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How Can We Improve Our Health?
At the start of every new year, I give a great deal of thought about things I can do to improve my health and yours. Each year I look at the latest research and my own personal experiences as I try to pick the highest priority items. Here are my top eight for 2016.
#1 - Forget about Fad Diets and Load Up on Great Foods!
Weight loss is usually front and center, especially at this time of year when everyone is making New Year's resolutions. But it should be accomplished by eating lots of good foods, not by going on a fad diet or eating packaged weight-loss meals or shakes. I like to suggest diets that are for a lifetime, not just for the months it takes to get to your goal weight. In fact, a good diet should get you in the habit of eating well and making a life change.
Here are some past blog posts that can help you select the best foods.
Fill your plates with the Top 20 Foods For Health and Longevity.
Lose weight while keeping hunger at bay by Eating Lots of Fiber.
And don't forget, you are eating for a billion as your body is genetically 99% microbes and they LOVE fiber so it's good for them too. Add more microbes to the party by eating a fermented food every day.
|Beans are a great source of protein, fiber and|
other critical nutrients. Eat some every day!
#2 - Minimize Sugar in your Diet, Especially Fructose
While you are filling your plate with the most healthful foods, we must remember what foods to avoid. Perhaps the worst thing we can put in our bodies is sugar. If you want to get a good understanding why sugar overload is significantly contributing to serious diseases in this country, watch the documentary, That Sugar Film.
Americans consume 126 grams or about 10 tablespoons of sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of six teaspoons (25 grams) for women and nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men. Sounds like a lot? Well, you would be shocked to know how easy it is to rack up this amount and more.
Fruit yogurt has 19 grams, a granola bar can have 12 or more grams, some "energy" drinks have over 80 grams! And beware of juice. A cup of unsweetened apple juice has 24 grams of sugar. If you are wondering why the kids are bouncing off the walls after drinking their juice box, well, wonder no more!
The worse sweetener is fructose. You may think that giving up high fructose corn syrup helped get rid of this poison in your diet, but even regular table sugar, or sucrose, is composed of a molecule of glucose (which the body uses as fuel) bonded to a molecule of fructose, which the body can turn into triglycerides that can lead to heart disease. Agave, popular among vegans who avoid honey, is 85% fructose. Honey is also high in fructose.
In general, excess sugar can eventually make cells resistant to insulin, a hormone that allows glucose to enter the cells. If the cells become resistant to insulin, the sugar remains in the blood which is associated with type 2 diabetes.
In short, this country is becoming sicker and sicker because of the abundance of sugar in our food. Much of it is hidden in drinks, packaged goods, baked items, canned foods, so-called "health foods", and more. It has significantly contributed to obesity, heart disease, hyperactivity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic disorders. So read the labels and make a big effort to limit your sugar intake to an occasional treat.
|Read labels to detect hidden sugars.|
#3 - Get Off The Couch
Sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of having heart disease, various types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. So if you sit at your job all day, drive to and from work sitting in your car, by no means should you go home and sit in front of the TV.
In 2013 I gave you the One Million Step Challenge. It's easy and it's a good first step to get moving. Of course any type of movement is great - zumba, bicycling, running, rock climbing or whatever gets you excited. The more you like it, the more you will do it. And I'm always pleasantly surprised how much energy it gives me to exercise.
|Put on your Fitbit and start walking!|
#4 - Journal, Journal, Journal
I have been journaling for 45 years but I starting journaling on MyFitnessPal in 2015. It's a remarkable program for tracking your food and exercise. It's not perfect but it beats writing things down in a little notebook and having to look up calories, etc. Journaling can double your weight loss! Even if you don't need to lose weight, you will be able to look at what nutrients you are consuming and if you are getting enough exercise. I highly encourage you to use whatever program or App you are comfortable with but get started today.
#5 - Connect with Friends and Family
When reading Dan Buettner's book, Blue Zones, I noticed that people who live to 100 or older, had one thing in common - they all had a network of friends or family and a sense of community which gave them a life purpose. In today's world, many of us live apart from our families and move from city to city for our careers. So it's important to create a network of friends and assimilate into your community as best you can. Meet like-minded people and work at creating relationships. You can't sit at home and wait for your new best friend to come knocking at your door. And despite the miles apart, stay in touch with family and visit as often as you can.
|What's better than a hug?|
OK, I know I just told you to connect but now I want you to disconnect (right after you read my blog, of course.)
Today, most of us are continually connected to our iPhones, computers, 24/7 news, and more. People drive, sit in restaurants, and walk down the street looking at their phones. They have their phones sitting on their bed stands so they don't won't miss a text message. It's downright unhealthy. And I'm not talking about how cellphone emissions may be damaging our brains, or how men who use cellphones have a lower sperm count, or any of the other controversial side effects that may or may not be true. I'm just talking about how we have stopped smelling the roses and are continually exposed to upsetting worldwide news and annoying Facebook posts (especially during an election year). I spent 36 years in high tech so I'm addicted as much as anyone when it come to being connected. But I'm going to work on this one.
Leave your phone in another room at night. Don't spend all day on Facebook. Check it once a day but not every ten minutes. Leave your phone in the trunk of your car when you are driving. Take a long walk without any devices and notice your surroundings. Meditate. Take a bubble bath. And please, if you have kids, limit their screen time.
#7 - Learn Something New
Is there something you want to know more about? Is their a hobby you want to take up? Do you want to learn a new language or how to play an instrument? Learning something new relieves stress, can give you an opportunity to meet like-minded people, and can add excitement and fun to your life.
I just signed up for two classes at the California School of Herbal Studies. One is on Herbal Medicine Making and the other is Living in Harmony with the Seasons. I love learning new things - it makes me feel like "hey, I may be 67 but I'm not dead yet."
#8 - Unclutter
Does clutter stress you out? It does me. I look in my closet and think, "I really need to go through there and give some of that stuff away." Or I'll find a garment that forgot I had and wonder how many other jewels are lurking in there. And how does every drawer turn into a "junk drawer?"
|How does every drawer turn into a junk drawer?|
I know there are books and even professional organizers available to help you unclutter your closets and your life, but I'm just going to do it one drawer at a time. I have a plan to attack one closet a month until I get through the entire house. I recently organized my makeup drawer and I can't tell you how happy I feel every time I open it.
After you've uncluttered your life and ridded yourself of things that no longer give you pleasure, make sure you enjoy the things that do. Remember, life's short so break out the china!
Well, these are my health intentions for 2016. I hope I've given you some ideas for yours. Most of all, have a happy, healthy, loving, and joyful 2016!