Stop Doing These 8 Things If You Want to Turn Your Health Around (and what to do instead)

Oct 12 · 8 min read

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What do you need to do to turn your health around? The answers may seem obvious, but implementation can certainly be a challenge.

Throughout my life, I’ve gone into and out of many healthy (and unhealthy) behaviors. Some new good habits stuck easily, while others went on roller coaster rides before finally finding their happy place within my daily life.

If you’re looking to make healthy changes in your life, you’re probably going to struggle a bit if you try to do it all at once. (Rome wasn’t built in a day if you haven’t heard yet).

Instead, try to make small changes, one a time. Rid yourself of your old, unhealthy habits and replace them with new ones.

Here are five things that you should do, if you really want to get on top of your health. To make it easy for you, I've also included what you should do instead. (For serious med advice, talk to your doctor. See disclaimer).


Stop eating so many crappy, processed foods.

One of the biggest shifts in society is that our intake of processed foods has increased significantly in the last half a century.

Processed foods also means higher calories, higher sodium content, and less nutritional value. If most of your diet consists of processed foods, you likely aren’t getting the nutrients your body needs to function well and prevent you from getting sick. And you'll probably feel like crap.

What to do instead.

Some processed foods scattered sporadically in your diet are probably okay, as long as they’re minimal in your diet, not eaten daily, and supplemented with whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, unprocessed whole grains, grass-fed meats, and organic dairy (or whatever healthy diet floats your boat).

I know we’re all busy, and sometimes you come home from an exhausting day at the office and just don’t want to cook. I get it.

Here's an example for you.

I like to buy these pre-made pizza crusts at Trader Joe's, throw some sauce and a few veggies on there with a couple slices of whole mozzarella. Sometimes, I used jar sauce, but I like to can my own pasta sauce when the season is right to avoid added sugar and other stuff.

Or if you want to get bougie, here is a pizza sauce you can order on Amazon that's got no added sugar, no preservatives, vegan, gluten free, whole 30 approved, and all the other good things.

This is an example of mixing whole foods with processed foods. The next night, I may do a salad with some sort of organic protein. You don’t have to be perfect at it every day, just try to learn a few simple recipes at a time to start knocking the processed stuff out of your diet and replacing it with whole foods. Start small, and you'll get good before you know it.


Stop drinking soda.

When I was in college, I woke up one day and decided I wasn’t going to drink pop anymore (or soda. Sorry I’m Minnesotan). Within a few weeks, I lost a ton of weight, and felt my energy levels go up significantly.

Soda is just empty calories stuffed with processed sugar. One can of Coke has 36 grams of sugar, which is 6 more grams than the daily recommended amount.

Many people out there do have sugar addiction, so this might not be the easiest task. But just go cold turkey. Stop buying the stuff. It may be hard at first, but once you begin to reap the benefits of a pop-free lifestyle, you won’t want to turn back. It will likely only take a few days to get over that first hump.

Even after giving up soda overall, I’d still once in a great while get a craving for a Mountain Dew (don’t ask why, because I don't know either). Since I was typically a healthy individual, I’d give myself the treat. I’d feel my energy levels spike through the roof for about an hour, then I’d either want a nap or a cup or six of coffee.

What to do instead.

If you have that need to reach for an energetic pick-me-up after lunch, try coffee or tea. If you start having a craving, pause for a moment, and think why you are having that craving. Is it the habit talking? Wait ten minutes, then see if you still want it, and if you must, replace it with something gentler.

You can also replace sugary pop with flavored soda water. I became a La Croix lover when I found out that it wasn’t your standard pop (I’m not sure why I thought that for so long). Or, if you want to get really fancy, try one of those SodaStream machines and add bubblies to your own creations. Do it without the sugar, or add a little bit of stevia or some sort of other non-processed sweetener.


Stop believing there’s one magical thing that’s going to fix all your problems at once.

One thing is not going to solve all your problems. If you’re unhealthy or craving change in life, there’s usually a multitude of things that got you to where you are now in the first place.

Anybody telling you their product or diet or whatever they’ve got will fix everything are probably just trying to sell you something.

What to do instead.

Realize that solutions to most health problems require a multi-faceted approach.

Your body is not a machine made up of independent parts, but a unified whole with interdependent systems working with one another. If one system is going wrong, another system is probably doing something to compensate, and you have to nurture both of them back to health.

An example from my line of work (massage therapy) would be if somebody comes in with a headache. The problem might not just be in their head (...haha). Perhaps they sit at a computer all day, hunched forward. Their pectoralis (chest) muscles get tight pulling the alignment of their shoulders and spine forward, creating "stretch weakness" in the upper back, and making them have to crank their neck back in order to look straight ahead. With all those muscles all out of whack, the neck muscles are unhappy, causing a headache.

It could also be a misaligned vertebrae that they need a chiropractor for. It could also be dehydration, diet, too much sugar, lack of sleep, old injury, new injury, or a plethora of other things that my magical hands can’t fix.


Give up perfectionism.

In case nobody has told you yet, nothing will ever be perfect.

While it's good to always want to do your best, perfectionism can set you up for failure, disappointment, critical self evaluation, and has even been linked to anxiety, OCD, and panic disorders.

If you're trying to improve your health, what's "perfect" is likely going to be based on the standards of others and not what's ideal for you. Every body is different, and what helped your friend overcome their health issues may not work for you. You have to find your own path, kiddo.

What to do instead.

Take small steps. Make shorter term goals when it comes to health, and work on one thing at a time.

Perhaps you want to get really super fit, but you haven't worked out in years and lack the energy required to do something like crossfit. Start going on walks. Build up your stamina and energy, then move to something like running.

This is just an example, but do what feels right for you, and not what society deems as perfect.


Stop eating what makes you feel like crap.

So you know you’re lactose intolerant. Why do you keep eating dairy?

Yes, perhaps there is a pill you can take to ward off the side effects, but is that really undoing the damage that dairy may be doing to your gut, or is it more like slapping a bandaid on a gunshot wound?

If you have food allergies or sensitivities that you know about, it’s probably time to give those things up for good. They make you feel bad. They cause indigestion or diarrhea or whatever side effect you end up with. Why suffer any longer? It may not be the easiest thing, but think of the damage you’re doing to your insides by eating what your body is literally not built to digest.

What to do instead.

The answer should be simple. Don’t eat what makes you feel like crap.

I know this may be hard, but try starting to replace those foods with something else. You can even work with a nutritionist or dietician if needed. Pinterest is full of recipes catered to certain diets, too, so make yourself a board.

Try not to fall for too many "gluten free" alternatives to things that would normally have gluten in them (if gluten is your issue, for example). Many big food companies jumped on that buzzword wagon, and like to make more processed crap that yes, technically does not have gluten, but is made of other machine-derived foods that also are not good for you (refer back to #1 thing you should do to get yourself healthy...


Stop smoking.

You already know it. I know it. Smoking is terrible for your health. It causes cancer and all the other bad things you don’t want.

When I was a teenager, I watched both of my grandparents’ health wither away and die early because they spent their lives smoking. My grandma at one point had a hard time getting up from the kitchen table to go to the bathroom. She’d come back panting like she’d just ran a marathon. It was ten feet away. They were both only in their 70s, which doesn’t seem all that old in this day and age.

What to do instead.

I'm going to be brutal here. Suck it up and stop smoking. Your health will thank you. And no, it’s never too late.

There are resources out there to help. While I've never heard much good about the side effects Chantix, it has helped people get off nicotine if you need to take dramatic measures.


Stop being sedentary.

Sedentary lifestyles are perhaps one of the biggest contributors to society’s overall decline in health. As many jobs have moved from labor to something behind a screen, many people find themselves sitting for upwards of 8 hours a day at work, then coming home, plopping in front of the television for a few hours, then bed.

Our bodies were meant to move.

Evolutionarily speaking, not long ago, humans had to move constantly. We didn’t really “exercise” the way we do today, because our lifestyles gave us the physical activity we needed. The rise of technology happened to rise faster than our body’s evolutionary reactions, so the physical health of our bodies have suffered.

What to do instead.

The thing is, you don’t need to crush an hour at the gym every day to be healthy. Walking is perhaps one of the best exercises out there, especially as you get older. NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, is the energy you expend in non-sport like activity, and can have a huge impact on achieving your health goals.


Stop not believing in yourself.

Mindset is everything. Those that believe they can get better are generally the ones that do. If you believe your poor health is due to genetics or something else that’s beyond your control, then your poor health is probably here to stay. (Ever heard of epigenetics? Your genetics may load the gun, but you pull the trigger).

What to do instead.

Start believing that you can be healthy. Healthy lifestyles aren’t just for the privileged. Anybody can make small changes that will amount to big results, if you believe in yourself.

Yes, you can stick with your goals. Yes, you can overcome your bad health. Yes, you can feel better. Start telling yourself this everyday.

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