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8 Lifestyle Upgrades to Get Leaner and Stronger

Adopting lifestyle upgrades is a process of taking less-good habits and turning them into healthier ones.

Making gradual, lasting improvements to your daily habits is still among the best ways to extend your healthy lifespan.

Here are eight lifestyle upgrades that can help you become leaner and stronger.

These upgrades are based on simple mathematics, science, nutrition, psychology, exercise physiology, and my approximately 30 years of experience working with clients.

Obtain the advice of your medical doctor to help determine which of these upgrades is right for you.

1. Use This Mathematical Formula to Drop Body Fat

As a fitness trainer for over three decades, I’ve recognized patterns of success. I learned that the people who lost weight permanently did it at the sane pace of 1-pound per week.

Year after year, I was able to see this simple pattern:

  • the weight lost at the slow pace of 1 pound per week stayed gone.

This is how I came to lose my belief in “diets” and believe in lifestyle upgrades instead.

There are exceptions, of course. People who weigh over 250 pounds will usually do well with a more ambitious regimen, hopefully under the supervision of a doctor.

Also, I’m not talking about those first 8 pounds lost within the first week on a lower-carbohydrate meal plan. That’s just the natural shedding of water weight when someone stops eating so many carbs.

body transformation lifestyle upgrades

Roller coaster weight loss – lose it, gain it back, lose it, gain it back – can be demoralizing and unhealthy.

When you drop weight too quickly, it can activate an evolutionary protocol: your body mistakenly assumes a famine is coming – and so, as a survival strategy, it decides to hang on to every fat cell in case you need it later. 

It’s difficult to tell others who want to lose 40 pounds of fat that they should plan 40 weeks to lose it.

No one wants to hear that.

Everyone has a fantasy that they’re only 2 or 3 months away from getting themselves back into “fighting weight.”

I’m not saying you can’t drop fat more quickly than a pound per week.

  • But is it safe?
  • And, will the weight loss be permanent?

Remember: a pound a week means that you’re not dieting; you’re making enhancements to your lifestyle.

Here’s what actually works:

  • lessening 200 calories from the daily diet,
  • and exercising daily to burn another 300.

The great thing about this is that it’s doable.

Shaving 200 calories off your daily intake is not that much.

You’ll notice it, but it won’t be painful.

And exercising enough to burn 300 calories each day is also very realistic.

500cals x 7days = 3,500 calories = 1 pound of body fat.

It’s a simple formula that’s very successful.

2. Upgrades Are a Mindset, So Think of Food in Terms of Inflammatory or Non-Inflammatory

Inflammation is the number-one cause of premature aging. You can reduce the risk of accelerated aging by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

Some foods are mildly irritating to your body, while others are uniquely nourishing.

Which foods are which?

The answer is different for everyone because each person has unique body chemistry.

Your body is equipped to handle irritating food now and then.

However, when the body is relentlessly exposed to irritating foods – day after day – it can create stiff joints, a puffy face, tummy bloating, and even an autoimmune response.

Many of us use food (sugar, wine, bread, etc.) to smooth out the rough edges of a stressful day.

We medicate our daily little anxieties with food to self-soothe. And it works, but only in the short term.

Our taste buds try to boss us around, yet inflammation is too high a price to pay for 8-seconds of mouthfeel and a sleepy post-sugar buzz.

Instead, you can determine what foods your body thrives on.

As an experiment, consider food in terms of “Inflammatory” and “Non-Inflammatory.”

Of course, your activity level and the number of calories you consume daily are still what matter most when losing weight. However, paying attention to the quality of those calories can also be helpful.

Happy woman picking carrots in garden, making lifestyle upgrades to improve health.

3. Get Your Kitchen Organized as One of Your New Lifestyle Upgrades

It has been relentlessly proven that people who succeed in making permanent improvements to their daily lifestyle habits do so because they prepared for change psychologically beforehand:

  • Is your kitchen poised to help you with your new nutritional upgrades?
  • Do you have a pre-printed shopping list?
  • Do you have storage containers with lids for advanced meal preparation?

Sometimes, what helps people to keep making better, healthier lifestyle choices is to have an everyday checklist. Below this article is a 56-second video that makes it easy to understand.

To improve your self-care, you need a simple productivity system – a good system can help you to find extra time and energy.

making lifestyle upgrades for keeping weight off forever
The weight that comes off gradually is the weight that tends to stay off forever.

You can create a new lifestyle schedule and daily routine that works best for your life.

By utilizing the principles of Success Psychology, you can ensure that your new, positive upgrades will “stick” (instead of having you start with good intentions and then fall back into the same old habits).

Anyone undertaking a health-improvement regimen in the hopes of dropping body fat will also need to consider how they can find other healthy solutions for self-soothing.

“Live with intention. Create a happy, balanced life. We all want this, right?  Dane’s tips and techniques are a great way to reduce stress and be more productive.  I’m a list maker, and follow a daily plan. But, sometimes things get in the way of completing my daily list.  I really like thinking of my daily list as organic and always improving.  If you aren’t a list-maker, he provides simple principles that will make a positive difference.”

Margie Arnett, University Professor

4. Eat More Raw Foods

Sometimes, instead of just telling people what they shouldn’t eat, it’s helpful to tell them what they can eat.

Raw food is any food that has not been heated above 104 degrees.

When people refer to raw food, they’re often referring to the vegan variation (technically, raw food could include raw meats, too – though this is far less pursued).

Raw food has an inherent lightness and vitality and is less likely to give you the food hangover that often accompanies rich, cooked foods.

I have found that these high-fiber raw foods seem to keep my belly area trim.


Cucumbers are hydrating and good for your skin. I have sensitive, reactive skin (perhaps it’s my northern European heritage), so cucumbers are an essential part of my nutritional regimen.

When I first realized I wanted to try slipping vegetables into my smoothies, I knew I had to do it gradually (to give my taste buds time to evolve), and cucumber is where I started.

two mature adults over fifty and fit and firm
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While it’s important to have as many dark, leafy greens in your diet, many greens don’t taste that great raw. Expect spinach. Spinach is delicious raw.

Spinach is good for your vision, bones, and immunity – and it even has Vitamin K to help decalcify your body (I only eat raw spinach in moderate doses, however, as way too much can create a bit of toxicity. Men over the age of 40 need to make sure that their bodies are not over-saturated in iron.)


Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are loaded with special cancer-squashing enzymes.

I have broccoli almost daily – usually a few florets in my breakfast smoothie (see below).

Broccoli can be challenging to digest, but I find that a powerful blender helps greatly with that.

fit young man delivering fresh produce, offering nutritional upgrades


What a powerhouse! Kale is a superfood with an astounding nutrient profile, including Vitamin C for metabolism and loads of fiber for digestion. I prefer my kale lightly sautéed with coconut oil or steamed.


Almonds provide me with quality protein, and they’re filling, so they sustain me and prevent me from getting hungry between meals. Almonds are good for your brain and heart (in moderation) and contain compounds that help your body’s energy production.

ideas for nutritional upgrades, see lemon as a superfood


Lemons are anti-bacterial and full of beneficial bioflavonoids.

What’s amazing is that even though lemons are acidic, they have an alkalinizing effect on the body when used in moderate doses.

A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon in water is something I have almost every day.

Chia or Flax Seed

Chia seeds help to balance blood sugar, and add those healthy omegas to your diet. I pre-soak mine for smoothies or use my coffee bean grinder to turn the seeds into powder.

Some people are sensitive to the lectins in un-sprouted seeds, so seeds may not be an everyday food for all individuals.

Dane Findley age 54 helps others achieve stellar wellness and a healthier physique.
Dane has a master’s in Depth Counseling and has spent decades as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy Lifestyle Advocate who curates the popular Quality of Life Newsletter – a free weekly update for those who want to UP their joy levels.

Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell Pepper

Whether or not people eat organic is the least of my worries; however, when it comes to bell peppers, I try to get organic when possible because it’s one of those foods in which pesticide residues seem to hang around.

Bell peppers have ample amounts of advantageous phytochemicals and enjoy robust antioxidant activity.

The nightshade family of vegetables can irritate some people, so perhaps bell peppers are not an everyday food. However, many people find they can easily ingest this nutritious vegetable three times a week.

If you want to experiment with adding more raw foods to your weekly diet, you can utilize the list above – by replacing worse foods with better ones from the list.

As I first began attempting to incorporate more living foods into my daily diet, one situation I found perplexing was:  what to snack on between meals?

“…superfoods are vibrant, nutrient-dense foods that are believed to be especially helpful to the human body”

Initially, I answered this question by chopping vegetable sticks each morning. These included…

  • increase vegetable consumption
  • cucumber
  • bell pepper
  • carrots
  • purple radishes

…and taking them with me to work in a cooler/lunchbox.

However, while this worked great for curbing my between-meal peckishness, I found that some mornings, I just didn’t have the time to clean and chop vegetables before leaving for the office.  More importantly, on days when I exercise, I need more protein than what veggie sticks can provide.

My solution? Raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds.

About half a handful of raw pumpkin seeds (the kind I buy are sprouted and seasoned with Celtic sea salt) do the trick because I enjoy the taste and texture, they have ample protein, and they are remarkably effective for curbing hunger.

Increasing raw food consumption is among the most effective lifestyle upgrades.

5. Ideas for Nutritional Upgrades: Eat More Cooked Plants

Can eating mostly plants make you younger?

Is it better to eat plants that are cooked or uncooked?

Many raw food vegans believe that uncooked foods have more prana (a word from the ancient Sanskrit language that means “lifeforce”) and more enzymes that help the body age slower.

But what does science say?

I suggest consulting with your doctor, getting your blood work done, and discussing whether it might be worth eating more cooked plants.

Keep in mind that if you plan on switching to a more plant-based diet, there are certain nutrients you’ll need to keep a close eye on:

  • vitamin B-12
  • iron
  • calcium
  • zinc
idea for better nutrition, eat fresh produce daily

You’ll need to find solutions for monitoring these nutrients in your diet to ensure you’re getting enough.

I have experimented with raw and cooked vegetables and, over the years, discovered that a combination works best for me.

6. Stop Worrying About What’s “Normal” and What Other People Eat

Perhaps the only way to know if your body loves a particular food is to listen carefully to how you feel after eating it. Your body will usually tell you if you truly pay attention.

Additionally, you can look at your body the next morning when you wake up.

A bloated waistline and puffy eyes are clues and often indicate an inflammatory response to the foods you ate the day before.

I’m still trying to help people understand that their health hinges on finding clever ways to sneak more vegetables into their daily diet. We live in a culture of burritos, pizza, and hamburgers.

“Fat cells, particularly those in the visceral fat that settles in the belly and around organs, were long thought merely to store excess weight. Instead, fat cells act like small factories to churn out molecules which set inflammation in motion.” — Dr. Peter Libby

What adds more challenge to my mission is I’m committed to not using fear to motivate people – I see some pretty alarming statistics in my daily work – but instead inspiring others to discover the joys and vibrancy of optimized health just for its own sake. It’s a good thing I’m passionate about it because I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Now that I’m in my 50s, I have my body fat percentage almost where I want it. My big focus now is on improving my flexibility and posture – and improving my overall health.

Though I support veganism and love the passion and ideals of my vegan friends, a 100% vegan eating regimen did not work for me long term.

I felt great for three months.  I’ve since found out that many other people have found a 3-month raw food vegan diet to be enormously helpful for cleansing and detoxifying the body. But whether or not it’s helpful long-term is another story:

  • my body doesn’t like soy; and even fermented soy, like tofu and tempeh, I can only have once in a while (you don’t have to eat soy to be vegan, but it sure adds some variety to the menu).
  • excess carbs – even complex carbohydrates – can have a negative impact.

All carbs turn to sugar eventually. I tried to get a surplus of healthy fats from seeds, nuts, coconut, olive oil, and avocado, but my body seems to respond better when I include a small amount of animal fat and protein into my diet.

I’m open to trying any eating regimen that improves my health.  I am not open to a food regimen that worsens my health.

For those individuals who have naturally, genetically low cholesterol and low blood pressure – is the vegan way of life too light?

Also, if cholesterol is needed to make hormones, how do men who are vegans keep the diet from becoming too estrogenic?  (My 98%-percent-vegan friend Joel solves this dilemma by adding the yolk of one free-range egg to his blended smoothie every other morning.)

For now, I have a mostly plant-based diet with just a bit of organic free-range eggs, turkey – and sometimes even bison.

I order bricks of raw, organic butter made from the milk of pasture-raised (grass-fed) cows on a small farm in northern Minnesota. Grass-fed is higher in Omega-3 and helps prevent Omega-6 spikes, a common marker of inflammation. I use this butter sparingly and keep grains, flour, and sugars to an absolute minimum.

According to a new study from the University College of London, eating seven or more daily servings of vegetables and fruits may help promote longevity.

Researchers studied the eating habits and health of over 65,000 people for over 12 years, and they determined:

  • a little fresh fruit is excellent, a ton of fruit is not-so-great
  • 7 portions of vegetables a day = 42% less likely to die
  • less likely to die as fresh produce consumption increases
  • vegetables provide more health benefits than fruits
  • each daily portion of fresh veg decrease overall death risk by 16%

Similar research supports the idea that, whether or not you become a long-term raw food vegan, it is almost certainly in your best interests to increase the number of fresh vegetables that you consume in a typical week:

  • super salads and green smoothies are even better for you than juices (they contain the entire plant, including all of the fiber), so please always choose those options instead when time allows;
  • green vegetables are a better juice ingredient than fruits, in part because they have less sugar;
  • whether making a freshly blended smoothie or fresh juice, beginners are encouraged to use more fruits than vegetables to evolve the palate to enjoy less sweet tastes gradually; however, the ultimate goal – even if it takes a long while – should be to reduce sugars in the average daily diet (refined sugars first and then, later, naturally occurring sugars), which means over time using more vegetables and only a little fruit.

The key takeaway is that certain lifestyle upgrades will work great for a particular group of people but not others. Choose the upgrades that fit you best and that work well for you.

7. Ideas for Nutritional Upgrades: Use Your Food Processor More Often

Preparing healthy food is often misrepresented as a time-consuming experience, but with the right tools, you can get fit and save time.

All you need are a few kitchen tools to speed up the process and make healthy meal preparation a faster and more enjoyable experience.

For starters, I recommend using a food processor.

What’s funny about food processors is that many kitchens already have them – usually buried behind the pots and pans at the very back of a bottom shelf.

Time to find that processor, dust it off, and display it prominently in your kitchen as one of your new favorite get-fit upgrades.

Why Your Food Processor is the Ultimate Flux Capacitor

A food processor has multiple abilities (including dough making), but its simplest and best function is to chop vegetables easily and quickly.

“…the food processor is the closest thing we have to an actual time machine”

If you’ve ever prepared a coleslaw salad with nothing but a knife and a chopping board, you know it can take hours. A food processor really does save you loads of time – tasks go from taking hours to taking minutes.

The Food Processor is the closest thing we have to an actual time machine. With one of these on your kitchen counter, there really is no excuse for eating a processed frozen meal. You can create a tasty salad or veggie topping in mere moments.

Easy Recipe for Quick Veggie Southwest “Rawcamole”

Usually, we revert to takeout food or packaged food when we are time-constrained – or just physically too tired to make a fresh meal – but with a food processor, it’s simple to eat healthily and get fit. You take the vegetables from your refrigerator, give them a quick wash, and toss them in the processor.

As an example of how to use your food processor to make a meal that is both super fast and super healthy, let’s use this recipe to make a California-inspired version of guacamole:

  • Red or Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Parsley or Cilantro
  • Tomato
  • One or Two Leaves of Kale
  • Juice of Half a Fresh Lemon
  • Cayenne Pepper

I put these into the processor (see video above) with some Celtic sea salt and turn on the food processor and hey presto! – a tasty topping that can go with lean chicken, veggie patty, turkey burgers, organic scrambled eggs, or, if you’re in a hurry, a stand-alone salad.

Hint: put the parsley and kale in the food processor first and chop it up, then add the other, softer ingredients.

You could also use it as a sandwich filling or have it as a celery dip.

The final product has an astoundingly appetizing scent and is a super-fast way of adding a delicious kick and zesty flavor to a meal that will support your fitness and energy level.

Remember, an important component of shedding body fat and improving your overall health is to eat more fresh raw vegetables, and food processors make that much, much easier.

Lifestyle Upgrades Help You Eat Healthier while Saving Time

  • if there are more than one or two people in your household, then get a large processor to ensure you can make big batches less often.
  • check that the parts are machine-washable so you don’t have to spend extra time cleaning by hand.

Check out your fridge contents and let us know what you were able to create!

I encourage you to remember that health is the foundation on which you can build a passionate, joyful life.

When we make health an afterthought or procrastinate implementing new health protocols in our typical day, we are – in essence – gambling. Look forward to your new lifestyle upgrades with eagerness!

8. Ideas for Nutritional Upgrades: Use Your Blender More Often

One of the upgrades I made that has had the most positive impact on my life is: consuming a freshly made green smoothie daily.

Being born and raised in California, I’ve been having smoothies my whole life. But about four years ago, I started making fresh green smoothies on a whole new level – using raw sprouted seeds and nuts and fresh vegetables, including dark leafy greens. Here’s a 37-second video:

These shakes I make are usually between 300 and 400 calories (it depends on the recipe) and have helped me to feel – and look – better. They’re filling and delicious. At 58 years old, I have a tighter waist than I’ve had for over 20 years. I owe my firm abs to freshly made green smoothies and the simple fat-loss formula outlined above.

If you want to improve your health and lose belly fat, you must find clever ways to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet, and smoothies can be one of the easiest ways to accomplish that. As far as nutritional upgrades go, it is among the most effective.

“Dust off your blender and start experimenting. Remember to only use enough fruit to make the shake enjoyable.”

In my opinion, freshly made green smoothies are number one among all the lifestyle upgrades – and the one that the least amount of people take advantage of.

Additional Sources about Lifestyle Upgrades:

What Is “Enough” Exercise? – http://preventdisease.com/fitness/fitadults/articles/exercising_enough.html

Ideas for Lifestyle Upgrades: Burning 300 Extra Calories a Day – https://www.verywell.com/burn-300-calories-in-30-minutes-1229552

Pesticide Residue in Foods – http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods

Nutrition Tips for Active Vegans – http://theveganproject.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/nutrition-tips-for-active-vegans/

Ideas for Nutritional Upgrades: Research Validates Plants as Longevity Food – http://www.counselheal.com/articles/9192/20140401/veggies-boost-longevity-more-fruits.htm

Guide to Super Salads – http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/the-super-salad-guide/

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