In an age of industrialized food, social media, and toxic overload, integrative and functional medicine pioneer Frank Lipman, MD, realized it was time to reconnect with nature and find a balanced sense of wellbeing. The result: his habits-and-practices-packed new handbook How to Be Well: The Six Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.
“The problem is it’s not only a toxic world, we have too much technology,” Lipman says. “We’re all stressed out. Our default choices for eating are unhealthy. We don’t move enough. We’re sitting at computers. We don’t spend enough time out in nature. There’s a lack of community. All of these factors I think play a part in our ‘dis-ease.’ That’s why I put this book and program together. It’s not just about eating a healthy diet. It’s about trying to incorporate as many of these tips into your life and make them habits,.
“It's a way of thinking about your health where you are at the center and you are the author of your own health journey and you take control of your own health,” adds Lipman.
How can we achieve balance with what your book calls “the perfect plate”?
The idea of a perfect plate is to make (nutrition) easier. Think of the majority of your plate, 50–70 percent, as vegetables, and then fill the rest with either good sources of animal protein—which will also give you some fats—or, if your protein source is vegetarian or otherwise doesn’t have enough fat, I encourage people to eat 20–30 percent healthy fats like olives and avocado. I think as a culture, though it’s changing, we’ve become so afraid of eating fats. But if it’s made by God, it’s probably good for you, and if it’s made by man, it’s probably not. So natural fats are good for you, saturated fats included. It’s the fats that man makes and man changes that have become a problem.
What low-starch veggies can help transform our plates—and our bodies?
I love cauliflower. It’s so versatile. Cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash are two ways of getting that carby sensation that one would want from rice or potatoes, yet they don’t affect your blood sugar like starchy food does. Cruciferous vegetables in general, especially green leafy vegetables, are the foods that we should try to eat as much as we can. Eat the stalks and stems because they contain the fiber that your body doesn’t break down properly and that the good bacteria love to eat.
What are some easy ways to augment the medicinal value of natural foods?
Spices have so many beneficial medicinal effects, including fighting inflammation, boosting immunity, and stabilizing blood sugar. And bone broth is a way of getting some of the nutrients that are harder to get in our diet. It helps heal the gut. My grandmother used to make chicken soup with all the bones. And cultures all over the world have particular spices. As we’ve become “more sophisticated,” we’ve forgotten these simple things that most cultures have done for centuries.
Any tips on getting restful sleep in this tech-heavy, stressful world?
Darken your room completely, or use an eye mask. Any little bit of light will inhibit your body’s own production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Making your room cold and taking out all the electronics helps too. Having a transition period between your active day and your sleep is a good idea. So dim the lights, listen to some soft music, have a warm bath. I think it’s also important to realize that how you sleep is often determined by what’s happening during the day for you. So if you’re stressed out during the day, the chances are you’re not going to sleep well.
What steps can we take to connect our mind, body, and spirit with a deeper sense of happiness?
Meditation is one of the most important things one can do for oneself. Not only will it relax you and help you deal with the stresses of life, but it takes you to another level of just being comfortable with who you are. I think surrounding yourself with people you love, having good friends and family and spending time with them, and trying to find work that you find meaningful to you can be helpful too. Also, get back to nature, get out of your head, experience the power that is greater than you.