5 Ways To Jump-Start Your Health Right Now, From Someone Who Reversed Type 2 Diabetes
Take one glance at Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, and you'll regard him as quite the healthy individual: He has a standing desk and stationary bike propped in his office; he penned Healthy at Last, a health and nutrition book filled with yummy plant-based recipes; and he practically exudes energy while he speaks—you'd be hard-pressed not to feel motivated by his exuberance.
But rewind to 2016, and his health paints a vastly different picture: He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after undergoing a colonoscopy due to an intense stomach ulcer. He lost sight in his left eye and was slowly losing it in his right. He had nerve damage in his hands and feet, and he couldn't feel his right thigh. In other words, he was in the very late stages of a serious diagnosis—his doctor even revealed he was at a comatose level.
Just months later (yes, months!), all of the aforementioned symptoms had completely disappeared, and his life had changed for the better. How did this happen? How did he turn his health around so quickly? Well, according to Adams, all it took was some thoughtful lifestyle adjustments. As he shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast: "No matter if you are 8 or 80, you can be the person you want to be by taking healthy steps forward."
Five steps, to be exact:
1. Clean up your diet.
The most profound way to jump-start your health, Adams notes, is to start with your food choices. "The fountain of youth is found in your fridge—that's where you must start," he says. Before his own wake-up call, fried and fast foods were the cornerstone of Adams' diet. Refined sugar, salt, processed fat, you name it—his plate was full of unhealthy players disguised as "comfort food."
"I didn't realize I was poisoning myself slowly," he says. "I started to read the labels of my food." If you're going to glean one piece of advice from Adams' incredible health journey, let this be it: Check up on your labels; whole food options with minimal ingredients are key.
2. Consider eating plant-based.
"Three weeks after going whole food, plant-based, my vision came back," Adams says. "Three months later, the A1C went down to 5.7. My cholesterol normalized, blood pressure normalized, my kidney numbers normalized. I dropped 35 pounds. I woke up and wasn't feeling discomfort anymore."
It's an incredible health story, all from focusing on whole, plant-based foods. But before you consider it a one-off, know that Adams is not alone: Founders of Mastering Diabetes Cyrus Khambatta, Ph.D., and Robby Barbaro, MPH, actually reversed their insulin resistance with plant-based eating as well. Even Adams' mother was able to see impressive results: "My mom is 80 years old, 15 years diabetic, and seven years on insulin. She joined me [in my plant-based journey], and nine months later she was off her insulin," he shares.
That's not to say you can't enjoy animal products at all, if you can tolerate them. Just consider it a case for making plants the star of your plate, at the very least. According to Adams, the benefits abound.
3. Exercise when you can—whenever you can.
Moving on from diet and nutrition, Adams is a huge proponent of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (aka, NEAT), which refers to taking advantage of your everyday movements and transforming them into exercise. "Exercise doesn't only mean you have a gym membership," he says. "Get off one stop before your subway stop to get in some additional walking; have a standing desk in your office or a stationary bike; walk to and from businesses; do walking meetings. It's about being creative." While there are at-home workouts aplenty to try right now, do your best to fit in some extra exercise throughout the day.
As for the oft-cited excuse I don't have time to exercise, Adams introduces an important counterargument: "You don't have the time not to. Either you're going to control your time, or an illness is going to control it for you." That's not to scare you into dropping into a round of burpees, but it does mobilize you to, well, get moving.
4. Meal prep.
We'll admit, prioritizing healthy choices can be difficult, especially if you're not sure where to start or intimidated by the process. That's why Adams loves to meal prep: "I do food prep at the beginning of the week, as having it all ready makes it easier," he notes. "There's so much you can do to become more creative with your time." (Check out some of our favorite meal-prep hacks here.)
5. Give the gift of giving.
On the topic of focusing on health, we'd be remiss not to discuss emotional resilience. Especially in a world where harrowing news is starting to feel somewhat commonplace, it's so important to include mental health in the conversation. That's why Adams likes to give to others; not only does it help people, but it also helps him reap emotional and physical benefits (he's not alone: The "helper's high" is very much real, and one study even found that people who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure compared to people who didn't.)
Enter, Adams' 100-point plan: Each day, he promises he will reach 100 points of compassion each day. "If I hold the door open for someone I get a point; if I say good morning, I get a point; if I buy a meal for someone, I get five points," he explains. "It reminds me to be intentional about being compassionate and giving." Knowing he must reach 100 points before he goes to sleep plants a drive to keep giving to others. "Create your own 100-point system and you will get the greatest gift you can receive," he notes.
To truly jump-start your health, you can't just focus on one avenue. Sure, some might feel more urgent than others at the moment (in Adams' case, cleaning up his diet was key to reversing his type 2 diabetes), but all are necessary for holistic healthy living.
And do you want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.