March is National Nutrition Month®! There is no better time to refocus you attention to your health and start adding on to the healthy lifestyle habits you have already established.
The theme of this years campaign is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”, which encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise (1).
As you know, health is more than just what you put in your mouth. It encompasses our physical activity level, stress level, and our environment, both physical and mental. When devising a healthy lifestyle plan, it’s important to consider addressing all of these pillars for the longest lasting results.
Eat Right: This is a primary focus of this blog, so I’ll get straight to the point… Eating right involves more than just eating more fruits and vegetables. It also means cutting back on refined flour, sugar and toxic additives in our food. Some say that cutting calories is “golden rule” when it comes to losing weight but I strongly disagree. I think it’s part of the equation, but the quality of our food matters more. I think most of us can agree that 1500 calories of Burger King is not going to deliver the same results as 1500 calories from a whole foods based diet that includes fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Eating nutrient dense foods is a necessity if you are going to get your health in order.
Move More: Nilofer Merchant told us in a 2013 TED Talk that “sitting is the new smoking of our generation” (2,3). It has become so normal to sit in front of a computer screen for 8-9 hours/day and then think if we spend 30 minutes on the treadmill after work it will make up for all of the inactivity. It doesn’t. The hours we spend being inactive have strong implications in our health and promote to obesity and chronic disease. Looking for options? Take Merchants advice, “Instead of going to a coffee meeting or conference meeting, I ask people to go on a walking meeting.” If you can swing it, there are also great options for standing and treadmill desks that will force you to move while you work. If nothing else, consider taking a brisk walk over your lunch break and before and after work to get more activity in. Will you make this a priority? How can you incorporate more daily activity in your day without putting on your tennis shoes and paying for a gym membership? Read Nilofer’s review on the Harvard Business Review for more tips.
Gauge your stress: Most of us realize how much a stressful life impacts our emotional health but did you know it can impact your physical health as well? When you are stressed, you release hormones that promote the storage of fat and deplete your body stores of essential vitamins and minerals. Over the long haul, this can promote visceral (belly) obesity and fatigue, otherwise know as adrenal burnout. Learning how to cope with stress with meditation, yoga or any other outlet that makes you feel calm is an important way to keep your health goals in check.
Clean up your environment: For some this means buying non-toxic cosmetics and household cleaners, while for others it means getting rid of negative people and events in your life that bring you down. There is merit in both approaches and benefit in combining the two. You have a physical environment (the air you breath, the things you touch, the food you eat) and a mental environment (the thoughts you keep, the emotions you feel, etc.) that impact your gut and brain chemistry. It’s important to look at how you can reduce “toxins” in both environments to achieve optimal health.
Each of these topics could be a blog post (or book) of their own. I have just lightly dove into their implications with hopes of bringing light to their influence on your health.
If you have questions on how to clean up your diet and environment or need tips on how to add movement and stress relief into your life, don’t hesitate to reach out.
In Health & Vitality,