A journey of a 1000 miles begins with the first step.
Health is one of the most important things we can attain. Recommendations can be complicated or they can be basic. I encourage my patients to “live simple”. Make it part of your life so you essentially “trip over health”. Health is not just the absence of disease but rather having an abundance of energy to be a “force for good” especially with your family and friends.
If you want to improve your health I encourage you to start with the basics: Eat well, move well, sleep well. Doing these three simple things usually results in “being well”. Each one of these three actions means different things to different people. I truly believe we are on our 1000-mile-journey to discover what is best for each of us. We need to be participatory in making healthy choices.
Eat Well: With a lot of choices there are a lot of decisions to make. Unfortunately this has become incredibly confusing for most people. The cause of this confusion are varied but it has to do with changing recommendations, changing in our situation especially activity as well as our individual likes and dislikes. One generally accepted recommendation is to consider avoiding GPS: grains, potatoes, sugar.
Research shows that these type foods alter the hormones that cause obesity. While the number of calories do matter what the food does to our hormones is the most important thing. Simple sugars/carbohydrates raise are blood sugar quickly which stimulates the hormone insulin. This is a hormone that stores fat. It also will not let us use our fat stores for energy. While we need a small amount of insulin most of us have become insulin resistant from eating too many simple sugars and eating too often. There was a thought that if you few skip meals you lower your metabolism but frankly that was wrong. We now have an epidemic of type 2 diabetes secondary to too many sweets too frequently. Our insulin level stay high so all we do is store fat but never get to burn fat. All starchy type foods (grains/wheat/potatoes) breakdown into sugar that raises insulin and stores more fat. 40 years ago the government guidelines (see Food Pyramid ) encourage eating alot of GPS and we realized that was an epic failure.
Proteins are helpful for improving muscle mass but to0 many grams of protein actually convert into carbohydrates. This was the reason the Atkin’s diet did not survive. High protein diets are essentially high carb diets.
Could fats be our friend? We were told that fats are dangerous and should be avoided. While there are certain fats that should be avoided,(trans fats, vegetable oils, canola oil) the tropical oils have been shown to be quite healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass fed butter). It turns out fats will give us energy without stimulating insulin and will actually keep away obesity. While it takes an effort we should consider switching our taste from sweet to savory.
A low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is now thought to be the healthiest. Many countries such as Sweden have switched to this diet. Their rates of heart disease have decreased as well as their incidence of obesity.
The website, www.DietDoctor.com has many great videos that can introduce you to this way of living.
Move well: Recess for many was the most enjoyable part of school. We were usually moving the whole time laughing and spending time with our friends. This is still a very important part of being healthy. Books such as “Younger Next Year” ( www.youngernextyear.com ) encourage us to get one hour of cardiovascular type exercise a day. This does not have to be high intensity but rarer simple walking is an excellent way to spend that hour. It improves your brain function, decreases stress hormones and helps you to sleep better.
Resistance training is also very important to keep posture good,bones strong and our balance stable. I encourage pulling-type exercises such as cable row or low level kettlebells to keep our shoulders down and back and prevent neck and low back pain. Aim for resistance type activites two times a week. If you are new to this, start low and go slow. Think about getting some help with either personal training or beginners Pilates class.
Sleep well: Given our artificially lit world sleep has taken a backseat to our electronics. Attempt to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis and your energy level may soar. For people who do not sleep well I encouraged them to review their sleep hygiene. Besides the usual things that are recommended I encourage patients to wear blue light blocking glasses after sunset. More and more research is showing that computer screens, LED light and TV screens put out 4 times the amount of blue light as the sun. Realize that blue light tells our brains to wake up. Consider using Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses with SCT-Orange Lens (under $10 via Amazon) after sunset to protect your eyes while you watch TV or work with computers.If the singer Bono from the band U2 uses glasses to protect his eyes from blue light maybe they could help you.
In Summary “live simple” by eating well, moving well and sleeping well. A fantastic journey is ahead of us if we will only take a healthy first step.