A week or so into the New Year - perhaps you, as many others, have made resolutions, despite the fact that over 50% of people will abandon them by February. As an example, consistent gym rats tend to avoid the gym during peak hours for these first few weeks as machines, classes, and pools are flooded with those who have made exercise resolutions. They know that by March, the wannabes will have weeded themselves out and the gym will be back to normal.
Instead of making sweeping, global changes that are unrealistic, let’s look at four aspects of our lives that make the biggest difference in our health, appearance, and happiness. Small, consistent changes in any of these will help us move closer to the optimal version of ourselves that causes us to make resolutions in the first place: What we eat, how we move, what we do day to day, and how we grow spiritually.
In simple terms, Eat Well, Move More, Live Wisely, and Love Divinely.
Before I go into any detail, I want to say that “perfection” isn’t necessary in any of these categories. In fact, just forget the idea of needing to be perfect. Because let’s be honest, is it realistic to say that you will never, ever have another cookie or three? Or that you’ll always get 8 hours of sleep every night? What’s better is to look at where you are right now and work towards the next level of wellness for you.
Believe it or not, making small changes in your diet will probably have one of the quickest and most dramatic effects on the way you look and feel. And this is where taking small steps begins: if you’re a junk food and pop junkie, don’t expect to go - say, vegan - cold turkey (OK, maybe that wasn’t the best example). Instead, try cutting out the soda first. It’s amazing how many of my patients have dropped serious weight with just that one change. If even that’s too much, cut down one or two drinks per day until you’re at your goal.
The next biggest change would be to eat more whole foods. Avoid packaged foods, even so-called “healthy” ones, as much as possible. Here again, it’s important not to stress too much over your choices. If you’re traveling and the best you can do is a banana and a granola bar, then so be it.
There are studies which are now showing that sitting is the new smoking. In other terms, the more we sit, especially for long, uninterrupted periods of time, the more likely we are to suffer from chronic disease and increased mortality. And this is even if we’re exercising for an hour or two a few times each week!
What does this mean for you? If you’re a couch potato - and you know who you are! - make it a point to get up and move around briskly for at least 5 minutes every hour. The same thing applies for you if all of your exercise is compressed into a few blocks of time each week. Set your phone to remind you and stick to it…you’re worth it!
Here, two things are important: First, start from where you are and progress slowly and steadily. Second, don’t feel you have to spend hours in the gym on exercise machines to get fit. Our ancestors didn’t, and I’d hazard to say that they were probably more fit than many of us today. Why? They didn’t sit for hours watching television or working on computers. They washed clothes by hand and grew (or caught!) and cooked their own food.
So what should you do? HIIT, Cardio, Yoga, Tabata, MMA, Karate, Cycling, Racquetball? Each exercise modality, perhaps even more than dietary styles, has serious proponents who believe their way is the best way. I’m here to tell you that there is no one right way for everyone. What is true, however, is that we, as a whole, need to move more. Start today.
This category rounds up all the “good advice” you’ve been hearing for years and never got around to following: Get 7-8 hours of sleep, keep hydrated, limit and learn to manage your stress. There are others, though, that you may not be as aware of that are just as important.
With the exponential growth in use of technology, our exposure to electromagnetic fields - EMF - has increased. Computer screens and cell phones, ubiquitous in much of the world today, have been shown to negatively impact sleep and health, especially in sensitive individuals. Monitor your exposure to screens and take a break whenever you can.
As a plastic surgeon, you can imagine how I value taking care of skin, mine and yours. I sometimes sound like a broken record when I speak about limiting excessive sun exposure during the summer and keeping skin moisturized during the winter. As your first line of defense against the environment, though, it’s critical to care for your skin year round.
Of the four pillars of a joyful life, I believe if you will love divinely, everything else will take care of itself. By divine love, I mean an unconditional, inexhaustible well of compassion and care, both for you, yourself, and everyone and everything around you.
Take a moment to think of what this means: When you love yourself fully, you will eat nourishing, wholesome foods because that is best for you. You will rest and move appropriately for the same reasons. You will care for your neighbors, both near and far, because you realize their worth. And you will realize that everyone is your neighbor.
This is a new year and, if you’re like me, you’re still wondering where 2017 went. Take one or two of the suggestions above and begin today - you’ll be amazed what you can do in 2018!
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