In business, there’s a saying that goes “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Which is absolutely true. If you want to improve a part of your life, it’s hard to know if you’re making progress without tracking it.
When it comes to your health, you’ve been told over and over again that you need to focus on tracking quantities. For instance, to stay within your allowed calories per day, you need to track your calories. Or, to be consistently more active, you need to get 10,000 steps in a day. Or, to optimal sleep, shoot for 8 hours a night.
And yet, despite all of these great metrics were given to help improve our health, we’re moving backward. Obesity levels continue to rise. Blood pressure continues to boil. Cholesterol continues to clog arteries. And all of this with the most precise information possible about our current state of fitness and health.
On the surface, then, it would seem as though we’re just not working hard enough to achieve the numbers we’re given. Maybe we just need to walk further. Or maybe we just need to eat less. Or maybe we just need to go to bed earlier and we’ll be able to hit those magical numbers that guide our health.
Or, maybe we’re just focusing on the wrong thing. You see, numbers are great because they’re easily measurable. This is why we shoot for 10,000 steps or 1,800 calories or 8 hours of sleep. But at the end of the end, numbers mean nothing if you’re not moving toward your goal. To help you understand this point a bit more, let’s turn our attention to cows.
You Are What You Eat Eats
There’s been a lot of hub-bub about meat over the years. From scientists to reporters to celebrities, people of special authority have demonized meat for every reason under the sun. The most notable of these reasons is meat’s impact on your health. And that’s where I’d like to focus for now.
Every once and a while a study pops mentioning that meat causes cancer or meat causes kidney failure, or meat causes obesity. And, although the efficacy of the study itself could be questioned, most of these studies are relaying truthful information. The problem is, these studies tend to vilify all meat no matter how they’re raised. But, as you’re about to see, how an animal is raised has everything to do with how it impacts your health
When it comes to red meat, there are generally 3 types of feeding that can happen during a cows lifetime to get it ready to slaughter. Without boring you with the details, most cows are raised in long-term feedlots and fed grain their whole lives, while, on the other end of the spectrum, other cows are raised on a field and allowed to eat grass and graze their whole lives.
There are some variations of these feeding methods, but most red meat can fit into one of these categories. So, what does this have to do with studies on red meat and cancer? Well, in these studies, the meat that they’re using is conventionally raised meat. And there’s a big difference in conventionally raised meat and grass-fed meat.
For instance, there have been numerous studies that break down the nutritional value of grain-fed verse grass-fed meat. In general, here’s a look at how the 2 types of meat panned out:
Grain-fed meat had higher levels of saturated fat, trans fat, and omega-6 fatty acids. It’s likely that you’ve heard of trans fats. These fatty acids are man-made and have been proven to cause degenerative diseases as well as cause blood pressure and cholesterol issues. Omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in our society and are found in highly-processed foods. They are linked with high rates of inflammation and degenerative diseases.
Grass-fed meat has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, and trans-vaccenic acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are primarily found in fish. If you’ve taken fish oil, you’re taking it for the omega 3 content. Ironically, grass-fed cows have a similar fatty acids profile as fish. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) have been proven to help reduce the size and cancerous tumors as well as fight cancer, overall.
So, as you can imagine, if a study is using conventionally-raised, grain-fed meat, it wouldn’t be surprising if they found that those who ate more meat had a higher likelihood of developing certain diseases, given the nutrient profile of the meat itself.
Incorporating More Quality into Your Life
All of this rambling on about cows to meat to get to this point. Quality definitely plays a part in your health. If you’re eating low-quality, processed foods, but tracking your calories to make sure your “within the allowed zone”, you’ll have a harder time reaching your health goals than if you’re eating whole foods and not tracking your calories.
The same can be said about exercise. If you’re getting on the treadmill or pounding the pavement for 2 hours at a time, don’t be surprised if you’re not seeing substantial results. Not because you’re not putting in the effort. But because it’s not the right quality for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Your goal, then, is to start focusing on the quality of your efforts verse simply the how much or how little of them you’re getting done. If you’re not sure how to do that, let’s look at some examples:
#1) When it comes to fitness, many people follow the same routine: set a resolution January 1st, join a gym, walk on the treadmill for 2 hours every other day, quit after about 6-8 weeks. This is the cycle. They assume they need the quantity of time on the treadmill and never stop to think about the quality of their efforts.
Instead, shoot for an exercise routine that is focused on shorter, efficient workouts. For instance, research shows that a 4 minute HIIT session can have the same cardiovascular effect as a 60 minute session of moderate intensity. So, try doing 3 interval training sessions a week instead of 3 60 minute treadmill sessions.
#2) Nutrition can be super confusing. One day, you’re told to eat low fat. The next day, you’re told to eat low carb. One day it’s the Keto Diet. The next day, it’s Intermittent Fasting. The question that I always come back to is, how are you doing on the basics? If you can’t nail the basics, the rest of this doesn’t matter.
What are the basics, you ask? Do you have a high-quality protein at every meal? Do you eat veggies at every meal? Speaking of veggies, does your diet consist of mostly whole foods? If you don’t have these basics covered, we’re not talking about IF.
#3) Sleep is another area that gets overlooked. Most people know they should get 8 hours of sleep a night. But the average person gets about 6.5 hours of sleep. Instead, let’s focus on improving your quality of sleep, so you can then improve the quantity of your sleep.
And to get started, stop looking at screens AT LEAST an hour before bed. Why? Because screens emit blue light, which is like the light that comes from the sun. When you stare at blue light at night, your body shuts down melatonin production, which is the hormone that helps put you to sleep and keep you asleep.
As simply as it sounds, it usually comes back to basics. This is where quality fits in. If you can’t say your quality is on point, then how much or how little doesn’t matter as much.
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