Health Strategies for 2019
by Noor H. Salem
Another year flew by, and you may or may not find yourself tackling the milestones to your vision of good health. It is common for one to take an oath to start yet another dieting program at the beginning of the year, only to find yourself jump off the bandwagon just a few days later.
I’ve dealt with many clients who were previously frustrated, and fed-up with dieting, prior to experiencing my holistic programs. It’s unfortunate that dieting has such a bad rep, but with the obesity epidemic we are facing internationally, it’s no surprise more and more are looking to reach optimum well-being once and for all.
We are a sleep-deprived, nutrient-deficient, over-caffeinated, and an excessively-stressed nation. There is more emphasis on instant-gratification: instant meals, drive-thru, high-speed, and same-day delivery; we have lost patience. It has resulted in the upsurge of fast-food meals, and of course, an increase in pharmaceutical medications and over the counter supplements.
This is exactly the issue; you are told that you can consume a diet high in refined carbohydrates, deep-fried food, and excessive refined sugars, which all lead to oxidative stress. Then, you can simply take a pill to try to fix the mess, leaving on in a mere dichotomy of what healthy truly entails. It’s not how it works; you can’t eat a diet full of junk and expect to diminish everything with a magical pill. There’s no such pill. There is no over-night diet that can instantly detox years of junk out of your system.
“Many people are looking for a pill to fix everything in their life; a pill to lose weight, a pill to feel happy, a pill for depression, blood pressure pill, blood sugar pill, etc. There is no such pill. The secret is in the way Allah the Creator, has intended for us to live.”
-Dr. Waleed Basyouni, Foreword of Sunnah Superfoods
The term diet, in and of itself, is not bad; it’s simply, “the kind of food that you eat.” The issue that short-term diet plans are full of unrealistic terms, minimal portions that leave you hungry, and results that, unfortunately, most likely won’t last. So instead of preparing yourself to go cold-turkey and hungry, try to make the following changes for lasting outcomes.
Before anything else, renew your intentions and recognize that caring for your health can be rewarding. The same way you can be rewarded for sleeping if you set an intention to gain energy to worship, serve your community, or preserve your health in order to provide for your family. As the Prophet (saaw) reminds us in a Sahih hadith: “The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intentions.”
With that, it is vital that you recognize you must get rid of the notion of a short-term diet. Whether you are attempting to have your own meal plan or joined a short-term diet program, I advise you to change your perspective entirely. When you go on a five-day diet, for example, and restrict yourself of calories, deprive yourself of fats, and skip meals, you only backfire the entire notion of healthy. Instead, work on changing your habits, gradually.
If your diet overall is full of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, good-quality proteins, beans, healthy fats, and whole grains, you’ll be on the path to better health. In that circumstance, having one bite of brownies at your grandma’s dinner party won’t cause you to have a panic attack, for your healthy diet overall will keep you in check.
Another vital note is to stop obsessing with calories. Instead, focus on chemicals. If you are buying a low-calorie food item that has thirty or more ingredients, that’s in no way or form good for you. As an alternative, focus on food items with the least ingredients, and of words that you can pronounce and recognize.
When you are consuming healthy meals, for example, fatty-fish alongside a fresh-cut vegetable stir-fry and salad, you’ll automatically be satisfied from the nutrient-intake and healthy fats. You won’t feel deprived or moody; your body will crave less. How many almonds can you really eat before getting full, compared to a package of low-fat cookies? Eating whole foods causes you to be satisfied, and automatically keeps your calorie intake at a healthy range.
Essentially, I advise that you stop fearing fat. Instead, aim to consume more healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fatty fish. These fats are in fact, extremely healthy for your physical and mental well-being. The fats you should work on avoiding are refined oils that are highly-processed, such as canola, soy, corn, or vegetable. Last week, while speaking at a huge conference in Chicago, I was asked why soybean oil is possibly unhealthy when soy is consumed in many countries with healthy statistics. While soy might truly, be consumed in other countries at high-rates, and has not caused serious health issues, the majority of soy in the US is genetically-modified.
Additionally, Soybean oil is much more processed than whole soybeans. The soybeans go through a hexane-extraction process to make the oil, which is detrimental to your health. It’s an inflammatory oil that could lead to an unhealthy liver, internal inflammation, food intolerance, heart conditions, and more. Trans Fats, are also fats you want to avoid completely, as they lead to heart disease, diabetes, and various other health conditions. Trans Fats, refined oils, and butter-replacement spread are extremely inflammatory, could damage your liver, and lead to the development of many health conditions down the road. I discuss these further in my book, Sunnah Superfoods. So, don’t focus on a diet low in fats, but one low in unhealthy fats and processed junk.
Be grateful for the blessing of good health, and put in effort in preserving it by making healthy lifestyle choices. Remember to recognize the value of your blessings before losing them; don’t take them for granted today for you may not have them tomorrow. As the Prophet (saaw) reminds us: “There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) Health and free time for doing good.” Don’t wait until sickness for you to recognize the blessing of good health; be grateful for it, pray for its perseverance, and simultaneously put in an effort as well.
Instead of fearing to fail yet another unrealistic diet this year, focus on implementing changes to the foods you consume and your day to day routine that you can continue with perpetually. Fill your mind with positive thoughts, as your thoughts and cognitive process play a vital role in your physical health, too. Eat more whole foods, less processed foods, and work on decreasing your stress. With renewed intentions, a goal to embrace a lifestyle, not diet, as well as dua’a, you’ll find yourself reaching your health goals with enjoyment and pleasure.
Noor H. Salem is an author, speaker, and Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, from Michigan. Noor works with clients in better understanding their bodies and healing with natural foods through her wellness practice, Holistic Noortrition. She presents various workshops, school lectures, group coaching classes, and community lectures on the topic of holistic health. Noor recently published her book, SUNNAH SUPERFOODS, a culmination of life-changing recipes and remedies, with a foreword by Dr. Waleed Basyouni. Her book consists of prophetic hadith, modern research, and delicious recipes, and is in the process of being translated into other languages.