If you think that the title of this article is referring to a particular sum of money, asset allocation, or a living location, you are wrong. You can save enough money to be FI, retire early, and all of those factors will not mean a thing without the ultimate key ingredient – good health. Good health will require due diligence on your part and it’s up to you to decide in which condition you’d want it to be by the time you reach financial independence, and beyond.
Now, we don’t pretend to be health specialists, but we make a damn good effort in educating ourselves on the various factors of health, including mind, body and soul, because we plan to live long and healthy lives once we reach FI, as well as on the way there. There are some things you can’t control about your health, such as genetic predispositions to certain conditions or ones you were born with. But we sure as heck can control the most common aspects of our health and prevent the common diseases the “average” person has, such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, and, yes, cancer. And, folks, We ARE NOT average! And neither are you.
While you may be thinking “But you are still young, why worry about this now?” Because our bodies and minds are just like stock market investments – the better you treat them now and the more you invest into them, the more you’ll get in the long term. Compounding interest, baby! And since we are all part of an FI-minded community, I am sure you appreciate the fact that investing in your health now means you’ll spend less money on healthcare costs in the future, and instead use it on something that brings you true happiness.
When people hear that we’ll be retiring in a few years, right after they get over the shock that we’d dare to consider this before we are 65, they ask how we’ll pay for medical costs. Our answer is simple, we plan to be healthy, and only buy health insurance with a high deductible for big emergency needs. Talk about a smart ROI.
So, join us in investing in our biggest asset, ourselves, and let’s make 2016 a healthier and toxin-free year!
What I am about to share with you took us years to incorporate into our lives, after conducting extensive online research and making gradual behavioral changes, so please don’t feel pressured to implement changes in your life all at once. Try focusing on one aspect at a time. I know that helps us stay focused until a new behavior becomes part of our routine.
Here are the six key areas we focus on for optimal health.
1. Don’t cut corners on your nutrition
Some people eat just to avoid being hungry. We love to eat and get a kick out of a delicious meal. That being said, we try to crave and eat things that are good for us. When we met five years ago, we already weren’t eating red meat. However, as we started watching more documentaries on healthy living, we stumbled upon a great film on Netflix that changed our eating lifestyle forever. Forks Over Knives is a really informative documentary about the health effects of eating animal products on humans. The facts in the video were presented in such a logical and persuasive way, we decided to go on a vegan challenge for six weeks.
We weren’t pressuring ourselves to become vegan permanently, but we wanted to detox our bodies and see what we actually wanted to bring back, once we got past the cravings. After the challenge, we both agreed to bring back eggs, fish, and the occasional cheese night (we make pizza at home once a month). Plus, when we travel to DR, we eat the local chicken there, since it’s raised naturally and without all the hormones that get pumped into our chickens here. You can feel the difference in the flavor.
While everyone’s needs are different, we strongly encourage you to watch this film and see if you want to try the Challenge to see where you’d land as your new normal. We certainly feel much healthier and are loving it. Our nutritional habits are helping us prevent most of the common conditions people have when consuming a higher percentage of animal products. The fact that we let ourselves be flexible makes it easier for us to eat this way. Plus, Mr. Enchumbao is an amazing chef and he makes a vegan lasagna that many would give their right hand for. 🙂 I know, I know, I am a lucky girl.
Another key aspect to good nutrition is the quality of the groceries we buy. While it’s certainly cheaper to buy processed food or eat ramen noodles every day, over the long haul, we’d pay exponentially more in poor health, lower quality of life and higher healthcare costs. So, we aim to buy only raw produce and minimally processed grains/legumes. We’d rather pay higher prices for organic items that otherwise tend to have a higher amount of the worst pesticides, than pay less and collect extra toxins and pesticides in our bodies over time. You can check the Dirty Dozen List as a starting point to get acquainted with some of the worst offenders. We’re also shifting to mostly organics because non-organic products have GMOs. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game. However, if you can’t afford certain organic items yet, you are still better off buying non-organic fresh produce, than any kind of processed food.
Ever since we started eating this way, we pass biometric screenings (blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol) with flying colors. The doctors are usually amazed at our numbers. What’s our secret? Our secret formula: low sugar and carbonated drinks consumption, extremely low dairy consumption, less than 5% animal product consumption, lots of fruits and veggies, and very little processed food. Eat what comes from the farm, not a lab.
2. Exercise for fun
Well, this is a no brainer. We all know that exercising is good for us. We incorporate a variety of activities, including yoga, weight training, dancing, and team sports into our routine. As long as you are having fun, do whatever gets you moving and energized. The nice thing is that exercise can be free as well, as you can do most things at home or outside. Plus, YouTube has lessons for just about everything nowadays. We have an inexpensive gym membership at work as well, and that $15 a month is so worth the long-term benefits we get from exercising. The gym is especially useful in the winter, when it’s too cold to do much outside. Not a fan of official exercising? Here are 25 ways to exercise without realizing it.
3. Say hello to toxin-free products
Now, this is a new and highly complex topic to us. We just stumbled upon how badly most industries treat us by watching another documentary on Netflix called The Human Experiment. It reveals the variety of toxins the personal care industry puts into our everyday items, such as shampoo, deodorant, detergents, etc. First, we were appalled, then we got angry, then we decided to vote with our dollars. This documentary has a great website resource called Switch to Safer, which saved us time on the research. The page lists non-toxic brands you can trust by product type.
Our favorite changes include switching to:
- EcoNuts berries: a natural laundry detergent. The EcoNuts are dried berries that naturally produce high concentrations of a soap called saponin. Due to this high concentration, they’re great for cleaning your laundry, and gentle on your clothes and skin.
- EO shampoo/soap: these are great smelling products and gentle on the body.
- EO deodorant: this one is made of essential oils blends and doesn’t have any synthetic fragrances. BEWARE of the big brands like Secret and Right Guard, as they are some of the worst offenders. Mr. Enchumbao was hesitant to switch from his toxic Right Guard one at first, after having tried other organic ones unsuccessfully, but he’s converted since.
- Badger sunscreen: it’s a bit thicker and creamier than the toxic brands, but does its job without harm. I was appalled to learn that the Aveeno sunblock I was using before, which has the typical big brand ingredients like oxybenzone, messes with your hormones and reproductive system. What!? And, they make the baby sunscreen with the same ingredients too.
- Beauty products: I started reading a really informative book on this topic called No More Dirty Looks. It’s scary what the chemicals industry gets away with putting into our mascaras, nail polish, and other beauty products in the U.S. Say good-bye to eye-watering toxic nail salons! It’s simply not worth it.
- House-cleaning products. We stopped using the really toxic stuff a while back, and instead use green products, such as Seventh Generation All Purpose Organic Cleaner.
Feeling overwhelmed? First, get a massage, which is a great way to remove toxins from your body. Then, try the same approach as with switching to better nutrition: pick one product type and switch it to a natural brand. Then, another, and another. We gradually switched to safer products over the last six months, so it was a smooth transition for us. While it’s frustrating that it is so complicated to buy personal care products in today’s world, we can help alter the quality of the supply, by shifting our demand to healthy products. Instead of ignoring the data let’s vote with our dollars!
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. While Big Pharma insists on “curing” the disease, we’re proactively looking for ways to prevent it. There are ways to do it without chemo and radiation. Go and search for answers! Shouldn’t the world be looking more to prevention? We’ve been learning a lot about pH levels in our bodies and alkalinity vs. acidity.
According to Dr. David Williams, maintaining a slightly alkaline pH is key to preventing disease. “The human body is an indivisible, integrated organism, not a collection of various unrelated parts. In this vein, there are various mechanisms in your body that work together to maintain a proper pH balance throughout your body.” Diseases, like cancer, thrive in an acidic environment. Dr. Williams points out that eating a diet of 75–80 percent alkaline-forming foods—and minimal in acid-forming foods—is the best way to maintain a slightly alkaline pH in your body.
Your body can give you signs of your acidity levels. Do you feel fatigued? Easily out of breath? You can test it with a pH strip yourself at home. We do this periodically to ensure we are keeping our bodies in an alkaline environment.
One new habit that we acquired to balance our pH level is drinking a glass of water with lemon every morning on an empty stomach. While most citrus fruits are acidic, lemon is not, and it’s a refreshing way to start your day and detox your body. Just squeeze a half a lemon into an eight-ounce glass of water, and enjoy. 🙂
p.s. The charts above was courtesy of pHreshproducts.com. We have not used their products, therefore, do your homework if you decide to purchase them.
5. Flow into meditation and explore your spirituality
Whether you are religious or spiritual, you have to make sure you spend time ensuring that your mind is well taken care of. We enjoy meditating during our yoga classes, as well as making time for personal reflection alone, in order to balance ourselves. You might be exposed to a lot of stress in your life, so the question is: are you dealing with it or sweeping it under the rug, where it grows? We like to confront things that bother us, and find ways to proactively deal with them.
If you don’t know where to start, try meditating for five to ten minutes every day. You can do it from anywhere: on your train commute, in your cubicle…
Don’t be afraid of being alone with your own thoughts. Facing yourself will be the scariest and most empowering thing you could do.
6. Let your soul soar
It’s hard to pick your soul out of a line-up, as no one knows what it looks like. You might know deep down how it feels when it’s soaring and when it’s falling. I don’t believe that there is a cookie-cutter approach to being happy and having a satisfied soul. The truth is within you, and you just have to be brave enough to acknowledge what the right formula is for you. I went through a soul-searching exercise at the age of 19 and came up with My Top 5 things that make me truly happy. Do you know what those are for you? If not, explore that unchartered territory first. Then make sure you feed your soul the nutrients it needs to be healthy and happy.
Make one small change to be healthier
As you see, our focus areas aren’t exactly earth-shattering. And that’s the point. A long and healthy life does not have to be a complicated formula to figure out. You just have to know yourself well and make sure you treat your mind, body and soul well. Do more for yourself, be more selfish at times, and be truly happy. And, remember, big changes happen through little steps. So pick one small thing you can do to be healthier and happier, and start there.
Cheers to a healthy and toxin-free year and life to come!