Such a general question, and if this gets closed, I completely understand. But, I seriously need some guidance here.

I have made a decision to put a considerable amount of effort into my own physical health. You know, things like dieting, exercise, and hygiene. My lifestyle has been extremely unhealthy. Almost zero exercise, a wonky sleep schedule, consumption of healthy things only happens about once every 4 months, a treasure trove of junk food, awful hygiene, especially oral hygiene, I rarely brush my teeth unless my mouth feels truly gross and when I'm desperate and short on time, I just do like 10 seconds of Listerine, which I know won't improve anything much, and I never floss. Somehow, I've only had one cavity and none of my teeth have fallen out for the entirety of this lifestyle. I'm sick of feeling gross all the time, and I genuinely WANT to care about my health, I'm just a lazy person, but I'm in a time in my life where I feel like I can really push myself.

The problem with this is: where do I start? I don't think this question can truly be answered. The world of health, especially when it comes to things like weight-loss programs and exercise programs, is so vast that I don't even know if I can take advantage of everything, and then I have to focus on things that will work specifically for ME, since not everything works for everyone. I'm the kind of person who likes to make an extremely detailed and well-defined plan before I go into anything, even if I don't follow through with these plans. Of course, I still tried to do my own research, and even then, I don't entirely trust a lot of online sources, especially if they look scammy, and a lot of these sources focus on getting healthy "fast." I don't care at all about how fast I can become healthy, I care about something that works. Of course, I don't want to like wait, you know, an entire decade to be healthy, but I'm not even gonna consider a link that says "lose 10 pounds in one second guaranteed! Click here!" Also, my doctor just isn't any help at all, since he just provides vague descriptions of health that I'm pretty sure he tells every one of his patients.

My mathematical mind likes to look at the fundamentals first. I don't know if anyone could outline these fundamentals, or provide any sources that look at these fundamentals, and then detail the fundamentals. In fact, I would prefer exterior sources (the freer, the better, this is the internet after all) that can go into way more detail than a quick answer to this question.

Thank you!

  • 1
    Welcome to health SE :-). You are correct the question is both too broad and opinion based, since there are many good places to start. One can be a visit to the doctor's for an annual checkup and advice on what is the best path for you to improve your lifestyle towards better physical health. If you are unsatisfied with your doctor's advice, you may want to look for a second opinion (from another doctor). If you have a specific question, meeting the help center guidelines, we will be happy to answer it for you. For exercise you might check out Fitness SE. – Lucky Mar 21 '17 at 23:57
  • Start with nutrition. – HerbalResearcher Mar 22 '17 at 0:28

Since you approach this from a mathematical point of view, you should consider reading this first. Von Neumann's theory on universal constructors captured the essentials of biochemistry long before the field of biochemistry came into existence, therefore the right approach in biology and medicine is to frame things in terms of robust machines that are going to be able to maintain themselves under a very wide range of conditions by adapting themselves.

Now, the human body has evolved to function optimally under conditions that involve eating a low fat, high whole grain carb diet and a lot of physical exercise. What has happened over many millions of years, is that our body has come to depend on sticking to such a lifestyle for optimal function, but adaptability means that you won't immediately collapse and die if your lifestyle differs from this significantly.

What about empiric evidence to back this up? For a long time, the medical community didn't seriously investigate this, the Western lifestyle was used as the default model and only minor tweaks were investigated. It was found that eating less saturated fats, a bit more fruits and vegetables, and exercising a bit more was going to improve the general health. Only very recently have more radically different lifestyles been seriously investigated. E.g. this article describes the health of the Tsimane people in Bolivia. As we can read here (the Lancet article is behind a paywall):

A high carbohydrate diet of rice, plantain, manioc and corn, with a small amount of wild game and fish – plus around six hours’ exercise every day – has given the Tsimané people of the Bolivian Amazon the healthiest hearts in the world.

“Most of the Tsimané are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis. This has never been seen in any prior research. While difficult to achieve in the industrialized world, we can adopt some aspects of their lifestyle to potentially forestall a condition we thought would eventually effect almost all of us.”

To me, this empirical evidence goes beyond the specifics of the Tsimane lifestyle, it also confirms what I explained above, i.e. the human body has been adapted by natural selection so much to an indigenous lifestyle that straying away too far from this will damage the body. But because the human body is a well designed self repairing machine, it will adapt itself quite well to an unhealthy lifestyle. So, while you'll get atherosclerosis, it won't kill you for some considerable time.

Another example. If you live in Nature, your salt intake won't be much higher than 0.1 grams per day, more than 50 times lower than what passes for a normal salt intake. Is this harmful or is our normal intake harmful? If you believe in what I'm advocating for then you should believe that 0.1 grams per day is not harmful and that possibly 5 grams per day could have negative health effects. A priori there are no good reasons to expect that 5 grams of salt per day would fix a biological flaw in our body. And indeed, if you read this article, you see that what passes for a normal blood pressure should be considered to be mild hypertension, this is masked due to the fact that we're all overdosing on salt.

What about eating fat, don't carbs cause type 2 diabetes? As pointed out here, the problem starts with fat buildup in the muscles which causes insulin resistance which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. This shouldn't be a surprise if you consider where your calories would come from if you lived in an indigenous society. There is no cooking oil in the jungle. So, why would you assume that millions of years of evolution has led to some flaw in your body design that is magically going to be cured by Tesco's extra virgin olive oil? That doesn't make sense to me, so you should not use any oil or at least limit it's use to very small amounts.

Then if you stop or severely cut down on fats, take a lot of exercise and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, your health should improve. You may ask how much fruits and vegetables you should eat. We can again approach this from a theoretical reasoning where we assume that the indigenous lifestyle yields optimal health. Here we can consider that indigenous people had little access to meat and ate no dairy products. This means that they would have had to get a fair fraction of all their essential amino acids from vegetables and grains.

The problem is then that some essential amino acids are difficult to get from non-meat, non-dairy products if you eat normal Western-diet sized portions (unless you eat special foods like tofu, but such special foods are hard to get in the jungle). So, this means that what passes for normal portions is too small. If you make some rough estimates of how much you should eat, you get to a figure of the order of 1 kg of fruits and vegetables combined per day. So, 500 grams of vegetables and 500 grams of fruits per day will yield a fair fraction of essential amino acids, it is thus a good guess for what a healthy intake should be.

We can then assume that this intake of 1 kg of fruits and vegetables is something that our bodies are likely optimally designed for. While amino acids is not something we need to be concerned about unless you are a vegan, fruits and vegetables contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and fibers. So, even if you eat meat and dairy products, your body should be considered to be optimally designed to eat about 1 kg of fruits and vegetables.

Eating a lot more fruits and vegetables than recommended as been put to the test only recently, the results are as follows:

Compared with eating no fruit or veg a day, it showed: 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28% 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13% 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%

Now, as I mentioned above, indigenous people have a low meat intake, so it may be wise to limit your meat intake. But you must then make sure you're getting enough protein.

  • Mushrooms are high in protein and low in fats and carbs. IIRC, mushrooms contain more essential amino acids than plants. The tricky thing is, many mushrooms are poisonous. So, to find edible mushrooms, it may be best to go to your local grocery store. Pine nuts contain a lot of fat and about equal amounts of protein and carbs. Also, indigenous people in Asia, Africa, and South America may consume a lot of bugs. – Double U Mar 24 '17 at 13:41

There's no quick fixes. The deeper you dug yourself in the pit, the taller and heavier the ladder you're gonna need to get yourself out.

In general, there are a few rules to start with that should work for everyone. (Unless you're allergic to any of these items).

Start counting calories.

Avoid wheat, gluten, dairy.

Eat as much as you can fresh home made foods; quinoa, buckwheat, chicken, fish, vegetables. Rice and other grains are OK but not too much as they are high in carbs.

Aim for high protein, low carbohydrates.

Cut down on sugar, and fruit (due to its sugar). No soda, caffeine.

No alcohol.

Brush AND floss everyday evening (at least).

And start moving. Every day. Doesn't have to be running, even not necessarily jogging if you can't. Just move, as fast as you can; brisk walking. Start let's say 15 minutes at 4mph or whatever speed you think is a bit faster then you normally walk. And incrementally increase every week.

Consistency is key.

Sources:

  • 1
    You said to avoid wheat, gluten and dairy but the authority nutrition link you sourced says to eat high fat dairy. The same link also says to eat fruit when you said you should cut down on it. I can understand some juice drinks as those made from concentrate can contain added sugar but unadulterated fresh fruit juice should be fine surely. Plus fresh citrus juices contain vitamin C – Chris Rogers Mar 24 '17 at 23:34
  • When it comes down to it sugar is sugar, fruit is basically sugar with some fiber in it, better than pure sugar bit nonetheless. I only put in those links as guides if you wanted definite links. My opinion to avoid wheat gluten/wheat and dairy is based on other sources which I didn't have much time to get sources for. See the book titled "Wheat Belly" by Dr. Davis. – larry909 Mar 26 '17 at 1:48
  • Please do present the evidence sources for giving advice on avoiding gluten/wheat, as this is a hot topic right now without a lot of solid evidence. There is evidence for whole grains being better than flours due to glycemic index for one, fiber and protein for another. Also fruit is absolutely far more than sugar with fiber. Yes some have more nutrition than others, but even diabetics are recommended to eat fruit in moderation. The value of fruit juice varies depending on the fruit, and yes some of the nutrition (and fiber) is left behind when squeezing fruit into juice. – DoctorWhom Apr 25 '17 at 6:07
  • Added the link... – larry909 Apr 25 '17 at 6:21

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