When did being healthy become so complicated? With millions of books, diets, pills, exercises it seems that being healthy has never been so convoluted. The truth however, is that it needn’t be like this. Being healthy is what your body aspires to; you just have to learn how to listen to it.
Patrick Holford, one of the world’s leading nutritionists, makes being healthy seem attainable. And after reading his latest book, The 10 Secrets of 100% healthy people, it’s hard not to feel positive about your health because suddenly it all seems so simple and attainable.
Health24 caught up with him on a visit to South Africa to find out more about the secrets, and just how easy it is to reach 100% health.
So why are some people so much healthier than others? What secrets do they know that the rest of us are clearly not privy to?
To find this out, Holford and his team carried out a health and diet survey (the 100% health survey) which has now been completed by over 60 000 people.
It is the findings from this study, Holford’s years of experience in this field backed up by a good dose of common sense, and several medical research findings that contributed to this book.
The book covers 10 areas crucial to a healthy - and happy – life. It’s packed with all the stuff we want to know, such as how to get more energy and lose weight, how to slow down the ageing process, how to keep your body and mind sharp and fit, as well as how to find a meaningful purpose in your life.
“Health isn’t just an absence of illness, it’s also a positive state – an abundance of vitality or well-being,” says Holford. And judging from how healthy he looks, he must be doing something right.
He says that the most commonly reported benefits that people following his 100% Health principles included:
- Waking up alert
- Loads of energy
- Sharp mind
- Balanced mood
- Good motivation
- Skin looks good
- Effortless weight loss
It sounds almost too good to be true. And yet, as Holford says, it’s nothing that none of us doesn’t deserve – and can have. So here they are, the secrets unveiled:
- Secret 1: Perfect Your Digestion
Discover your best and worst foods. Here Holford points out the importance of finding out which foods agree with you and which don’t. Just one food type could be sabotaging your path to ultimate health.
- Secret 2: Balance Your Blood Sugar
Holford says this is key to gaining energy and losing weight. By learning how to eat the right combinations of food – such as proteins with carbohydrates – and the right types of food (not sugary foods) you should be able to control your blood sugar levels which means reduced cravings.
- Secret 3: Get Connected
You need to learn how to sharpen your mind, improve your mood and keep your body’s chemistry in tune.
- Secret 4: Increase the anti-ageing antioxidants
Here he lists the top 20 foods that will literally add years to your life. By including fresh fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants as well as oily fish, nuts and seeds, Holford says you could literally double your chances of being in optimal health.
- Secret 5: Eat Essential Fats
Holford backs up recent research which has shown that not all fats are bad for you – and that a diet lacking in certain fats (the ‘good’ fats such as Omega 3 and 6) is actually bad for you. So include more oily fish such as salmon, and eat nuts and seeds to keep your body and mind well oiled.
- Secret 6: Keep Yourself Hydrated
Holford says that water is your most vital nutrient, and without it your body will never be able to function optimally. Headaches, trouble concentrating, dry skin and nails; these are all signs you’re not getting enough water.
- Secret 7: Keep Fit, Strong and Supple
Exercise need not mean hours spent sweating in a gym. On the contrary says Holford, all you need the equivalent of 15 minutes exercise a day, or at least 30 minutes every other day. This can be anything from jogging to walking with a little yoga or Tai Chi to keep you supple and flexible.
- Secret 8: Generate Vital Energy – The Chi Factor
In Holford’s survey, a whopping 50% of the highest health scorers said that they included what he describes as ‘vital-energy-generating exercise’ such as Tai Chi, Qigong, Psychocalisthenics or meditation. Holfod himself is a fan of these energising exercises which work both mind and body.
- Secret 9: Get Your Past out of Your Present
It’s time to let go of the past and live in the present. Living with regret drains you both emotionally and mentally, and it's no good for your health.
How, you ask? Well according to Holford you need to learn how to identify and release negative emotions and patterns before they sabotage your relationships – which are also key to 100% health.
- Secret 10: Finding Your Purpose
This secret especially applies to older people who have retired and often find themselves at a loss since they don’t feel they have a ‘purpose’ in life anymore; a goal to work towards.
Holford’s survey showed that 96% of the healthiest people reported having a clear sense of purpose or direction in life, while 81% considered themselves spiritual. Yet having a purpose does not just mean having a job, it means doing something you’re good at, something you enjoy.
What Holford wants you to know
“There is a pattern of diseases which has emerged in the 21st century which will cripple us as a nation and as a species; weight gain, chronic tiredness, diabetes, hormone-related cancers, memory loss, depression and Alzheimer’s. And these problems are not in isolation. I talk about them coming out of a state of internal global warming.
“So one of the facts I want to get across in this book is that we aren’t going to solve these problems with single drugs or vitamins. I hope that people who read this book will, by the end, realise that this really is the only way forward,” he says.
Yet while this sounds simple enough, Holford is well aware that it’s not a problem solved easily. However, he also says it’s one that has no option but to be solved.
“We have three options available; one is that we leave a whole lot of people to suffer, the second is we think about mass medicalisation – sticking everyone on statins and the like, that’s not going to work.
“Or the third is that to prevent people getting sick in the first place–and to do that you need to identify who is at risk. So if you do the online check and you end up with a low score, you are at higher risk of developing some of those diseases but now is the time to do something about it.”
Emotional health is vital
Holford notes that one very interesting finding that came out of the online survey was that the healthiest people rated things such as emotional issues, spiritual issues, relationships, exercise as very, very important.
“I think that one of the great dangers in this age of scientific medicine is that we forget some of the fundamentals about human beings. For example the impact of love, how important it is to have supportive relationships, how it is we can regenerate our spirit. So one of the interesting findings was that half of the healthiest people were all doing either yoga or tai chi or meditation, or something which they described as regenerating their spirit,” he says.
In the book he draws a rather startling link between food, emotions and bad behaviour. He says that “in our societies we are seeing a big increase in depression, aggression and of course with that comes crime.
“But there are some fundamental and interesting links between food and behaviour, for example you can predict a country’s murder rate simply by knowing their intake of seafood. And the same thing is true with suicides,” he says.
This, he adds, is reflective of a society that is not getting nearly enough omega 3s in their diet.
If you only do one thing - avoid sugar
This may be devastating news for some, but Holford is adamant that sugar is doing the most damage to our health. In the survey it showed that the consumption of sugar was the strongest predictor for health.
“It’s not just sugar on its own, but sugary snacks and refined foods. And it’s difficult to avoid these because we’ve become addicted to them and use them as a crutch when our energy levels are low.”
He adds that if you want 100% health, you need to become ‘a master of your blood sugar balance’ which he says means eating a low GL diet.
And if you don’t believe him, a recent study showed that a child’s consumption of sugar at age 10 predicts their chances of having been arrested for a violent offence at age 34.
Make good food choices a healthy habit
However, while it’s one thing to know what’s good for you and what’s not, it’s another thing to implement it in your daily life. But Holford says that the first step is being aware that you can feel great and not be deprived.
“People who do switch to the kind of diet and lifestyle that I talk about enjoy it. It’s not bland food. So you don’t have to ‘suffer’, and at the end of the day it’s simply about making different choices.
“And when you do make healthier choices, and you feel better for it, then that has a rewarding effect until eventually it’s not a matter of discipline to not eat the sugary food, or eat a piece of fruit instead, it actually becomes your natural desire. Because you have that whole reward or feeling better for it. And then it’s not really a struggle.”
So basically he says that you only have to consciously make an effort for a little while, and after you start seeing the results and feeling the results, you won’t want to do anything other than eat and live healthily.
The choice really is up to you.