I'm a huge Survivor fan. Get dumped on an island, in the jungle and McGyver it for over a month. Play games compete in challenges with the big million dollar prize at the finish line. To stay alive, you battle dangerous obstacles, severe weather, wildlife, creepy bugs, exhaustion, and starvation. There are disease and exposure to all kinds of endangered species. The sickness and being exposed to the elements are part of the game. To help keep you safe and give you that slight edge to make it to the end where you get to plead your case of survival to a jury of your peers, is "immunity." This sought- after "Idol" can only help you possibly get your hands on a million bucks; it can't prevent you from falling ill.  The idol can be earned by winning a challenge, or you might get lucky and find a hidden one. That's just one reality, though, in "real time" reality there's no wiggle room for wishful thinking, not when it comes to building and boosting our immune system. Extreme conditions don't have to come in the form of a tsunami, or hail storm to freak your nervous system out. Let's flip the script and instead of surviving in fear of catching a cold, how bout we live in determination of catching wellness.

Fun Fact: Our skin is the largest organ in the human body. But, did you know that your gastrointestinal tract covers over 100 times that area inside your body? Don't be alarmed. I just want you to get a clear visual so you can you see why nutrition plays such a crucial role in immune development and maintenance. Other supporting players are your lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus, it's very much a team sport inside this skeleton of ours, many moving parts in action all with the same goal, winning the game of health.

This "system" can get cracks, we get colds, flu, and heaven forbids diseases and cancers. So what's the solution? If you have been following me for the last half of this year, I bet you can guess the answer. Do I sound like a broken record? Well, too bad. If you're one of those humans who are always playing the sick card, I think the record needs replaying. What you want to avoid is forced rest because you aren't paying enough attention to the signs that you may be at risk of catching a bug. 

Boosting the protective powers that fend off infections is pretty easy. I think sometimes I've beaten the whole "eat your fruits and veggies" to a pressed juice pulp, however, if the kale fits.  The more colorful, the more protection. Think of your immune system as a storage closet; the more layers and options you stock up on the more prepared you will be for unexpected situations. If anything, just the idea of having all the back up gives you peace of mind, right?

HOW TO CATCH IMMUNITY

1. Eat Clean: Plan, strategize, schedule, set alarms, hire a coach (insert unapologetic bio here.) Do whatever you need to do so that more of your meals are balanced. A healthy plate will look half filled with fresh veggies and fruit. Sometimes I like the eat fruit alone (no not by yourself) on an empty stomach, but I don't live and die by this theory. It is a way to allow it's magical nutrients to be absorbed free from obstruction. Don't fear carbs, grains especially are friendly fiber and will help your gut balance, and as we just touched upon in my Fun Fact tip above, healthy gut =happy immune system. More fresh fruit loaded with vitamins C, E and minerals offer additional shielding from bacteria. 

2. Stress Less: People who are stressed, overworked or just plain negative tend to be sick a lot. Ever notice that? Like the big time executive that always has their s---t together, organized, never misses a meeting has a bottle of NyQuil on their desk. Make room for R & R. Meditation, learn how to breathe, and for goodness sake just turn off the devices for even 10 minutes a day. It's at least a start, but I would make it a goal to have a whole "power off day."

3. Body Work: not just a relaxing rub down but try a lymphatic massage specific to nurturing one of your immune supporters. Letting them know you care about them and welcome their protection. This is a gentle way to detoxify and strengthen this particular system. When all of your parts are working in unity towards the same goal, which we agree is to build a life of optimal health, then the stronger the structure, aka, stronger body. 

4. Hold The Sugar:I know it's tough during holidays, but do you see the winter and catching colds connection? Immunity weakens and surprise! Here's a cough and runny nose, wrapped in a pretty kleenex bow for the holiday. It's a fact, there are more processed sugary treats around every corner, samples everywhere, we don't see this during spring and summer months. Allow yourself a taste but remember, the more sugar (and this means alcohol too, I don't indulge anymore but I can count, and some of these festive beverages have up to 700 calories) the higher chance you're going to experience a breakdown in your immune cells. 

5. Get Your Zzzzzzzzz's: Sleep when you're dead? Really? Not so much, sleep now so that you have more time added to your lifeline. Your body works even at rest, metabolizing and actively plotting your wake up energy. Getting sleep consistently will lower the stress hormone cortisol, this causes inflammation and the only one bloated you want to see this season is Santa.

6. Exercise: Move that body! The Food Athlete isn't about being learning how to eat for physical fitness. If you have read my bio, you know that the word "Athlete" is not a direct reference to superstar pro sports players. I speak about the "human body" we ALL possess that is in need daily of fuel for ANY activity. Working out regularly, (again, being consistent is the secret to creating healthy patterns) will contribute to better sleep and when you exercise you release chemicals like serotonin which is the opposite of the "stress hormone," these are the feel-good ones. 

So, I want to end this on a bit of a serious note. When I started writing this post, it began as a guide to weather related sickness and how to avoid catching a cold. So I what a perfect topic, our Immune System. I like to have the T.V on sometimes in the background when I write, and the Survivor finale was playing the other night. I was halted in my writing when the winner of the show shared about his mom who had just passed away from lung cancer. I knew a bit about his story because, like I said earlier, I'm a fan of the show since the beginning. What I didn't know is that his mother was a health enthusiast, in good shape, exercised, she ate right. Still, she fell ill, and cancer quickly took over her "healthy cells" and she couldn't fight to save her life. It's tragic and heartbreaking, and it's reality. The most aware person, making wellness a priority isn't necessarily untouchable. How I see this situation for this family is that had she not been the fitness buff she was, she may not have made it long enough to see her son fulfill his and her dream of not just being on, but WINNING Survivor. Also, his platform now, and his mission is to bring more awareness and help find a cure. Stand Up To Cancer is the site you can visit here to learn more about how to help. 

The Food Athlete "tribe" has spoken.

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,

xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete) xo

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