You know all the changes you should be making, but what if you can’t afford to do them all at once? Here’s the second best thing.
By Daja, Contributing Writer
So you’ve turned a corner or had an awakening and now you’re on a quest to get your family healthy. Your list includes: switching to all organic produce, replacing your coffee with herbal alternatives, getting all your dairy pastured and raw, all your meat grass-fed and free-ranged.
You also need supplements, to make your own salves and ointments for injuries, swap out all your make-up and nail polish for non-toxic equivalents, replace all the plastic in your kitchen for glass and/or stainless steal.
And that’s not the half of it. You should rip up the carpet and replace it with natural tile or wood and toss out all the plastic crap toys your kids have and replace them with wooden toys you whittled yourself from reclaimed wood.
Oy. There’s just too much. Time and money keep you from meeting all the goals you want (and need) to meet.
And so, in despair you order a pizza, washing it down with a bottle of wine, feeling like if you can’t do it all, why bother doing anything.
Is Second Best OK?
If I knew you face-to-face I’d pour you a cup of tea and assure you of a few things:
It’s a journey.
No one, even your most favorite crunchy guru, has arrived. We are all moving toward doing better. We all are learning and changing and trying. Give up the idea that one day you will be all done with no more improvements to make.
When you know better, you do better.
But you didn’t know better in the past, so have an Elsa moment and let it go. There is nothing to be done about the fact that your children know what soda tastes like or that you have used to Taco Bell drive thru. Do not beat yourself up. Do not give in to guilt. Just aim where you need to go and do not look back.
Small steps matter.
Most importantly, remember that by taking small incremental steps you will be more successful than making massive overhauls. It’s the Japanese philosophy of kaizen. Kaizen means “improvement.” The Provision Room explains it this way:
“This is a philosophy that says small (and we mean tiny!) incremental changes are best. Just do one thing differently or pick up one good habit. For example if your diet is pretty subpar, don’t start with, “I’m never going to eat processed food or sugar again!” That sets you up for failure. Plain and simple. Instead say, “I am going to replace one soda a day with a glass of lemon water.” Boom. Success. Do just that one thing until it becomes so second nature that it is now your default. Then move onto another easy step, “I will order a salad to start every time I eat out.” Again, you cannot fail at that. It’s so do-able, so practical, that it feeds your success. This idea of kaizen, small continual improvements can be applied to every part of our lives as we set our sights on making our home lives abundant and joyful!”
The Second Best Things You Can Do For Your Health
So let’s talk brass tacks here. What exactly do you do when you can’t financially, emotionally, or practically do the most healthy option? What are lesser options that are still better than your default that are at least a step in the right direction? Here are some ideas:
Best: Raw milk from pastured, organic, local and sustainably raised animals.
Second Best: Organic milk
Next Best: Non-dairy organic milk alternatives (coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, etc.)
Best: Pastured meat from organic and sustainable farming operations
Second Best: Organic meat. The word “natural” has no actual legal nor ethical standards on packaging. So, don’t trust it. Instead look for words that have a defined meaning, such as “organic.”
Next Best: Locally grown meat from single source animals. In other words, no pre-ground beef that can contain literally thousands of animals in one package, thereby increasing the chance of contamination. The best way to do this is to make sure that you are purchasing from an actual butcher or market that has a butcher. Choose a cut of meat yourself and ask the butcher to grind it or slice it for you.
Best: Organically sourced tallow, lard, schmaltz, or butter/ghee. Rich in nutrients, high smoking points, ethically produced, because the fat from animals is not wasted. You can also save rendered fat from your own kitchen (fat from bacon, chicken or duck skin, etc.)
Second Best: Coconut oil or avocado oil for frying, as the smoking point is higher. Extra virgin olive oil for other things that do not require a high smoking point.
Next Best: Grapeseed oil is a healthier choice than say vegetable or canola oils, which are always rancid and denatured. Read more about Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oils.
Best: Organic, local, and in season. Buy it from a local farm, join a CSA or grow it yourself.
Second Best: Some small farms (mine included!) have not chosen to obtain certified organic status–due to the financial burden, political interest or other reasons. But, go ahead and talk to the farmer. Many of the them are committed to good farming practices, would never spray their produce with chemicals, and would never plant GMO crops. Many of these farmers can sell at a cheaper price point than certified farms because they don’t have the financial burden of the expensive government bureaucracy that oversees organic farms.
Next Best: Start by trying to avoid the worst of conventionally grown produce–the ones that are most heavily sprayed and chemically fertilized. In general avoid thin skinned fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown–such as berries, tomatoes, peaches, etc. Thicker skinned produce or ones that you peel tend to contain less residue in the consumed portions–such as bananas, avocados, oranges, melons, etc. Check out Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for more information.
Best: unplugged, off-grid, no plastic
Second Best: Switch off your wifi at night and don’t sleep in a room with digital displays.
Next Best: Shut off electronic devices 2 hours before bed. This is important for your kids, too! In this study by Osaka University Health Care Center, Department of Psychiatry, Graduate School of Medicine researchers found that using electronic devices before sleep can lead to less sleep and also result in self-perceived insufficient sleep. We all want to rest better, right? So, make a bed time routine that doesn’t include being on your smart phone or in front of the television.
Best: Living an active lifestyle where both weight-bearing exercise as well as cardio are natural incorporated into your regular life. Work hard and play hard. Farming gives you pretty much the perfect balance of sweating your booty off and carrying heavy things around in regular rotation. But, we all don’t live on a farm so….
Second Best: Include weight bearing exercise in your life. This doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting. It is any exercise that causes you to work against gravity. This is really important for bone health. This can include weight lifting, walking, jogging, pilates, yoga, dancing, tennis, etc. Also include cardiovascular exercise–exercise that gets your heart rate up and makes your sweat. This can include riding a bike, swimming, a variety of workout videos, our even just rough-housing with the kids! Moms, just be sure that whatever workout you choose that it is Tummy Safe! Those of us who have been bearing children have to be especially careful of any exercise that will add insult to injury when it comes to our core muscles. For how to check your core for diastasis recti, here are some great resources.
Next Best: Try to include more movement in your day. Squat instead of bend over. Walk instead of taking the car. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. At the very least, make peace with your body and stop fighting against it.
The Very Best Thing
Of course, the best thing you can do for your health, your family, and for the world is to learn to live in peace. This takes intentional mindfulness and choosing to live in thanksgiving and to express gratefulness. We are healthiest–physically and emotionally–when our souls are at peace. Here is one of my favorite prayers to call me back to mindful living:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. (Prayer of Saint Francis)