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Have a quick glance over the health section of any magazine, website or newspaper, and you’ll see a wide range of new studies which very often contradict themselves.

Red meat is bad for you, too much saturated fat and hormones. No wait, red meat is good for you, part of a balanced diet! Don’t drink dairy, humans don’t need it. Drink lots of dairy, every day for stronger bones… It’s an endless battle of the wills to try and follow the latest food and health craze, while living a life filled with work, family and other responsibilities. Because really, who’s got time to keep up with all that?

Man Food

The truth is, many of those ‘studies’ are not really scientific studies to begin with, and are only meant to: a) confuse us, or b) steer us towards a false reality. This is because a number of industry studies are financed by big players in the market. Take for instance the big tobacco companies in the 1950’s, which spent billions of dollars disseminating articles using “sponsored studies” saying that smoking was somehow “good for you”.

If you look at the source of these types of studies, even neutral-looking research centres are often backed by special interests and private industries, with the sole purpose to convince you of their own story (buy this product, vote for that party, etc). It’s brilliant, and should probably be illegal. This happens so often because sponsored studies deliberately cherry-pick the data that benefits their narrative, ignoring the rest of it.

But that’s just part of the story. The second part is that these pseudo-studies are successful in spreading their half truths because it’s so difficult to arrive at one perfect truth for things like what we should be eating, how we should exercise, or whether mindfulness can really benefit us (spoiler alert: it really can). The answer in most cases, of course, is there’s no one best way for any of them, simply because we’re all different.

Most media-backed stories forget this important part of the reality of health studies. Our physiognomies, like our environment, as often rather unique. So as long as one truth gets touted as the only valid one, such as going to the gym to increase fitness, it will remain incomplete to the other segment of society, who actually hate going to the gym, but absolutely love playing sports instead. Or not eating gluten, or being a pescatarian.

Ethics aside, each person has their own perfect diet, exercise regime and calming method, which is unique to them (and not what society, or a pop culture celebrity tells them). With that said, there are definitely some time-honoured rules, or better said, guidelines, one can follow to be healthier, without risk of just taking on a temporary fad:

FOOD

Eat as much fresh, straight-from-the-source food as you can. Fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes. These one can eat at their heart’s content (just don’t go too crazy on fruits, as they still have lots of fructose, a type of simple sugar). When it comes to carbs like pasta and bread, the more grains the better. It’s only the 0.6% or so of celiac sufferers who should actively avoid gluten, for the rest of us it’s totally fine.

Finally, it’s important to have a day off every once in a while. Life should be fun, and if you love ice cream, just go for it. Especially on holidays, or a special date. If you’d like to rid yourself of the guilt of eating desserts, you can just go for a run the next day, hike with your dog, do some pushups, or just continue eating healthy for the rest of the week.

EXERCISE

Do more of it, and only do the kind you enjoy. There’s no point in going for a run every morning if you hate it. Find what you love, and stick with it. Maybe it’s playing squash. Maybe it’s dancing to Latin rhythms. Whichever it is, it’s usually better with friends, too. But don’t worry if you don’t have an exercise partner, there’s loads of clubs and online groups on social media for that very purpose. You may even make some new friends!

SOCIAL CIRCLE

Speaking of, a few good friends are usually better than many sort-of friends. But any kind of social interaction is still better than nothing. Studies looking into the 5 Blue Zones (regions with the longest-living people) have shown that strong social bonds are perhaps the greatest indicators that a person will have a long, fruitful life. Prioritise your friends and family life, and watch your life grow longer, happier and more rewarding.

FIND YOUR PEACE

You don’t have to be a Zen monk atop a Tibetan mountain to achieve peace. All you need to do is to quiet your thoughts, whether that means meditating, or just being mindful of your environment. Spending a few hours in nature is one of the best ways of achieving this, without having to do anything. Just being there, admiring your living, breathing surroundings. Find your zen, and you will be a healthier, happier person.

PLAY

Love going to the movies? Do it, without guilt. Enjoy having a midday rosé with your girlfriends? Why not, it’s what life is all about! It’s important to not forget that life doesn’t have to be serious all the time, and having fun is just as necessary as going to work and making a living. So go for a surf, fetch with your dog, play board games with friends, or jump out of airplanes every week. The more joy you can have, the healthier you’ll be.

So never forget to have fun 🙂

These are just guidelines, which are mentioned in part because they have consistently worked throughout human history. But crucially too, because knowing some things never change when it comes to our health can be a real anchor in a sea of fake news, half-truths and industry lies. Life is easier and simpler than we’re often led to believe, and having the life of our dreams is actually very achievable, if only we choose to do it.

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