So much of what we’re being told on how to protect ourselves from COVID is about ‘outside in’ protections.
Face masks, social distancing, hand washing, santiser, lock downs etc. This seems to be the strategy…. do these measures until a vaccine is found. These strategies are really important, as they limit the possibility of us actually getting the virus in our system. They’re our ‘first line of defence’ if you like. But what about our defence if the virus actually breaches our external protections and gets in to our body?
There is very little attention on how we can protect ourselves (and ultimately each other) by looking at strengthening our protection from the inside out. You would be forgiven for thinking there is nothing else we can do but sit and wait for a vaccine and do our best with the ‘outside in’ strategies… but there is actually so much we can be doing. What’s really important is to understand what actually increases our risk of an adverse reaction to not just COVID, but other viruses (current and future ones). Knowing what we can actually do to reduce our risk, is ultimately building a strong ‘internal mask’.
There are a few terms being thrown around that may be confusing, but they are important to truly understand their meaning so you can work on building this internal protection.
Two such words are ‘co-morbidities’ and ‘metabolic health.’
Co-morbidities is a term that means the majority of people who are contracting COVID already have one or more chronic health conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, auto immune to name just a few. So if someone has one or more of these conditions already, they are at increased risk of having adverse reactions if they contract the virus. But the good news is many of these conditions are caused by lifestyle (which means they’re reversible by lifestyle too), and with a few changes, these can be improved.
Metabolic health (or conversely having poor metabolic health) is all about the health of your metabolic system. How insulin resistant you are versus how insulin sensitive you are (how well insulin is working) and whether your body has the ability to burn our duel fuels of fat and glucose (metabolically flexible). All this really is a sliding scale. The closer to insulin sensitivity, the better your body can utilise both glucose and fat for fuel. This makes it more likely you are in good metabolic health and less likely you are to have any of the co-morbidities mentioned above (auto immune conditions like type 1 diabetes are the exception here). Basically it means having good metabolic health is like an insurance policy against virus invaders.
There are so many good strategies here that can enable us to move closer to being insulin sensitive and more metabolically flexible. If the virus breaches our walls (gets in via our eyes, nose, mouth or skin), then our body will have the ability to combat the virus more effectively, and potentially minimise its impact.
So how can we actually do that?
By far prevention is much better than having to undo the damage of poor metabolic health. So depending on where you are on your sliding scale of metabolic health, and whether or not you already have other metabolic illnesses, there are many strategies for you.
Here’s my top 5 tips on making sure your insides are wearing a mask at all times. These are just guidelines of course, and if you want to make sure you get exactly what you need for your individual situation, I would encourage you to enlist the help of a lifestyle change coach (like me); a lifestyle GP; Dietitian, Nutritionist etc (see the list of resources from Low Carb Down Under below)
1. Limit processed food – that’s pretty much all foods that come in a box or packet (even if they’re labelled ‘gluten free’, ‘organic’, ‘ low carb’ – they’re usually still very processed). These include foods like: cereals, breads, pastas, rice, pastries, cakes, pizza, most takeaways and of course soft drinks – I’m sure there is more that I missed. Why is this important? These foods are usually full of sugar and inflammatory seed oils AND they lack any real nutrition. If you want your body to help protect you, giving it the nutrition it needs is important. Now, depending on how much of this stuff you currently consume, you might look at this list and think “OMG, no way I could not eat this stuff”, “it’s too hard”, “it’s too expensive to buy real food”, “what would my family eat instead?”.
However it looks to you right now, know it’s changeable. If you couldn’t possibly imagine yourself removing all these things from your diet, you absolutely can. Everything you think right now is changeable and never set in stone! You just have to see that, and you will naturally start to create space for new ideas. My biggest tip to do this? Start with one change. One step. One thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day! You don’t have to do everything at once (in fact I would strongly recommend you don’t, even if you think you could!). Start with removing one thing, changing one meal. When you’ve got that nailed and moved through the discomfort that naturally comes with change (it’s normal and you don’t have to fear it!), move on to the next thing.
Listen to your instincts, trust yourself. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
2. Make animal protein a priority. This is something we generally do very poorly because of all the misinformation out there about animal protein. And because we’re up against the juggernaut of people making huge profits out of pushing a plant based agenda. But the thing is, our bodies NEED good quality animal protein if we want to have a strong internal mask. Watch this short clip by Dr Ben Bikman where he explains the problem with plant protein, and why making animal protein a priority is so important for our metabolic health. If you don’t eat animal protein, I strongly recommend you see a low carb dietitian.
3. Eat whole ‘in season’ fruits and veggies. Most of the produce we can get today is available all year round, but it didn’t use to be like that! This affects the quality of the produce. On top of that, most fruits have been created to be larger and many times sweeter than their native counterparts ever were. Many people find that when they do remove fruit, they feel better and improve their insulin sensitivity. However, if you are just starting out, then these are a great substitute and much better than eating processed foods! If you can shop locally, and only choose what’s in season. Farmers markets are great for this if you can find one near you.
4. Change your relationship with Stress. This is a huge one. Stress impacts our health negatively on so many levels. But the thing is, we don’t always have to be at its mercy. There is potential to see that it’s not actually what is going on around us that is causing us ‘stress’. It is how we think about what is going on around us.. And that is changeable. If stress is an issue in your life, then seek out someone who can help you see something new around this. I have a short video coaching program that can help you understand this thought process, and there are also many other people who can help you with this.
5. Move your body! We are not designed to be sitting still at a computer all day. And if we don’t counteract this sedentary lifestyle, our metabolic health will suffer. We don’t need to slog it out at the gym every day. We don’t need to run marathons. We just need to move. Find something that you like and do it most days. Walk, yoga, tai-chi, running, resistance training, stretching, belly dancing, line dancing, skipping.. the list is endless! Just move that body of yours, because your metabolic health and your mental health will thank you. Those beautiful endorphins that flow through our body after exercise are why it’s called a ‘high’. It’s a natural high – no drinking or food required.
I hope this has given you some strategies on how to strengthen that internal mask. My last tip would be to not over think it. You don’t have to wait for a certain feeling to change anything. And what you did yesterday, last month, or for your whole adult life doesn’t have to impact what you chose to do today. You don’t need to get to a certain point of ‘readiness’, you just need to move. Take that one step, and trust that the next step will be revealed to you. If you don’t want to do this on your own or don’t think you can, please reach out for support and guidance.
You absolutely are worth it.
Love Tracey xx
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