Last year I turned 40. Something clicked in me, and I don’t know if it was some biological midlife wisdom or just a simple realization but nevertheless, my mindset about nutrition and fitness changed.
I wasn't the healthiest person when I was a freshman & sophomore in college. Like most ‘new adults’ I followed a pretty standard American diet, eating and drinking a little too much with no exercise at all. I was a little overweight, had poor sleep, low self-esteem, and overall I felt like crap.
Junior year in college, I had some friends who were into triathlons and they seemed to be in awesome shape and had a blast doing their sport. They often invited me out for runs, which I always politely declined with some lame excuse.
One day on an inspirational whim, I decided to attempt a run. I jogged around the block under the hot Texas sun and almost passed out. Not even a ‘Texas-sized’ block, just a normal block. I was shocked and ashamed that running around the block for 5 minutes left me out of breath and tired. That's the point I realized something had to change. And so circa 1999, in that dejected and fatigued moment, I caught my literal and metaphorical breath and my journey into nutrition and fitness began.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve made it my personal mission to constantly improve my quality of life by becoming a student of nutrition and fitness. I’ve self-experimented with every type of diet and fitness regime. I’ve done everything from vegan, raw food and marathons to keto and CrossFit. I’ve been on a two-decade quest to find my optimal self, the optimal diet, and the optimal fitness regime.
20 years later, I had another epiphany.
I discovered that there isn’t a one size fits all approach for an optimal diet and fitness regime, our bodies are all different and therefore respond differently to various health and fitness interventions.
So at 40, I changed my approach from being dogmatic about a diet or form of fitness, constantly chasing the latest this is what’s best for you fad. Instead, I began focusing on managing my overall lifestyle with guiding principles that I’ve learned over the last 20 years.
I believe a guide allows for flexibility to experiment and find what is optimal for you. It prevents you from having to try to fit yourself into a specific way of doing something, or worse, doing something that may ultimately harm you because it wasn’t right for your body, mind, or spirit.
I call these guiding principles the Longevity Lifestyle because I believe, if followed, they can help you optimize your personal longevity. They can help you establish a foundation that can give you an optimal quality of life, ultimately allowing you to continue to do the things you love as you chronologically age.
At mid-life, you discover that quality of life, being able to continue to do the things you love, is the holy grail of aging. Things like shooting hoops with your kids, traveling the world, running a marathon, climbing a mountain or surfing. These things should all be possible whether your age is 35 or 75.
So what are my Longevity Lifestyle guiding principles?
My longevity lifestyle is built around what I believe to be the 4 pillars of “health”.
Nutrition, Fitness, Sleep and Emotional Health.
Based on 20 years of self-experimentation, proven research and observation, I’ve extracted these 11 guiding principles that lie within the four pillars. I found that practicing the following 11 principles will dramatically increase the odds of having a high quality of life, whatever your age.
- Avoid sugar, highly refined carbohydrates, processed vegetable oils, and grains. All of which can cause some type of negative hormonal, toxic or inflammatory response in our body, leading to many chronic diseases associated with aging.
- Eat nutrient-dense whole foods. A diet rich in high-quality meats [nose to tail], fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds focusing on eating higher fat [quality], moderate protein and moderate to low carbohydrate intake.
- Build movement into your day. Morning or evening walks, short breaks to walk around the office, random kettlebell swings, push-ups or air squats.
- Lift weights. Support your musculoskeletal system by lifting heavy things a couple of times per week, especially protective movements like squats and deadlifts.
- Practice varied intensity exercise. Practice both endurance and sprint or HIIT type exercises a couple of times a week. An example would be a 3-mile jog (low-intensity aerobic endurance) and 40-yard sprints (high-intensity anaerobic)
- Mobilize your body. Incorporate some type of yoga, stretching or mobility routine into your week, keeping your joints and muscles supple and flexible.
- Get outside. Sunlight and fresh air in nature can do wonders for our bodies and minds. Getting outside has shown to help everything from improving vitamin D deficiencies to lowing blood pressure and fighting depression.
- Sleep. Good sleep helps everything from cognitive function (Alzheimer's prevention) to muscle support and growth. Avoiding sleep can have serious effects on how you age, DON'T deprive your body of sleep.
- Manage stress. Manage how you respond to stress and other negative external stimuli with tools like meditation and breathing. Aim to meditate or practice breathing exercises daily.
- Positive Socialization. Develop positive and meaningful relationships. Be part of a positive community. Having loving positive relationships and being part of a community has been shown to improve longevity.
- Create. Try new things that invigorate your body and mind, and make time for what you enjoy. Challenging yourself and expressing creativity supports emotional health and cognition.
Some of these principles may seem obvious but nevertheless they require practice and awareness to incorporate them into your life, and more so, consistently.
There is also a lot to unpack in each of these 11 principles and I will be expanding on them in future posts, sharing with you why I believe they are important, the research behind each principle and tips to incorporate them into your life. Sign up to our newsletter below to get the future posts in your inbox.
It took me two decades to learn these principles and to openly internalize that not only are nutrition, fitness and personal wellness my passions but also sharing what I’ve learned, helping others optimize their quality of life.
Or, maybe it just took me two decades to accept that that’s what the universe was telling me...nonetheless, I’m excited about the next two decades as I dedicate myself to serving and helping others by driving awareness that by living the right lifestyle we can thrive and live a high quality of life at any age.
This is in fact, why my co-founder and I started AWAKN. We want to develop a community to educate, share and learn how to optimize our quality of life and develop amazing nutritional products that support that optimization.
Oh, and if you're wondering what kind of transformation came from last 20 years of focusing on learning everything I can about nutrition and fitness, my personal testimonial is that I feel the best I’ve felt at age 40, better than I’ve felt in my entire life. As I write this, it sounds kind of crazy saying that I feel better at 40 than I did at 20. It just goes to show that age IS just a number and we can all feel optimal with the right lifestyle and mindset.