For the Health

November 28, 2023

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

This article was published as an issue of my newsletter Ready for Rain

Sachi and I have an inside joke that relates to Hawaii. Her relatives have a tradition of saying, “For the health!” before eating or drinking special items that may or may not be healthy. We’ve brought the spirit of this phrase into our lives and pretend that we can make anything healthier by saying, “For the health!”, before munching on cookies, ice cream, or other goodies.

In the post below, I’m taking a decidedly more realistic approach to the phrase.

For the Health

When we moved into the new house, I had a mantra: new house, new rules. It felt like moving was an opportunity to rethink habits and set goals. This included the dogs and initially, they were the only success stories. They quickly adjusted to new regimes of behavior.

I ​turned fifty​ this year, and that prompted a new set of rules, mostly focused on health and wellness. Perhaps “rules” is not the right word. They are really more like intentions or hopes. My overall goal is to establish common-sense habits that can last.

I want to be healthier tomorrow and next year, but my real focus is decades into the future. I ask myself: What can I start now, and keep up for years, that will have a cumulative effect that’s positive? Sustainability is key.

When I talk to friends about these changes, they are always curious. It seems they are looking for ideas. I’d do the same in their shoes. We all need inspiration to change. I’d like to share the changes I’m making in case it helps you. Sharing also adds some social pressure on me to keep it up.

Turning fifty was a great reason to evaluate. Over the last year, I’ve had a physical, blood work, and minor issues that needed treatment. For example, a painless kidney stone led to a recommendation to drink a lot more water.

This has been one of the most positive changes I’ve made. I now drink water all day, starting with a glass along with coffee. Looking back, I had lethargy and headaches in the afternoons that likely came from dehydration. More water solved that problem.

My age also prompted a colonoscopy, which was clear. The procedure created an opportunity to learn about gut health. I made it a goal to increase the amount of fiber in my diet. Along with improved digestion, fiber is known to help with hypertension, cholesterol, and more.

So, I’m eating more fruits and vegetables, and I learned more about bran and whole grains. You hear about it all the time, but what is it, really? I think about it like this…

Grain, like wheat, has two basic parts: the seed and the husk. White bread and white rice are processed to remove the husk, which has most of the fiber. I’ve switched to whole-grain bread and mixed rice (brown and white), you know, for the health.

One of the great joys of my life is ice cream, or any cream, really. For years, I enjoyed yogurt in the mornings and ice cream in the evenings. This level of dairy needed to change. Today, mornings are all about protein. I usually have two eggs, veggies, and a bit of mayo. I’ve found that I have more energy and don’t crash as easily.

In the evenings, my ice cream has transitioned to Greek yogurt. I discovered a “cereal” called Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds. I realize that doesn’t sound appetizing, and it’s not a delicacy. However, it adds a satisfying crunch to yogurt and a half cup has 61% of your daily recommended fiber. Another cereal I learned about recently: ​Poop Like a Champion​.

Overall, we try to aim for the Mediterranean diet (according to the ​Cleveland Clinic​):

  • Lots of vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and nuts.
  • Lots of whole grains, like whole-wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Plenty of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) as a source of healthy fat.
  • A moderate amount of fish, especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • A moderate amount of cheese and yogurt.
  • Little or no meat, choosing poultry instead of red meat.
  • Little or no sweets, sugary drinks or butter.
  • A moderate amount of wine with meals.

Moving to the island was a great time to focus on cooking at home. Today, over 95% of our meals are at home. This helps us eat more whole foods and control the ingredients and portions. I’m getting used to smaller portions and more veggies. What we don’t skimp on is the flavor that comes from ingredients like butter, mayo, and soy sauce.

We’re not heavy drinkers but enjoy alcohol as part of our week. For us, the concern is more about calories than something more severe like liver disease.

This summer, I tried something new: non-alcoholic beer. It kind of blew my mind and made me rethink my relationship with the brews. I’ve had good experiences with craft-style beers like Athletic Brewing, which have very similar flavors to their alcoholic counterparts. It helps, too, that they are lower calorie; most are between 60-90 calories a can.

Keeping an exercise regimen has always been a challenge for me. In the new house, I wanted to find a way to exercise consistently no matter the season or weather. My Hydrow rowing machine has continued to be the ​perfect tool for me​. I now row first thing in the morning and listen to podcasts while matching my strokes with the instructor on the screen.

I’m also more intentional about being outside than ever before. The garden has been a constant source of movement, activity, and interest. Moving rocks, stacking wood, spreading mulch, weeding, planting, and pruning add up to a big and ongoing job that I genuinely enjoy.

So, more water, more fiber, smaller portions, fewer (and better) calories, and exercise. Unlike fad diets, supplements, or hardcore workouts, this feels sustainable over the long term, especially since it’s not absolute. I’m not abandoning sugar, fat, laziness, and everything nice. You gotta live your life.

I may not be a perfect specimen at 51, but that’s not the goal. I’d rather be above average at 80.

The next time you see me, ask about these new habits. Whatever the status, you will have helped by applying a bit of the peer pressure I need.


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On most Tuesdays, I share a story from my life on Orcas Island and a recommendation for something I love. I'm interested in how to design work and home for lifestyle, livability, and fluffy dogs. Learn more.

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