To give a quick intro– I’m Bridger and I’m Rachael’s husband. We’ve lived together for just over 3 years now and let’s just say I’ve learned a LOT. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, we all start in different places. My story is no different from most. I was raised eating wonder bread, eggo waffles, and more bagels with cream cheese than I could ever count. Through no fault of my family, just a general lack of information & knowledge about the confusing and ever-changing world of nutrition. My mom made attempts to make healthy changes to our diets, but typically, with a little pressure from me & my brother, we could get our dad to hit the store and get the good stuff we actually wanted to eat (my poor mother). My story takes a turn for the better when I started dating Rachael in High School. At that point, she had just started to become more passionate about nutrition and decided she was going to pursue it in college.
I played high school basketball and was just getting into lifting weights when my team and I learned more about protein and its effects on muscle growth. It’s crazy to think that that’s pretty common knowledge today, understanding the differences between carbs, fats and proteins, but I was nowhere close to understanding food and its effects on the body at that age. I’ve truly come such a long way in my health journey, but I understand that for most, a registered dietitian is not a simple text or walk up the stairs away. I wanted to write out the handful of basic principles I’ve learned over the years living with Rachael that I wish someone had taught me long ago, and hopefully it can help jumpstart your health journey. Hopefully they make as large of an impact in your life as they’ve made in mine!
Water was not something I consistently reached for growing up. Of course, when you’re addicted to sugar, water seems boring and tasteless. We are literally made up of about 60% water & it’s the key to everything functioning correctly and at optimal levels in your body. Remember, our bodies do a great job at adapting to various situations. However, water is one of the few things it won’t/can’t adapt without. The current recommendation for men is about 2 liters (8 glasses of 8oz’s a day), but more if you train or workout consistently. As a good rule of thumb, I try to fill my 24oz water bottle 3-5x a day. I’ll hyperlink some more water info here. Chances are if you’re just starting your health journey you probably aren’t drinking enough water. And to quote Matthew McConaughey from my favorite movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, “You gotta pump those numbers up. Those are rookie numbers in this racket.”
Reduce/Eliminate Added Sugars
Huge emphasis on the “added” part of that sub category. Natural sugars are processed differently than the ones typically found in sugary soda or candy bars. This principle is as big for me today as it was back then. I have a sweet tooth like you’d not believe & have come so far with Rach’s 7 Day Added Sugar Detox. Seriously, this is coming from the kid who would drink five to six Coca-Cola’s a day and supplement with two to three $1 boxed candies at night. The fact of the matter is that sugar, when consumed in excess, can have a huge effect on your insulin levels, increasing your risk for diabetes, increasing inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, etc. A huge benefit to eliminating your sugar intake that I personally noticed was that your taste buds become more sensitive to sweet tasting things. This causes most foods to have so much more flavor and natural sugars like the ones found in fruit, taste amazing and so sweet! I’m sure you can all relate to the feeling of eating something sugary & then craving something else sugary soon afterwards. When you remove the sugar, your taste buds will start responding and have less cravings overall. Trust me, it took awhile for me to actually commit to going 7 days without added sugar, but it’s worth it! I have so much more energy throughout the day.
Swap Your Cooking Oils
Like I explained earlier, I wasn’t in the know about healthy fats until years later in college when Rach was halfway through her schooling. At the time, I was shopping like any other college kid, spending as little money as possible & looking for the most bang for my buck. Well, if that’s you too, you probably know all about canola oil and other processed cooking oils that are drastically cheaper than the high-quality oils sitting in the same exact isle. What’s not common knowledge & what researchers are learning more and more about every day is your ratio of omega-3 fatty acids (good for you) to your omega-6 fatty acids (good in moderation, but excess can cause inflammation) is very important to your overall health– mostly pertaining to your cognitive brain function. Let’s break it down: fatty acids are the main substance that supports our brains and, by supplying the body with low-quality omega-6 acids, commonly found in cheaper oils like canola, we’re doing one of our most important features of the body a huge disservice. Want to clear the brain fog? Good – remove low quality oils like Canola or other damaging oils from your diet. We want to improve our omega-3 : omega-6 ratio so that we’re consuming more omega-3’s & you can do so by implementing better quality cooking oils like Avocado Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil. Not only do they taste better, but you’ll notice the difference with how you feel as well. Learn more here.
Get Adequate Sleep
I love a good 8-9 hours. Rachael can confirm, and if anything, I probably have a tendency to oversleep. Adequate sleep could not be any more important given what’s currently going on in the world with COVID-19. It’s our immune system’s best chance to recharge and recover after working hard to keep us healthy throughout the day. Quality sleep has been linked to: improved memory, improved mood, exercise performance & recovery, & weight loss. Not to mention – who doesn’t love a good nap? One thing that people struggle with is that they are sleeping enough but not getting QUALITY sleep. When we are sleeping peacefully, we are actually going through a cycle of different types of sleep, some of which are more important than others. The cycle goes → Awake → Light Sleep → Deep Sleep → REM Sleep & then repeats until you wake up and start your day. The REM part of this is where a lot of the recovery & brain stimulation comes from & thus, makes it the most important part of the cycle. Things like Melatonin increase our REM Cycles by making us stay in our REM portion for longer, thus getting more effective sleep. Melatonin, just like any supplement, can be found naturally in foods like bell peppers, tomatoes, walnuts & some forms of red meat.
Reduce/Eliminate Highly Processed Foods
Our food system is certainly far from perfect. A processed food is any type of food that has been altered during the preparation phase. Packaging of foods in order to increase shelf life was created to decrease food waste & allow shoppers to buy with confidence. However, a lot of these foods have lost most, if not all, of their nutrient contents along the way. By focusing on fresh, never packaged foods, we can avoid the reduced nutrient contents on the things we already enjoy. Some healthy swaps include things like: peanut butter– grinding your own peanuts or almonds at the store instead of opting for the sugary brands in the isle. Rach recommends buying the one that’s two ingredients, peanuts and sea salt. Coffee Creamer– instead of the coffee mate, opt for something homemade like cashew milk & a natural sweetener like honey. Not all processed foods are made the same, but you can always see for yourself by reading the ingredient list on a product. I prefer looking for fewest ingredients as possible, choosing foods with ingredients I can pronounce and understand and overall, just more whole foods from the earth!
Rachael always stresses this point in her stories & it’s one of my favorites. The small changes really add up. Start by swapping just one or two things from your diet and over time, add on another change so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming or unachievable. Eventually, these will turn into habits and hopefully be sustainable / long-lasting. A complete lifestyle overhaul is not going to happen overnight. You might be able to hold on for a while but eventually, you will fall back into your old ways if you try to change too much at once. Instead, make weekly goals of healthier substitutions and/or things that put your personal health at the top of your priority list. I recommend using the ideas above but define them in ways that impact your life on a day to day basis. Swap the sugary drink for water instead. Try flavoring it with lemon or electrolytes so that it’s something you want to drink. Starting to notice certain items in your pantry have canola oil in them? The next time you hit the store, try looking at the ingredients list for those that don’t and make the swap. There’s tons of healthier alternatives to our favorite foods these days so it’s not that difficult finding substitutions. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a healthy lifestyle.
These are just a handful of the things I’ve learned over the years that have made a huge impact on my overall health and well being. Hopefully you can find this helpful and take even just one of these tips to implement into your routine this week! Feel free to leave a comment below– I’ll do my best to answer.