Achieve optimal health in 2011
Gillian Flower, ND
The New Year is a time for reflection and leads us to intentions for the future. Health-focused resolutions are common, and here's how you can keep them.
The start of the New Year is a time for reflection upon the successes of the past 12 months, and naturally leads us to revisit our personal intentions for the future.
Health-focused resolutions are common at this time of the year, with many of us wanting to lose weight, quit smoking, or exercise more regularly.
Weight management, fitness, stress management, heart health, and immune function collectively form the foundation of good health. Evaluating and taking action in these five key areas can help you to optimize your well-being, no matter what your personal health challenges and goals may be.
Concerns about weight are almost inevitable after a holiday season of overindulgence. As careful as we may be with our diets, we often find ourselves trying to get back on track come early January.
Whether you are trying to achieve specific weight-loss goals or simply want to look for nutritional gaps in your daily diet, a food diary is an excellent tool for increasing awareness about what you eat every day (see below).
Food diaries have been shown to increase and support weight loss. In one large study, participants who kept a record of what they ate every day lost more weight than those who didn’t record their intake.
Eating a balanced, whole-foods-based diet will meet your body’s nutritional requirements while helping to manage your weight in a healthy manner.
Keeping a food diary
Exercising regularly offsets the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle, boosts weight loss, and allows you to enjoy optimal energy levels. Increased exercise is a perennially popular resolution every New Year, and is a vital step on the road to ideal health.
Here are some ways in which you can support your commitment to exercise.
If you’ll do anything to get out of a gym workout, plan to attend a class instead, or sign up for an organized sport. If you love the outdoors, join a hiking club or organize excursions with friends. The best exercise is the one that you enjoy doing and will keep coming back to.
Changing it up
Choose a variety of activities so that you have exercise that supports your endurance, strength-building, and flexibility.
Breaking it down
Experts recommend 60 minutes of exercise every day. If an hour of daily exercise feels daunting, think of achieving this goal 10 minutes at a time. Strive for activity throughout the day: get off the bus early to extend your walk home, take the stairs, walk to errands, and have car-free days.
Feeling the burn
Calorie burn charts can be helpful when comparing the benefits of one activity to another. Note that actual calorie use is affected by your weight and the intensity of the activity.
*Numbers above are based on a 150 to 160 lb (68 to 73 kg) individual.
High stress levels undermine your hard-won health successes, silently but surely. The myriad effects of perpetual stress include increasing the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, decreasing cardiovascular health, and depressing immune function.
Poor management of personal and professional time can be a significant source of stress. Regaining a sense of control over the way that your time is spent each day can help you to de-stress significantly (see below).
Calming the mind
Meditation is an ancient practice that can be used to improve our handling of modern stresses. A broad range of techniques, using chanting or silence, done in a group or alone can still the frenzy of the stressed mind.
Simply sitting quietly for a few minutes while focusing on the movement of the breath in and out of the body can be a powerful and calming experience.
Heart your heart
Dietary and supplemental strategies can help to decrease blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and minimize cardiac risk factors. Whether you have suffered setbacks in your ardiovascular health or not, eating with your heart in mind will support the healthy function of this vital system.
If diet alone is not helping you reach your goals, consider some of the following supplemental options.
The immune system has a central role in protecting us from infection, allergy, and cancer. While some degree of disease is to be expected in even the healthiest bodies, daily choices will optimize our natural defences.
Eating for immunity
Eating whole, unprocessed foods is essential for healthy immune function.
A little extra help
If your immune system needs an extra helping hand, consider using some of the following supplements.