Welcome back for my third installment of Cultivating Health. I shared my story with you in part 1, new breakthroughs in Part 2, and today I’m giving you practical tips and favorite products that have made a difference for us. What a journey this has been, with daily insights, new steps forward, and progress in a short time. A LOT can happen in a month, friends! In keeping with my goals for 2023, and knowing little by little steps add up, here are 7 top things Ari and I have done so far to improve our wellness and get the spring back in our step—consider these spring cleaning for your health!
As always, while Ari is a doctor, I am not, and I’m sharing these recommendations that work well for us. Our bodies all have unique needs. Talk to a functional medicine professional, and do what you can where you are. Hopefully, these posts give you inspiration and a jumping-off point. Affiliate links are used in the post – enjoy!
My Top 7 Health Tips to get the spring back in your step!
1. Evaluate where you are. As the creator of the PowerSheets, this one should come as no surprise to you. Reflection reaps rewards and data can help determine your best direction. There are many ways to evaluate your health to lay a foundation for the right next steps—you will know what’s best for you depending on your health needs, budget, and time. For Ari and me, this has meant doing three things lately:
— We track our nutrition each day using MyFitnessPal. This app helps us know we are eating enough. For both of us, the main focus is making sure we’re getting enough protein. More about this in a minute.
— We got some basic biomarkers done at our local Restore Hyper Wellness while we waited for an appointment with a functional medicine doctor. This was super helpful! More in this post.
— We track our rest and recovery using our Whoop bands. WE LOVE THEM. Have you thought about getting a WHOOP? We used our friend’s code for a discount, so I’ll share mine here for you, too. Get a free WHOOP 4.0 and one month free when you join with my link. I also track and do my workouts through Trainerize – more on my exercise in a minute. All of these apps—MyFitnessPal, WHOOP, and Trainerize—connect together through Apple Health, which is fantastic! A win for technology.
2. SLEEP. All caps for a reason. Do not pass go, and do not collect your $200 until you dig into this one. Honestly, nothing affects us more than poor or great sleep. There’s an athlete I follow who said he tries to get good at just one thing each year instead of trying to do it all. I love this. After all these years together, you and I know about the power of little-by-little progress. The idea of focusing on one area of significant growth has stuck with me over the last month. Sleep, to Ari and me, is that one thing. It affects your recovery, hormones, mental acuity, mood, strength, longevity, ability to love others well, etc., etc. So, what do we do for sleep? We go hardcore. We’ve done this a little bit at a time over the last weeks. It has been uncomfortable at points to try new things, and it has been 1000% worth the effort.
— We got separate mattresses. Wild, I know! Stay with me for a minute. We were constantly waking each other up shifting around in bed. When one of us got up to go to the bathroom in the night, boom, the other was awake. We donated our mattress to Habitat Restore and got two of these Twin XL’s and put them right next to each other on the bed frame – super cheap compared to our King mattress. We have separate fitted sheets and still share the top sheet and comforter. Big win for sleep. The mattresses are CertiPur certified, but if I did it again knowing what I know now, I’d order this Eco Organic Mattress from Avocado. I’ve read great things about how comfortable they are, and it doesn’t get much more toxin-free than this.
— We raised the head of our bed by 6 inches to help our acid reflux while we work on healing our guts and systems from over a decade on PPI’s! We just used a few wood pieces to do this.
— We each have what I call our morning C.O.F.F.E.E. to get our circadian rhythms started well for the day:
C – cup of water with electrolytes – read this.
O – outside to see the sun – thank you, Huberman Lab. IYKYK!
F – functional warmup and workout
F – five-minute post-workout meditation – again, thank you, Huberman lab.
E – eat!
E – energize with supplements
Ari does a quick run with our neighbor in the morning before I get up and lifts weights after work. I lift weights at home after he leaves in the morning. He has a quick shake for breakfast, and I have the works: some sort of protein, maybe some collard greens from the garden, and oats.
— We eat dinner early and have our last snacks a couple of hours before bed. If your body is working on digesting food at night, it’s not working on restoring and clearing out your various systems. The kids are in bed by 7, and we are in bed by 8 and asleep before 9. This works well for us, with everyone needing to be up early. Ari runs at 5:30 before work, and I’m up at 6 to start breakfast for everyone. Now, let me just stop here for a minute. For the record, if I had read my own post just a few months ago, I’d say, “NO WAY, José!” How could I ever get to bed that early?? Friends, if you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired… and you know your days are numbered… you will be motivated to do just about anything to ignite change. I sold a business, finished a long and fruitful career, and had my dad pass away all in the span of a month last year. I’m at a turning point, knowing this life is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. I want to make the most of what we’ve been given. Going to bed at 8 pm didn’t take a second thought for us with the big picture goal: living for what matters while we have the gift of breath in our lungs! Ari and I are both in this for the long haul. Our brains and hearts are a whole lot happier. Besides, with all this new training and things we’re doing, we’re pretty tired by 8 and looking forward to good rest!
— We did some learning about EMFs. Many studies show that daily low-frequency EMF exposure decreases sleep quality, lowers melatonin production, and increases depression and anxiety symptoms. So, we unplugged the TV in our bedroom and don’t use it anymore. We’ll probably keep it here for a family movie now and then. I plug my phone in the bathroom and haven’t looked back. I turn it completely off at night. We also completely turn our internet off at night! Goodbye, nighttime EMFs. I got this helpful killswitch.
— We dim the lights all around the house around 6, and I wear blue-light blocking these glasses – even in the shower! I told you we don’t mess around with sleep these days.
— We breathe, meditate, or listen to scripture on Glorify. Ari even started doing nightly breathwork with our youngest to help her sleep. It works like a charm!
— We use a Dohm at night.
— Ari and I both take magnesium. Magnesium deficiency causes a whole host of complications (more in a future post, but start here), and it’s a low-risk supplement with a ton of upside. Ari loves Magnesium Breakthrough from BioOptimizers, and I’ve been adding Magnesium Glycinate from Pure Encapsulations before bed. We have both been sleeping better and recovering faster. I listened to two podcasts where health professionals I trust raved about Magnesium Breakthrough. My husband is such a fan that anytime someone has a booboo or really any problem in our house, he looks at me and jokingly says, “Magnesium?” with a smile. I’m always looking for discount codes on things, so here’s one for BioOptimizers. Use code LARA10 for 10% off.
There are hormones, life stress, and various sleep disruptors that happen. Over time though, we are accumulating more restorative rest. It’s all about the big picture. The results? SLEEP! Real, good sleep, praise the Lord. Last night…
3. Clean up your air and water. Air and water are foundations for life. This is something we invested in for our health and our children’s long-term health.
— We called the Doctor! The Air Doctor that is. I can’t say enough about how much we love our AirDoctor purifiers. I did a ton of research, and it has proved fruitful. We had a small construction project in our house this month to repair drywall and paint a few walls, and the AirDoctors went to town to get all the construction particles cleaned out of the air. When I do heavy cooking, they crank up, too—they sense everything. Between the pollen lately and general air pollutants, these have been well worth the investment. They are on sale right now!
— We filter our drinking and cooking water. After much research and MANY recommendations, we bought this AquaTru system. We aren’t ready to commit to a whole-house set-up, so this was a solid first step. This reverse osmosis countertop system is easy to use and comes with great reviews from people we trust. We add back trace minerals with Hi Lyte. Highly recommend the AquaTru! Clean water is the best foundation. We’ve tested both our air quality and water, and it’s a night and day difference now. Start with a free water report from the EWG Tap Water Database. AquaTru is also on sale right now!
4. “Reduce stress.” I have to admit anytime I’ve seen this listed as a tip in a post like this, I have scoffed in the past. It feels presumptuous to suggest someone “reduce stress,” not knowing the weight of the other person’s daily responsibilities and challenges. So, let me flip this one on its head for you: gather tools to combat stress when it happens. We all know stress is going to happen, but you can regulate the degree to which it affects your long-term health. That might mean, like me, you have some catching up to do—some stress detox work. It’s been a month of “stress resilience education” in our house – i.e., lots of stressors to help us practice! Our nervous systems can become more resilient over time. Learning how cortisol works has been a turning point in stress management for Ari and me, especially learning how to calm it down in the later part of the day to prepare for sleep.
— We practice breathing. Ari likes Headspace, and I love the daily reflections in the Glorify app. Use this link for a free 30-day guest pass to Headspace.
— We learn about stress, why our society has more of it these days, and how to be more resilient. This new episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy is a great starting point for practical guidance. Here’s another great podcast about recovery – they talk about the science of cortisol (and when it’s a good thing!).
— I take cold showers and ice baths when I can. This always gives me a boost!
— I see a counselor weekly to heal my grief and learn resilience in stress.
— We move our bodies. A walk outside can turn a whole day around.
— We are serious about workout recovery, so we don’t over-train and stress our systems too much. OOFOS Recovery Slides were recommended by my podiatrist for recovery and to wear around the house.
— We pray. Prayer changes things.
5. Lift heavy things. The benefits of weight training are endless, and I think we all know by now it’s good for us. My guess is, though, like me, you may need a little motivation, knowledge, or accountability. Maybe all three? Same here! Here’s what’s helped us lately:
— We get motivated by learning from experts. Listen to Andrew Huberman and Andy Galpin’s exercise series on the Huberman Lab Podcast. It took Ari and me a solid 3 weeks to get through this epic series, starting with this episode, and they are all well worth the listen. We gained what feels like a lifetime of exercise and recovery knowledge, with one of my favorite episodes giving a balanced fitness and longevity plan that goes with the seasons of the year. This was right up my alley. Thank you, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin! Ari and I loved every minute. Listen here.
— We don’t do it alone. Ari goes to a small gym in our neighborhood, and I enlisted virtual help for my at-home workouts. There are so many ways to stay accountable. You could join an exercise class with friends, set up a run time with a neighbor like Ari does now, or have a regular walking phone date with a friend (looking at you, Em!). After losing my Dad recently, I wanted to take back my health with some expert help. I joined a 6-month virtual group training program in January with Bradee and several other women in various stages of life. Bradee sets my workouts each month through Trainerize and has been so encouraging through my ups and downs with joint pains and injuries from having hypermobility joint syndrome. I don’t have a gym membership and haven’t for years, so this extra investment in my joints and longevity felt right on time. I use weights and bands we have at home. Most of the first weeks were body weight, so I didn’t need extra equipment to get started. Friends, I have benefited from this so much. We check in throughout the week, and Bradee monitors my lifting progress and needs. I love her balanced approach to nutrition and exercise – no diets or crazy plans. It has been SO much fun, and I highly recommend her group program if you need accountability. As a former trainer myself, this has been such a blessing to have someone knowledgeable help me get back into heavier lifting after a long hiatus. Having a solid program with accountability has led to crazy strength gains in these 12 weeks. It all started as all good things begin: small and slow. Trust the process, friends, and lift weights!
6. Fuel. Let’s talk about metabolism for a minute. If you don’t eat enough, your body adapts. Your metabolism slows down. You lose muscle. I’ve been so busy growing a company and raising kiddos over the last few years that I got into the habit of eating fewer and fewer whole foods and relying more on easy foods. Ari and I got a metabolism reset over the last 12 weeks by eating more mindfully and plentifully: whole foods, pasture-raised meat and eggs, wild-caught fish, veggies from the garden, and a variety of colors and spices. We generally don’t eat out, so our food budget goes to groceries. I’m eating twice as much as I was before starting this journey in January. About 2400/calories a day from whole foods (no bars or shakes for me right now), and I aim for 150g of protein to help me gain muscle at my age. I often joke that my full-time job is eating meat these days (sorry vegan friends!), and my other full-time job is cooking for the family. It’s a ton of cooking daily, but I’m learning to batch it, and our cookware makes it easier. Ari is in the same boat, eating more than before and gaining lean muscle. It’s been a bit of a revelation for us to eat so much and see the weight training do its thing. I’ll chat more about what we eat and our favorite recipes in a future post! Listen to Dr. Hyman’s podcast as a great starting point for functional nutrition.
7. Try new things. You’ll see “Have fun with fitness with Ari” on my Tending List this month. If we’re not having fun, it makes the hard parts of getting our health in order, well… hard. Trying new things is one way to keep things interesting and fun. There have been MANY things we thought we’re a little off-the-wall at first glance (hello, getting separate mattresses and wearing my orange glasses at night!). You never know if it works until you try, though! We have, more often than not, been surprised by the results of trying new things—and energized by the discovery process.
Let’s start with some new kitchen essentials, shall we? To reduce toxins in our home from plastic and chemicals, we substituted our traditional kitchen items for these clean alternatives:
— We swapped our metal and plastic spatulas for Non-toxic teak wood Spurtles. Friends, where have these been all my life!? They make cooking more ergonomic for my hands and more fun for everyone. Also, they are beautiful—so beautiful we decided to put them in a container on our kitchen counter for easy access.
— We got these sustainable salt and pepper mills.
— We recycled our plastic colander (that was likely melting every time we put hot pasta through it – yikes!) for a well-designed metal colander.
We’re trying new protocols.
— We continue to see the benefits of doing sauna, red light therapy, and compression at Restore each week to help detox and recovery.
— We cool down quickly. One thing both Ari and I added this month was immediately doing downregulation breathing or meditation following a workout. This was recommended in the Huberman/Galpin exercise series in the episode on recovery. It helps prime the nervous system to know it’s time to heal. Wow, we have loved this – and it has helped me push harder in my training, knowing I’ll have the reward of this nice little spot of mediation right after.
With guidance from our practitioner, we’re also taking new supplements unique to our needs. I am working on restoring my liver function after all the medications I was on previously. My personal favorites right now that are making a big difference:
— Creatine from Thorne – Ari and I both take this daily. It’s one of the most researched-backed supplements after all these years with a ton of upside.
— Nutrient 950 from Pure Encapsulations
— Vitamin D3 from Thorne
— Magnesium Glycinate before bed from Pure Encapsulations
— LMNT before or after a sweaty workout or sauna. I also keep one of these adorable mini Redmond Real Salts in every bag and in Ari’s lunch cooler, too. Perfect for eating on the go! We continue to love our Redmond Real Salt. Use my link here for $5 off your purchase.
Woosh! There you have it! I hope these recommendations and tips encourage you to try new things and choose what matters most for your health. I’m excited to keep learning and taking small steps forward. I’ll look forward to a quick check-in next month!
Your turn! How are you cultivating your health? Any favorites lately?