costs too much in my opinion.  Insurance costs too much.  The internet costs too much…  Et cetera Et cetera.  I think we can all agree that a healthy body depends on the quality of diet on which we fuel it, correct?  If I go to the grocery story and picked up a bag of beans, a bag of organic spinach, and an armful of bananas, I’d probably have to pay less than $10.

If I gave you $10 and said to you, “This will have to last you 3 whole days” – would you seriously choose to ration two cheeseburgers, a large fry and a Coke?  Or would you pick the natural foods I first listed and feel satiated?  You’d also feel cleaner, have more energy, and would have helped out some hard-working farmers (especially if you got them at a farmer’s market).

For example, the picture of my lunch (above, right) cost me approximately $3 and I was absolutely full and happy at the end of it.

“BUT WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE ONE DAY!”

Is this a question?  Believe it or not, but being from the South we hear this a lot! I probably should have put this statement as the title of the article.  While I suppose we all would like to die doing something we love… I seriously doubt many would want to die in this manner.  Cancer thrives in acidic environments, we know this.  Pork (BBQ), as much as us North Carolinians may love it, is the most acidic of all.  I wish you would choose to die another way,… I really would.  Personally I hope to simply expire, but I’ll probably get good, ol’ fashioned pneumonia.

“IF YOU DON’T EAT MEAT, WHAT DO YOU EAT”

Vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, legumes (i.e. beans, lentils, etc) and grains.  When Jenny and I wish to stray from the vegan diet a bit, we will typically have a veggie-filled pizza (only lightly sprinkled with cheese), eggs* (only free-range organic, humanely-treated ones) and wild-caught salmon.  HOWEVER, there is always plenty of variety and many talented chefs giving out free and interesting recipes.  We also juice and make smoothies fairly often! They are yummy! YourTherapy Recipes

*With eggs, I don’t eat too many as it’s full of cholesterol and can contribute to the buildup of plague in the arteries.  If I have two eggs, I will throw away one of the yoke, or just eat the egg whites.  Great protein (full amino acids) and much better on the heart!

“WHERE WOULD I GET MY PROTEIN?”

Since plants are made up structurally sound cells with enzymes and hormones, they are by nature rich sources of proteins.  In fact, so rich are plants that they can meet the protein needs of the earth’s largest animals: elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows.  You would be correct to deduce that the protein needs of relatively small humans can easily be met by plants. (Dr. John McDougall)

All protein is not created equal — animal protein is highly acidic and not as healthy as plant protein. We get hung up on the misbelief that we must get a ‘complete protein’ from a single source. While mammal flesh is technically complete — meaning it contains all the essential amino acids — it’s also complete with a host of problems. The FedEx guy is a complete protein, but that doesn’t mean you should eat him. Eating a varied plant-based diet, on the other hand, provides plenty of protein in a safe and easy-to-digest form. (Kris Carr, CrazySexyLife.Com)

“VEGANS AND VEGETARIANS LOOK PALE, WEAK AND SICK”

This is a strong generalization that many people make and will continue to make.  If a heavy male loses weight he is applauded, however if an average man loses weight/bulk, he might be asked “if everything is alright?”… or jokingly/unjokingly told to “Eat some meat!”  A lightening of complexion, looseness of skin, weight loss, etc can happen to anyone on any type of diet.  Also, we should reevaluate how we see others and refrain from criticizing them.  The choice to eat meat or not to eat meat should be your own.  Personally, and just for argument’s sake, if eating meat really did add to your muscular strength, I might opt to live my life slightly weaker than to have many 100’s of animals die.  FYI, by adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, you save approximately 95 animals a year. Again, just sayin’.

There are many athletes coming into veganism, but freerunner Tim ‘LiveWire’ Shieff is my favorite.

 

“WOULDN’T YOU BE LACKING VITAMINS?”

Everyone on every diet known to man is deficient in many different vitamins and minerals.  The only thing that physicians, nutritionists and scientists can agree on is that some vegans/vegetarians do not get enough vitamin D, vitamin B12 and fatty acids. But consider us covered!…

Fish plate dinnerPESCATARIANISM

To be on the safe side, Jenny and I occasionally eat fish.  As we age, we may consider taking some form of supplementation, but until then we will just follow the research and not waste our money needlessly.

“DON’T FISH FEEL PAIN TOO?”

I don’t know, I’ve never been a fish – That’s the easy answer.  But I think it’s pretty ignorant to think that when a fish is hooked, or gasping for breath, it feels to him like “just another pain-free day.”

I feel like they experience stress (the emotional) and the signals of fear, but seeing as though they are without a neocortex they do not experience (physical) pain the way humans do.  I believe, if we had a choice, we all would like to have our fish (or other animal), humanely killed – but to a certain extent, we have to take what we can get.  Now don’t we?

“BUT WE THOUGHT YOU WERE VEGAN?”

YES…. and some days no.  Jenny and I allow ourselves several non-vegan options, especially when we go out with friends or celebrate something special – but we always choose the fish instead of red meat and the pizza (lightly cheesed) instead of the burger.  Furthermore, or ego is not so tightly wrapped around the label of being “Vegan” or another “club” (i.e. Paleo).  We do our best to eat healthy, period.

The only cons of a vegan diet (in my opinion) could be the inclusion of too many heavily processed food, soy protein, flour, sweeteners and oils.

While we are home, we have complete control over what we put in our mouth – therefore it is extremely easy to eat vegan… and “healthy vegan” at that!  It all boils down to making the right choices as the grocery story and having the open-mindedness to try new things (new recipes).

FYI…The addition of fish to your diet is a good choice for anyone wanting dial back on the red meat and spare all their land-based animal friends.

And as for your health… remember, you can either pay now, or you can pay later.

THANKS FOR READING.

MICHAEL JOYCE, LMT#6096

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Michael Joyce, LMT6096 is a MyoSkeletal Alignment Specialist, and teaches Tai Chi, Self-Defense and Classical Fencing in Winston-Salem, NC.  He is also the founder of the martial blog The Combative Corner.

He is also hard at work on his second book – one on Women’s Self-Defense (based on his OutFoxxed Program)