What a year!
Central to my 2016 experience was a tectonic lifestyle shift. There were a lot of changes. Some were hefty, and others were actually small (but mighty). In a broader sense, 2016 was a banner year of personal experimentation; a series of tests with a mix of failures and successes.
Here and now, I've done my best to distill the list of what worked for 2016. This list represents the things I added (or subtracted) from my life. Although there are a handful listed, one change stands out among the rest.
Adopting a whole food plant based diet set off a chain reaction for almost all of the positive changes that occurred for me in 2016. All roads lead back to my commitment to test out a plant-based diet for the year. It stands as the crown jewel of the choices I made.
That being said, everything presented here gets mention because they came with results that were detectable, and often measurable. And the results are so good that I'm continuing with them into 2017.
*Don't consider any of the info below as medical advice. It's not. I'm reporting on my experiences. If you're going to make any changes to your health or diet, I strongly encourage you to talk it over with the appropriate people. And do your homework!
RISE AT 5
I don't succeed in rising at 5am every single day, but making 5am the goal consistently resulted in getting up much earlier each consecutive day of the year. Simply put, the early hours are my best ones - mostly because they are distraction-free and my mind is fresh. Early rising is an absolute productivity booster, and I say this as a former self-labelled night owl.
DRINKING A LITER OF WATER
My feet hit the floor. I stand up. And I immediately start drinking water. Usually in the range of half a litre to a litre. It's a high-impact and simple ritual to install. Even while half awake, this was easy to make automatic. Drinking all of that water first thing in the morning offsets dehydration from the night's sleep. It also promotes toxin flushing in the body and really gets things moving in the digestion system. It wakes me up and I feel good every time I do it. Add lemon juice or Apple Cider Vinegar if you really want to kickstart your day.
I finally got tired of how I felt and what I was seeing in the mirror. I was squishy, sick, and frequently depleted. I was coasting when it came to fitness and my health, so I committed to raising my standards. I chose to run a marathon (which I did last fall in Vegas). The sheer size of the goal lit a fire under my ass, because the notion of successfully running a marathon was an enormous question mark. I wasn't sure if I could do it. I was scared. So I trained. Consistently. The real victory was getting to the gym, and getting in daily movement. Until I started training, my life was really cerebral and sedentary. Running is inherently neither of those things, and the athletic gains I got from exercise triggered a cascade of other healthy decisions. Training for a specific goal created a very powerful positive feedback loop in my life.
A wishy-washy, touchy-feely concept I routinely ignored or smirked at most of my life. I struggled with even sharing this one publicly, to be honest. But it's a good one. It's actually impossible to be angry if you are feeling truly grateful for something. Try it. Be grateful for fresh socks (or anything) and simultaneously try to be upset about something. You can only do one or the other. Journalling has also proven to be a salve any time I slid into a distorted or negatively self-centred frame of mind. It doesn't take much writing to course-correct. Some days I write one sentence. Other times I might write longer, or more methodical entries. Like training, though I found the victory was in consistency of the practice. I know what I think when I write it down.
There is a pile of science out there now about the benefits of daily meditation, so I won't even touch on that, here. Meditation is the bomb. It is a life improving practice. It helped me be present with my mom in her final hours, and I swear it helped me through the toughest spots of marathon training and the actual race. It's like strength training for the mind. Be a Jedi - meditate. I use Headspace, a wildly popular and well done app. Meditating 10 minutes a day is about 1% of your waking hours on a 16 hour day. It's time well spent.
THE BIG BERKEY
Poor Greer. She's heard me go through the same script on this thing with so many people this year. Here's a short version. It's a mighty fine water purifiying - not merely filtering - system. A gravity fed stainless steel container that has no mechanical parts and does not require power, The Big Berkey is a small investment that brings a ton of value (if you want something other than tap water) After the exchange rate, our house purchased a Berkey for just under $300 Canadian. The ceramic filters are rated to purify 6000 gallons of water. We consume about 2 gallons a day from it, which means we'll draw clean water out of this thing for over 8 years. Replacement filters are just over $100 dollars. From now on, I never have to heave or collect a single blue jug of water again. I just dump tap water in and I'm done. And if there's no water pressure in the house, I can scoop river water into it and go about my business.
A VITAMIX BLENDER
In the spring of 2016 I pulled the trigger on this thing. I like it, it's a very substantial and useful kitchen upgrade. Does everyone need a Vitamix? Nope. The takeaway here is that if you are flirting with the idea of going plant-based, having a good blender really reduces the friction of the transition. A good smoothie is a great thing, and a good blender will help you make bold flavour situations in your kitchen. This is particularly true for making good sauces and blended soups. But a Vitamix is not cheap. Alternatively I have used and heard remarkable things about the Nutri-Bullet blenders. They strike me as a great option, and they are a fraction of the price of a Vitamix or Blend-Tec.
WIDE MOUTH MASON JARS
I feel kind of funny including these as a "Best Of" thing for 2016, but they deserve mention. They are a solid tool - dirt cheap, sealable, easy to clean(!) and replaceable. Again, they're a staple in our kitchen for a plant-based operation at home. And if you break or lose one you don't have to feel sad. You just clean up and move on with your life.
I read a lot of books in 2016. Pictured are the ones I found noteworthy and relevant to this post. I'm going to sidestep the work of doing write-ups for each book, though. They're mostly about health, fitness and going plant-based. I will mention that Meat Is For Pussies by John Joseph, is pretty funny. It's street-level straight-talk on the glaring problems with meat consumption and the Standard American Diet. JJ is a 54 year old punk rocker and Triathlete from Brooklyn He's been featured in Vice and recently in Forbes. He's pretty bad-ass, and the book is good for a few chuckles and a lot of learning. As the language of the title kind of implies, it's not for kids. It's loaded with Brooklyn attitude and profanity. You have been warned.
COOLING IT WITH THE BOOZE
I drank very little alcohol in 2016. I kind of had to. Drinking even moderate amounts of it created setbacks in my marathon training, and it got to a point where I had to decide what mattered most. I wanted to complete the marathon to the best of my ability. So, I more or less stopped drinking altogether. There were a few drinks scattered throughout the year, but nothing substantial. I consider this new level of consumption an improved state of being. I was (and still am) able to enjoy social occasions, but I saved a lot of money and sidestepped a lot undesirable effects of heavy alcohol consumption. I wrote about it, here
I STARTED DRINKING CHAGA MUSHROOM TEA
It has an interesting taste, almost like you're drinking a tree. But I really like it. There is a long list of purported and verified health benefits. I found it to be a really powerful health tonic, especially for improving my gut health and digestion. I buy it in bulk at Intuitive Path Superfoods at The Saskatoon Farmer's Market. You can also get it at Three Treasures, a sweet new joint in downtown Saskatoon some friends of mine recently opened.
I ATE A LOT OF PLANTS
Like I mentioned at the start, I decided to really get clear on how I wanted to feel: healthy and full of energy. So I changed what I ate. I trained for a marathon and ate only a variety of plants for the year. There were a couple moments of weakness where vegetarian pizza jumped into my mouth and I didn't take it out, but by in large it was nothing but plants. No meat, no cheese, no dairy, no eggs. And in the end, no problem.
In fact, there were fewer problems - at least in regards to my health and well-being. My story is actually pretty typical - I lost weight, kept it off, got fit, had fun, and now I feel tremendously better. If you ask any plant-based/vegan person out there, I'm certain you'll hear something similar.
Done thoughtfully, I find eating plants is also affordable. It's not solely the realm of the well-heeled. Makes sense. Rice, beans, and greens are not expensive, but they are nutrient rich sources of clean-burning fuel. I used to laugh and make fun of "vegans", but after testing the waters, I plan on staying the course. I was wrong. It's a winner, and although you may not believe me, it's a choice with almost no compromise and a treasure chest of benefits all at the same time.
Thanks for reading, and I hope 2017 is a record breaker of a year for you!
plants for life