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6 Habits That Support Optimal Health

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With intermittent fasting becoming more popular by the month, I've been receiving questions from those who practice water-only fasting for many days or even a few weeks at a time as a way of supporting the body's natural cleansing and self-healing mechanisms.

While I continue to view water-only fasting for 72+ hours as a viable approach to encouraging recovery from some chronic degenerative health challenges like hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, and loss of insulin sensitivity, my opinion is that as we get older, we must carefully weigh the benefits of fasting with the downsides of muscle and bone loss.

Yes, the body is infinitely wise in its ability to preserve as much muscle and bone tissue as possible, entering a physiologic state involving "protein sparing" about 2-3 days into a water-only fast. But my experience has been that having only water for occasional long fasts or regular shorter fasts can lead to unhealthy muscle and bone density loss that may not be fully recovered, especially for older people who no longer produce ideal amounts of testosterone and growth hormone.

When considering longevity, one of the best markers we have is how much skeletal muscle a person maintains. Muscles help prevent virtually all degenerative diseases by acting as a reservoir for excess sugar, stored as glycogen - the more muscle we carry, the more sugar we can clear from our bloodstream, thereby preserving insulin sensitivity and preventing all of the health challenges that stem from decreased insulin sensitivty, including carrying too much adipose tissue.

To experience some of the benefits of fasting while avoiding muscle and bone loss that can accompany excessive fasting, my suggestion for most is to strive to keep the daily window for eating to no more than about 8 hours on most days. Perhaps 11 am to 7 pm, or 12 pm to 8 pm, any range of 8 hours that best suits your circumstances. Skeletal muscles store about one day's worth of glycogen that can be tapped into during such intermittent fasting, so there is virtually no risk of entering the physiological phase of water fasting that involves catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue. And this level of intermittent fasting doesn't typically lead to a drop in energy, so bone loss due to being sedentary because of low energy isn't an issue.

For growing children or those in circumstances that require high physical output and therefore higher-than-average nutrient intake, it's best to eat as much and as often as each circumstance ideally requires.

For those who appreciate simple checklists, here are some key daily habits that I believe are essential to experiencing optimal health:

1. Walk with a grateful spirit.

For everything and everyone in your life that you hope to wake up with tomorrow.

For the awareness that if you walk with enough humility to ask to be forgiven for times you haven't behaved thoughtfully, it's near impossible to carry hate or resentment in your heart.

2. Be physically active.

If you can, play sports. If you can't play a sport, focus primarily on walking 8-10 thousand steps a day - a daily step counter can be a highly motivating and useful tool.

Take care of your joints daily by mindfully moving them through their entire range of motion. (https://youtu.be/x91x9-FP6BM)

Support your muscles by doing some resistance work with a focus on keeping your core and sense of balance strong. (https://youtu.be/iJEHxKakdio)

3. Be mindful of conditions for optimal sleep.

Playing sports or walking 8-10K steps per day will help with this.

Don't use screens an hour before bed.

Ensure a dark, cool, and comfortable sleeping environment. Consider using a sleep mask. (https://amzn.to/3dLDP0e)

Limit food and liquid intake to 3 hours before bedtime.

Use a separate sleeping surface if a tossing and turning partner disrupts your sleep. In some countries, the trend is for married couples to share the same bedroom but have two separate beds - the idea is to preserve intimacy while optimizing sleep quality.

4. Engage in meaningful work or always be learning.

Any work or learning that encourages your mind and/or body to be challenged.

Preferably work that you enjoy or believe in enough to continue with for the rest of your life even if you weren't paid to do so.

5. Tend to your closest relationships.

The value of a truly beautiful relationship with a family member or friend, one in which there is ultimate trust that comes from genuine fondness and respect? Priceless.

6. Eat nutrient-dense foods that leave you feeling well.

Focus on protein-rich foods that you digest well, fill in the edges with fresh fruits and cooked vegetables that you crave and digest well. Chew all foods until liquid and with a grateful spirit.

Hope this list of 6 daily habits to support optimal health is helpful - please feel free to share with loved ones.

 
 

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