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Health Creation To-Do List

This is a list I share with all of my clients.  Typically one topic at a time during our working sessions together.  I customize the order depending on each person’s needs and what they are inspired to focus on.  Through the functional medicine lens, I believe these tenets Create Health for anyone.  Everyone.  Please feel free to chime in below:

  • What one Tenet particularly resonates with you in what You see in your practice?
  • What might you Add as just one more priority tenet in your own unique view through the Functional Medicine lens about common health tenets?

So often, functional practitioners are focused on the Esoteric at the expense of the Foundational aspects of wellness.  At SAFM we prioritize teaching both.  No one will stay well from a persistent infection that you helped clear if they don’t frequently sleep deeply and at-length.  It will be hard for someone to avoid the atherosclerotic effects of chronic stress if they don’t become regularly more self-aware about how often they are shoulding on themselves (or choosing to live in fear).  No amount of drugs (or supplements) is going to help someone Stay Well if they are eating Crap Food, drowning in Stress, and slathering Toxins on their body every day.

I invite YOU to customize this list and use it in your own practice. 
You can turn it into an inspiring handout to share with each of your prospective clients.  Perhaps each of these can then be a topic for an inspiring, fact-filled, short-and-crisp blog or newsletter article or multi-session group program or one-day health breakthrough workshop?  This is a great time of year to start reaching out in earnest to those who are interested in your unique way of sharing wellness inspiration and education.  Use simple, clear language that is easy to follow.  Regular communication is key to building an audience who likes you, trusts you, and who wants to engage with you directly for further support!  

With so much uncertainty and fear at hand with external, societal dynamics, many people are looking for support in what they Can do.  Looking for what they Can control to ensure they have more resilient vitality in the face of life’s challenges.

The list below is likely not surprising to You.  It’s not esoteric or sexy or edge-of-technology novel.  But the power of it.  The essential nature of all these elements may surprise your patients.  And this we know for sure:  this collective list is incredibly Effective at maximizing the body’s ability to Get well and Stay well or to prevent disease in the first place, including from all infectious challenges.

We focus so much on disease in the world of “healthcare”.  The truth is that sustainable health naturally repels disease.  It’s time we start focusing more and more on Creating health.  Proactively.  Sustainably.

Top Tenets for Sustainable Health

  1. Sleep.  There’s no getting around this one.  Chronically sleep-impaired people cannot live vital, vibrant, energetic lives.  Ideally, go to bed at an early enough time that you awaken in the morning at least 90% of the time in advance of when an alarm would otherwise go off.  Go to bed when Your unique body feels sleepy.  And that may be 8:30 pm.  Practice sleep hygiene.  Unfortunately, that television, email, smartphone, or other full-spectrum light exposure and any type of stressful activity (bill-paying, parenting debates, work, reading the News) in the full hour prior to bedtime IS affecting your sleep.  Let your brain know in that hour that you Do want to wind down and prepare to sleep deeply.
  2. Play.  Seriously.  So many of us behave as though there is a large prize at the end of life rewarding us for working as many hours as possible and checking off as many things as we can from our ubiquitous work to-do lists.  Well, guess what?  There’s not!  Just perhaps instead some regrets and missed opportunities.  What if we had a daily play to-do list?  That we treated as More important than the work one?  Savor life.  Laugh. Play.  Relax. Have fun.  Don’t let your rejuvenating activities end up just being an hour or two of mindless TV each night.  We were all five years old at one time.  Revive what is Fun for you now.  Allow time for it.  Make time for it.
  3. Your Skin is one Big Mouth.  Stop feeding it crap.  Seriously, whatever you slather on your skin can go right into the systemic circulation.  We really shouldn’t put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t be willing to eat.  Chew on that for a moment…  Starting over again on choosing your beauty and personal hygiene products with this truth in mind can make a dramatic impact on your health deep inside.
  4. Eat Real Food, not “edible food-like substances” (M. Pollan).  You wouldn’t buy crap gasoline for your car just because it was cheap and convenient.  So why do we try to fuel our magnificent bodies with crap food?  At least 90% of the time, choose to eat exclusively foods you enjoy and that your great grandmother could have eaten when she was growing up.  Whole, natural unrefined foods, and beverages.  Vegetables, Proteins, Fruits, Legumes, Nuts/Seeds…  The huge array of chemical flavorings, preservatives, colors, sweeteners, texture agents, hormones, toxins, and cheap ingredients in other food is Not fueling your body to heal or be at its Best (think energy, mental clarity, pain-free, clear skin, smooth digestion, good sex drive, resilient good mood).  This isn’t just pretty language for a headline; it’s biochemical truth.
  5. Get Fresh Air.  Everyday.  Yes, even if it’s cold.  Or rainy.  Indoor air can become quite toxic due to outgassing from textiles and chemicals and building materials.  This is especially true during the cold months.  And in our own homes!  Even if it’s just a short 4 minute walk around the block or out to the edge of the parking lot and back:  it’s So much better than no fresh air at all.  While you’re outdoors, leave your phone indoors.  Use the opportunity to shift your visual focus to the horizon.  See and appreciate nature.  Take some deep breaths cleansing belly breaths.  Allow the exhales to be long and slow.  Stand or sit up straight, no phone glued to your hand.  Connect with and activate your parasympathetic nervous system mode that allows digestion, relaxation, healing, fertility, and ease.
  6. Eat as much Organic food as you can Find and as you can Afford.  Yes, it’s really that bad.  Most pesticides are endocrine-disrupting agents and can cause dramatic shifts in hormone balance.  And we have an exponentially increasing rate of estrogen medicated cancers in both men (prostate) and women (breast/uterine).  Where possible, maximize nutrition by purchasing local, fresh produce on which no pesticides have been used (not all small farmers can afford formal organic certification).  At a bare minimum, make good use of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopping priorities revised each year by the Environmental Working Group (
  7. Stop Shoulding on Yourself.  You are a divine child of the universe.  Perfect.  Seriously, you are!  Try opening up to this truth.  Stop being your loudest critic and your biggest source of stress.  Honor who you really are.  Honor what really makes you happy.  Honor what brings you pleasure and how you really Want to spend the days of your life.  What one small way can you Start Right Now?  Choose activities based on what is Fun and Fulfilling.  Release the need to use words like Should, Must, and Have-to.  Instead, use the word Choose.  And then allow yourself to change your mind when that phrase chokes in your throat.  Honor your truth.  Make time for a spiritual practice that allows you to release the “gunk” of expectations from society/family and reconnects you to Who You Really Are.  There’s no prize at the end of life for forcing yourself to do things that you don’t injoy (not a typo).
  8. Drink plenty of plain, clean water every day.  Make sure you know the real quality of the water coming out of your tap (don’t rely on regional or town source data).  If necessary, invest in a water filter, both for drinking water and (yes!) shower water.  There are a huge number of dissolved toxins found in regular municipal drinking water that your local regulatory organization is not required to measure or inform you about.
  9. Pay attention to the Oils.   After all, these oils will frequently work their way into our meals. Don’t cook with typical cheap, highly refined, bottled vegetable oils.  Choose only pressed (and preferably cold-pressed) vegetable oils.  If you eat in restaurants, you will nearly always be consuming these oils (because they are inexpensive), so don’t increase the frequency by using them in your own home.
  10. Avoid fluoride.  Don’t use fluoride-containing toothpaste or seek fluoride treatments at the dentist.  Does it kill bacteria in the mouth?  Yes.  Does it increase calcium uptake in teeth?  Yes.  But likely at very high costs.  From low thyroid function (sluggish? overweight?) to calcification of the pineal gland (insomnia?) to reduced IQ in children.  Vitamin K2 and a good multiherb/xylitol toothpaste can help you meet your dental goals.
  11. Check-in with Key Wellness markers.  These  may not be what your PCP regularly checks on your behalf, but they are all readily available from local labs.  You can advocate for your right to learn about your body and optimize your health proactively.  Check Vitamin D at least twice a year and keep it ideally in the 40-60 ng/ml zone to keep your immune function strong and balanced.  Check RBC Magnesium (not serum) and seek for it to be in the upper third of the normal reference range.  Check HbA1c and aim for it to be 5.2% or less; our carbohydrate tolerance is unique and depends on our genetics, lifestyle, stress, and nutrition. Check Triglycerides and aim for them to be 50-100mg/dl.
  12. Foods made with Flour should be in your 10% diet, not the 90%.  We have a true epidemic of insulin resistance and its progression states of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes.  This disease progression begins with or is exacerbated by the diet nearly Every time.  In this arena, we focus so much on minimizing sugars/sweeteners, but refined flours act very much like sugar in the body.
  13. Be a part of something wonderful that is Larger than You.  Make your life mean something that Inpires you to the core.  Chronic navel-gazing is often a good pathway to depression.  Or at least boredom.  Find a cause or a contribution that highlights your unique talents, history, and/or skills.  One that is powerful to you, not necessarily anyone else nearby.  Give regularly of yourself in a way that makes you feel gratified, useful, and part of the larger perfection of life.  If you don’t know where to start, consider beginning a Gratitude Journaling practice.  It’s easy to do.  And easy to start!  Just spend 5-10 minutes every morning (or right before bed) writing down 3 very specific things you are grateful for in that moment.  Not general, easy-to-overlook things like “family” or “my job” but a detailed description of a particular person or place or event or event that you are grateful for.  Make it come alive in your writing it down.  Letting that feeling of appreciation wash over you has very real, biochemical healing power, in part by activating parasympathetic nervous system.


P.S. If you know that healthcare Must be transformed to be sustainable and effective, and you know in your heart that You have a calling to be a part of this movement for Healthcare transformation, we urge you to learn about our semester program.

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16 Questions for “Health Creation To-Do List”

  1. 15

    Love it and although there is always something else that can be added to a list like this, if I’m using it for clients, I would actually edit out — always harder — to 10 points max. To me, the value here is to inspire clients and usually long lists don’t inspire but scare a little. I mean, once someone is in the journey they will find more and more things to add… or maybe not? The idea of simplifying, doing less, eliminating the non-important, etc., is in itself an incredibly powerful health creating tenant.

  2. 14
    Cindy says:

    Love this list and will definitely use it with my clients! Feeling grateful to be part of the SAFM family.

  3. 13
    Kendra Stetler says:

    Sleep! So very important. Not only quantity but quality.
    I would add to this list the need of being together in community. We are social beings and isolation is not good for the mind, body and soul.

  4. 12
    Isabelle Liliane Achouna Souop Spouse Tsamo says:

    I love this list. Tenet #10 on food is the one with a lot of challenge in my practice.
    What do you think about calorie counting? since all calories are not created equal right? we still have to control our food portion to avoid overeating leading in most cases to fat storage.

    Also what SAFM your thoughts about Intermittent Fasting?

    • 12.1
      SAFM Team says:

      Generally speaking, I am not a fan of calorie-counting, as it can be very stressful and studies show is not even well done by nutrition professionals. However, to your point, some individuals may need guidance and role modeling with regard to portion sizes – and also practicing good eating hygiene which helps the body’s own natural satiety mechanisms to inform food quantity. What is most important, of course, is to encourage whole, natural foods in the diet which are less likely to drive excessive eating. Intermittent fasting is a rich topic that needs a discussion vs. a quick answer. The prudent answer to your question is, “It depends.” At SAFM, we do not ever have fixed “viewpoints” on interventions but rather always focus instead on Who is the person being discussed and What are all the details of the clinical presentation. What are the unique dynamics at play in a given individual? Where are they along a healing path? What would be most helpful now? For some, intermittent faasting can be helpful for modulating metabolism is a lasting way. For others, it present excessive stress to an already-overwhelmed body. We want to ask Not so much “What do we do for this Disease?” and ask instead, “Who is the unique person who is wrestling with a given Dynamic and how do we best support Them?”

  5. 11
    Carolyne shapiro says:

    I love this list too — and just wanted to chime in that #7 is beyond huge!!! With the women I have been working with these past six years, it has been absolutely imperative for us to work on changing up thinking right away and it can take a long time to change years of certain ways of thinking! So many of us do this neg self-talk and we also do the “should” thing! Or, the “what if…” future thing which causes then “worry” which then can raise cortisol levels. Thank you so very much for bringing this up!

  6. 10
    Jen Yundt Coles says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  7. 9

    I love this! so valuable. Thanks Tracy!

  8. 8
    Kathleen ("Kate") Vogt Robie says:

    They’re all important plus Tracy adds great insights of balance and practicality. Love #2. It demonstrates Tracy’s wisdom goes beyond modern-conventional.

    I believe #2-Play is a vital one in jeopardy. Why?
    (A) Many many people think “play” has to be left-behind in childhood.
    (B) The “adult-version of play” can often be more about competition (focused on who wins, whose play date hosting went better, who played better, etc.,–in a way that raises stress hormones).
    (C) Often, play constantly takes a back seat to work and other social commitments. “Finish all your work before you play,” can mean we never get to play.

    True “Play” = Stress Reduction + Movement (body and mind) + Fun = Better Health. Adults need that as much as kids…maybe more! 😉

  9. 7
    suzanne elkind says:

    I would add in, no more than 2 cups of coffee before 10am.

  10. 6
    John Castella says:

    Love: The power of love is amazing. Love yourself, love others, be free and generous with love. It makes every moment of every day better.

  11. 5

    Love it! Great reminder! I love #7 and think so much healing can come from this point alone!

  12. 4

    I would add – Sit down, slow down when eating. Rushed eating compromises digestion and nutrient absorption.

  13. 3
    Heidi Tobey says:

    I love this list! I’d like to add something to #8. The EWG has a tap water database on their website. You just enter your zip code and you can see a 2019 report on how many contaminants are detected in your drinking water, and how many of those exceed EWG’s healthy limits. You can find it here:
    Thank you for this list. I’ll make sure I tick off as many as I can with each client. 🙂

  14. 2

    LOVE the daily gratitude expression. I can feel the lift as I say them and write them; definitely healing. And especially at bedtime, a wonderful way to end the day and enjoy restorative sleep.

  15. 1
    Sheila says:

    Thank you for #7. This is an area I’m working on and which bogs me down almost every hour of every day.

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