When it comes to reclaiming your health, the more positive steps you take, the better. For many folks, though, the prospect of making changes can feel overwhelming, making it easy to come up with any number of reasons not to make them. I get it. I’ve been there myself. But if you start slow, say, committing to just one health tweak per month, over the course of a year, those changes will really add up. Another bonus? You’ll likely start feeling and looking better than you have in quite a while.
Bottom line: No matter where you are on the health scale, it’s never too late to upgrade. Some days we may do better than others, but if we forgive ourselves and get back on the horse, we’ll keep moving forward. The effect of these changes is cumulative, so keep adding to the win column.
To help get you started, here are a few thoughts from my recent book, The New Health Rules, my simple, step-by-step roadmap to better health. The journey begins here:
1) Stop Stressing Over Every Calorie
Whether you’re overweight or just trying to hold the line, forget about counting calories. Look instead at the integrity of the calories, not the number. Putting all that energy into counting is a distraction—and it’s one that can easily lead you into the land of horrible-for-your-body artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and “faux foods” in hopes of “saving” a few calories. Instead, put your energy into eating clean food, close-to-nature and dense with nutrients. Taking in 100 calories from a sizable and filling spinach salad will do your waistline a lot more good than some crappy, 100-calorie junky snack from the vending machine (that’ll leave you hungry 10 minutes later).
2) Hit the Pause Button at 50% Full; Drop the Mike at 80%
If business lunches and dinners have you eating out frequently, you know it’s tough to control portion size. You can’t predict how big your meal will be until it hits the table. If it is on the large side, try discreetly splitting your meal in half; slowly work your way through the first half, then pause. Do you feel satisfied? Not hungry anymore? Can you imagine a nice cup of chamomile tea instead of more food? Listen to your body and sit back. You’re done. Consistently eating to the point of about 80% full rather than 110% stuffed will help keep weight from sneaking up on you.
3) Prep for a Good Night’s Sleep
If you don’t sleep well, your day is more or less ruined. Sleep poorly year after year, and your health takes a potentially devastating hit as well. My advice? Relearn the art of sleep. To do it right, you’ll need to set the stage with the following sleep-supportive behaviors:
- A cool room—around 60 to 68℉ is considered ideal.
- No glowing screens—shut ’em all down an hour prior to bedtime, and by all, we mean the TV, laptop, tablet, and phone. Limit the temptation to use them by leaving them to charge in another room.
- A dark bedroom—we’re talking total darkness, to prevent light from messing with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. And avoid switching on the bathroom light if you have to visit in the middle of the night!
- A settled, bed-ready stomach—as in, no food or drink at least two hours before bedtime.
- A healthy, comfortable bed—add an organic topper to your bed as a barrier against the chemicals traditionally found in conventional mattresses. When the time comes for a new mattress, look for one that’s made of natural latex, cotton, or wool. Use unbleached cotton bedding instead of synthetics, which are often treated with chemicals.
- No caffeine after 2 p.m.—unless you want to stay up too late. Caffeine’s sleep-disruptive effects can last eight hours or more, so cut yourself off early in the day.
4) Get More Sunshine—to Help You Sleep
Most of us get too much light at night, when we need darkness to trigger melatonin production, and by day, we get too little natural light, because we’re trapped inside the office. To reconnect with your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, try rising with the sun and stepping outside first thing. Even if it’s just for a minute or two, the mission is to let your body feel the daylight. Find a time in the day—the earlier the better—when you can expose yourself to natural light for at least half an hour. In the evening, once darkness falls, start to dim the lights throughout your home to help signal to your body that the day is winding down. Remember, there’s little need to be blasting light into every room at night, particularly when all that light has an energizing effect, keeping you and the rest of the family up later than necessary.
5) Get off Your Duff—and Work Standing Up
One day our grandkids will laugh at the fact that we sat at desks all day long instead of standing. Just as kids today are shocked by the fact that there was a time when no one wore seat belts and everybody smoked just about everywhere—in the office, in the home, in bars, and even in movie theaters. Fact is, we were built to stand on two legs all day, not sit on our butts, so even with the best high-end, super-ergonomic chairs to hold you, your core atrophies and the hips and lower back overtighten. So, in the words of Bob Marley, “Get up, stand up,” for your health. If you have the option to get a stand-up desk at your office, take advantage. If the boss isn’t offering, then take a stand and rig up your own DIY version by placing your keyboard on a box or stand.
6) Dejunk Your Home—So It’s a Source of Calm, Not Chaos
A wise man once said, “Clutter is the junk food of the home,” and I couldn’t agree more. Clearing out accumulated stuff you don’t need, love, or use every day is not only cathartic, but it helps gets energy flowing again. Your soul and brain feel better and function more smoothly in a place that’s been purged of extraneous and distracting objects. Find a person or organization to donate useful items to; set up a system for organizing keepsakes; and most important, buy less stuff. To help make your home a more soothing space, follow a few basic tenets of feng shui. First, toss or fix broken objects, as dead or weakened items are hard on the spirit of a room. Second, make rooms easy to move through. Keep entryways clear; don’t crowd them with large pieces of furniture. Third, introduce round shapes instead of sharp corners wherever possible. Think of a circular or oval coffee table, a round mirror. Curves are soothing; corners can feel aggressive. Fourth, add in something to energize the space. This could be touches of the color red, a powerful hue in feng shui; something with movement like a mobile; or something alive, like plants or a pet. By changing the energy of your surroundings from cluttered chaos to simple and soothing, you’ll gain more spiritual and emotional bandwidth for the things that truly enrich your life—and ultimately your health!