Forest Bathing, Fasting, Ketotarian Lunches & Other Habits Of A Functional Medicine Expert
As a functional medicine practitioner, I’m constantly learning about new remedies, workouts, dietary changes, and superfoods that I can incorporate into my wellness routine. I take many of them for a spin, incorporating them into my day and to see how I feel and how they affect my health. Inevitably, some of them eventually fall to the wayside and don’t end up being a part of my life in the long-term. Others, however, withstand the test of time and make their way into my daily habits for years and decades at a time.
So, which technologies, trends, and practices do actually withstand the test of time? Here are six that I do every single day — and plan to keep in my routine for good.
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Practicing gratitude is a tried and true method for increasing happiness and life satisfaction, so I try to incorporate gratitude before I even open up my eyes in the morning. I allow myself to wake up naturally without an alarm, so before I get out of bed, I take a few minutes to do a breathing meditation or a Hebrew prayer and think about all the incredible blessings in my life. I also love doing the Modeh Ani, which is an ancient prayer about gratitude. Research shows that people who cultivate more acts of gratitude in their life tend to have longer, healthier lives — and that’s what we’re all ultimately after, isn’t it? Gratitude practices will be in my life for good.
2. Intermittent fasting
My days are pretty long — I see my first patients around 8 a.m. and typically don’t wrap up until 6 p.m., which is why I need my brain to be on point and my energy levels to be steady. Enter: intermittent fasting, one of my favorite wellness practices for maintaining my metabolic flexibility. If you’ve never heard the term “metabolic flexibility,” it basically means that your body is able to provide you with steady energy even when you haven’t eaten recently. To be metabolically flexible, your body has to be able to use blood glucose for energy (which happens if you’ve recently eaten carbs) or stored fat for energy (if you are fasting or on a low-carb diet).
Unfortunately, thanks to the standard American diet and our thriving, carb-filled, snacking culture, many of us have lost our ability to switch fuel sources. That’s where intermittent fasting can be helpful; it gives your body a break from digesting and allows it to start burning fat for fuel, preserving your metabolic flexibility. I credit intermittent fasting for my ability to think clearly and sustain my energy throughout the day without constant hits of caffeine and sugar. I usually eat my first meal around lunchtime and instead of breakfast, I sip on Earl Grey tea in the morning.
Every day at lunchtime, I take my supplements. I love taking all the supplements in The Collection. These supplements are superstars when it comes to supporting a healthy gut, brain, hormones, heart and detox pathways. The different herbs, micronutrients, adaptogens and vitamins in The Collection have all been shown in the scientific literature to support overall health. I use food as medicine as my supplements as targeted tools to take my wellness to the next level.
I take my supplements with food and typically break my fast with a Ketotarian lunch, which means a salad with an organic field green or spinach base and then some healthy fats, like nuts, seeds, avocados, and of course, an extra-virgin-olive-oil-based dressing.
4. A workout
I try to move my body first thing in the morning for about thirty minutes. Typically, this means a cycling class on my Peloton bike (one of the best investments I’ve made!) or a HIIT class with or without weights. That said, I always listen to my body, and if it tells me to sleep in, I obey its command. Sometimes, I’ll do a workout after work instead, and sometimes I’ll just skip that day. To me, working out and moving my body isn’t about strict goal-setting or success and failure, it’s about feeling good and giving my body what it needs. I never beat myself up.
5. Time in nature
I’ve long been fascinated by the research on shinrin-yoku (‘shinrin’ is ‘forest’ in Japanese; ‘yoku’ is ‘bathing’). Forest bathing research has mostly been done in Japan and South Korea and the studies reveal that nature can lower stress hormones like cortisol, lower inflammation levels, and improve plenty of biomarkers for overall human health. Because of this, I try to spend some time in nature every single day — even if it’s taking a 15-minute walk without my phone, music, or any distractions of any kind.
6. Grace & lightness
At the end of the day, your wellness routine shouldn’t be punitive or dogmatic — it should be fun and make you feel good. These are the practices that work for me and that I can maintain in the long-term, but I’m a big fan of figuring out what works for you, your body, your schedule, and your priorities. And remember, you don’t have to adopt every passing wellness trend, fad, or newest, buzziest supplement and remedy. You just have to stay the course and take care of your health in ways that withstand the test of time.
The remaining days of the week, I’ll moderate my clean carbohydrates. I increase white rice, fruits, sweet potatoes, things like that. I still want clean carbs when I want them. I eat intuitively. Food is not supposed to be miserable and punitive and dogmatic; it should be fun and delicious. This is just what works for me.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.