Get Out of Your Own Way – and Get Healthier Now

I just returned from Serious Business, the leading conference organized by Neill Corporation, and the brainchild of Debra Neill Baker and Carol Augusto. This year’s theme was “Get out of your own way,” a powerful reminder that despite our best intentions, we are sometimes our own worst enemies…  

One of the keynote speakers was Ben Greenfield, who spoke about habits to enhance health and longevity, as reported in the book Blue Zones. This resonated with me particularly strongly as I recently read the book Ikigai, which touches on the same theme, and am in already struggling to keep some of my New Year’s resolutions.

The list of healthy habits below may not be new information, but I know I get in my own way, and needed the reminder. Here are Ben Greenfield’s healthful recommendations for cleaner, better, longer living.

  1. Don’t smoke. (If not for longer living, do this for better skin)
  2. Avoid sugar and vegetable oil.
  3. Eat dark colored fruits and vegetables, like purple cabbage and blueberries. (And put them on your skin too!)
  4. Eat legumes.
  5. Implement 12-16 hours of intermittent fasting in your routine, to help your body “clean up the trash.” That may mean giving up breakfast…
  6. Go to the gym, yes. But beyond that, incorporate low impact movement every day. (Walking or gardening come to mind) 
  7. Ensure you have a strong sense of community. (When is the last time you called your best friend?) 
  8. Possess a strong life purpose, what the Japanese call “ikigai”
  9. Ruthlessly eliminate the sense of hurry to minimize stress.
  10. Engage in a spiritual discipline, religion, or the belief in a higher power.  
  11. Remain reproductively useful. (Yes, he did tell the audience to have more sex) 
  12. Drink a little every day, mostly wine, preferably red.

Morning Rituals

Mornings. I love them. I became a morning person in college when I was introduced to crew at Harvard. The stillness of the city, the sunrise over the Charles, and the camaraderie of 5:30 am meets at the boathouse forever changed me.

I am often asked about my morning routines – beauty and otherwise. I wrote about this a couple of years ago here, some things are the same, some have evolved.

For many years, I woke up at 5 am. For the past year, I have been waking up between 4:30 and 4:50 am on weekdays. Somehow, those minutes before 5 am seem particularly precious. By 6 am, I am working (in the office or on the road), or working out (running or SoulCycle).

What I do:

  • I get out of bed immediately. No snoozing for me.
  • I light a candle. I love Aveda Shampure candles and have them all around the house. Lighting them makes the house smell good and feels like an act of kindness and sophistication that I do just for myself.
  • I make my bed. It looks good, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something, like I have control over my surroundings. (Even Navy SEALS feel this way about this small task)
  • I check my phone (emails, social media). Everything I have read about morning routines says not to do this. For a while, I tried not to do it – but that frustrated me to no end and did not contribute positively to my mornings. So I do it, unapologetically!

What I think about:

  • What am I looking forward to today? This can be a work project, a meeting, a trip, date night… Starting my day with something specific to look forward to helps me get out of bed.
  • What are the three most important things I need to accomplish today. I have an endless to-do list, so prioritizing three daily goals helps me stay on target.

What I eat and drink:

  • A tall glass of water with one Emergen-C Super Orange packet. If the rest of the day goes crazy, at least I will have done something good for myself!
  • I have the same Krups coffee maker I bought during my freshman year in college, and I love it! It makes the best coffee. Milk if I have it in the fridge (which is infrequently!), otherwise black.
  • No breakfast. I stopped eating breakfast a few years ago, when I realized that the Danone vanilla yogurts I was eating every morning were nothing but sugar. I have not missed them (or breakfast) since.

My beauty routine (post workout if I work out that morning): 

One ritual I am trying to add to my routine is to use the free weights I got over a year ago to strengthen my arms and shoulders. So yesterday I took them out of their dark closet and put them by my full-length mirror… let’s see seeing them helps me use them…