Five Steps to Healthy Living

Being a registered nurse in a variety of settings for over twenty years, I’ve seen many a person who does not want to go to the hospital because they know things are not working as well as they used to.  They know if they go to the hospital the doctors might find something that is broke and (yikes!) try to fix it.  Let’s face it, their fears are justified because as you get older parts of the body start to deteriorate.

That is why keeping yourself healthy is worth taking time to think about.

Don’t worry… it is never too soon to start taking care of yourself to reach a higher level of wellness…  And it is never too late to start taking care of yourself to begin healthy living.

I’m not going to lie, it can be overwhelming at times.  That is why I advocate “baby steps.”  In other word, focus on one idea at a time.  Make it a habit and move on to the next one.

Healthy living starts with prevention.  Think about preventative steps you can take to keep your body healthy.  These are my top five “baby steps” to healthy living (hopefully you are already doing some or all of them):

Number One:

Wash your hands.  I know this idea is very basic, but I must include it because I see people missing this one ALL the time.  It is the simplest idea for healthy living. Keep germs from spreading from others to you and keep your germs from spreading to others.  Bacterial soap comes in many different scents and colors.  Make soap available and fun at your house or business and people will use it.

On that same note, wash your hands before and after preparing food.  Remember some of those raw foods carry germs too. Do not forget to wipe surfaces clean where they were prepared as well.

Number Two:

Eat right.

I am talking about having a sensible, balanced diet for healthy living.  Eat healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Do not skip meals.  Do not stuff yourself.  These go hand in hand – If you do not skip meals you will not be as inclined to stuff yourself.

My advice would be go easy on the fat, sugar, and salt.  Changing times bring new ideas.  Let us look more carefully.

What about sugar? Pay attention to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This little sweetie is a real nightmare. The long and the short of it is that it keeps your body from feeling full.  (So much for watching the portion sizes).  Unfortunately, because high fructose corn syrup is cheaper, manufacturers like it.  Watch your labels! (It is even in ketchup) It is in “natural” foods.  Though it is natural in the beginning… after it is modified, not so much.  Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are indicated in some studies to have unhealthy effects. I recommend trying to avoid them.  Saccharin, on the other hand, which has received the most negative press of artificial sweeteners could be a better alternative to aspartame.  The sugar industry is powerful and has funded research in order to promote ideas that are financially beneficial to the industry.  I recommend cutting sugar in all its forms & artificial sweeteners to a bare minimum.

Lastly, that low salt thing.  Your body needs some salt. However, I do not think it is ever a bad idea to watch your salt.  Too much of anything is not a good idea.  Lots of manufacturers are offering foods with reduced sodium.  It can be a little shocking at first, but as you cut back on salt you will get used to less salt.  Remember the goal is a higher level of wellness.

Pay attention to when you eat certain foods & keep track of how you feel.  High fiber in the morning is said to block fat absorption later in the day and keep you feeling fuller.  It takes about 4 hours for a starchy breakfast to digest. So wait until that time passes before adding in fatty foods like nuts, avocados, seeds. More protein later in the day may help burn fat.  Pay attention to your body if it seems to not tolerate certain foods and avoid them if you can.  Everyone is unique, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

For healthy living, think about what you are missing in your diet are you getting vitamins and minerals? Whole foods are the best way to get them, not  supplements.  Vitamins and antioxidants are everyday ideas that help nourish your body and brain.  Try to include antioxidants in your regular diet every day.

Number Three:

Exercise.  A while back I was in an elevator with an old friend I had not seen for a while.  I said “You look different.” To which she replied, “Yeah, I lost sixty pounds.” Then I asked, “Really? How?” Her response was, “Well I started watching what I ate and I started exercising.”

I knew she was going to say that.  Sometimes it seems we all want a magic pill or crazy machine to do the work of exercise for us.  Though I admit I have tried some, that kind of wishful thinking does not work.

Face it.  In addition to watching what you eat you must move your body.

Again, do not worry.  You do not have to run out to the gym (although you could).  You could start by walking short distances at first.  Then progress to longer distances.  You could dance to good music.  I find triple time swing and cha-cha really get my heart pumping.

Swim.  It makes moving a little gentler by being easy on the joints.

The funny thing about exercise is once you start making progress you feel better. Soon you may even want to move on to something more challenging.  Frankly, that should be your goal.  For improved healthy living you need to get your heart rate up for aerobic benefits.  In addition, your bones benefit from more intense workouts and weight training. This helps increase bone density and strength.

I know that it may be daunting at first, but exercise comes with so many benefits.

Not only does it strengthen your bones and muscles and improve posture. It can also help you manage heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, type 2 diabetes, and so many other diseases.

Exercise can also improve your mood and self-esteem. It can reduce stress and anxiety.  This can help you sleep better and improve the quality of your life. Next thing you know you will be heading off to the gym.

I know. I know. Who has the time?

If making time to exercise is difficult try the idea of a home gym on for size.  This saves time traveling to and from the gym.  It can also save money.  You can easily pay for a quality home gym with the money it would cost to join a gym for a year’s time.

For me the main drawback to a home gym is that it requires space.  However, some equipment is designed with limited space in mind and folds up when not in use.

Another way to save time with exercise is to consider the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Sometimes it can be hard to stick to an exercise program.  Try these ideas to help yourself stay motivated even on days when you are not:

  • Instead of skipping your routine completely try dropping some of your normal moves for the day. Sometimes I will skip my arms, legs, or abs. Just be sure you do not always skip the same ones.
  • Try decreasing the number of repetitions you would normally do.  Try decreasing the weight or resistance.  Making it easier on yourself is better than missing a whole day.  Doing some exercise is better than none.

Exercise is good for strong bones and muscles, but the majority of health success will come from good nutrition.

Number Four:

Now about that smoking…. When I was a kid I had a shirt with a little frog on it that said, “If you smoke I’ll croak.”  If I had it today I would probably still wear it. (Although it was an ugly yellow).  So far, I have not seen any studies that indicate that the unhealthy aspects of smoking are outweighed by anything positive.  Smoking is not good for blood vessels.  I know one heart surgeon who writes “Never Smoke Again” on the white board in the room of all his coronary bypass patients who smoke.  It is not good for your bones either.  It decreases your body’s ability to heal itself.  Not to mention the bad effects it can have on the lungs.

I know it can be relaxing for some people and an activity that some people enjoy.  I know it is not easy for most people to quit either.  If you do smoke and need help talk to your doctor or other care provider for resources.  If you are unable to find anything contact me  and I will send you some information.

Number Five:

Regular physical exams and screenings by your doctor and by yourself are another great idea. This is because they lead to early detection. You know your body. Do not ignore it when it tells you something is wrong. Instead, take it to the doctor.

When you talk to your doctor be honest tell the whole story.  Be specific about when symptoms started.  Convey what medicines and supplements you have been taking.   It is harder for your doctor to help without having all the facts.

Regular screenings that your doctor recommends are not just a way for him to make money.  They are for earlier detection which leads to earlier intervention which could lead to better outcomes. Although there is an argument to be made that earlier screenings detect abnormalities that may not be of concern if treated with lifestyle medicine rather than procedures that come with serious risks.

That’s it for now:

With these everyday ideas, you are now five steps closer to healthy living.  Remember it can be hard work to reach a higher level of wellness.  I do not claim that it is easy.

If you need to, try to change your perspective to make it fun.  Just because it is hard does not mean it cannot be fun. The more fun you can make it, the more likely you are to stick with it.  Hopefully as you progress it becomes more habitual making it seem easier every day.  Good things in life are worth working for!

Remember to take it one idea at a time and enjoy every inch of the way!

Stay motivated to make healthy living part of your routine by starting a Health Journal today!

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