The Single Life: Baby Steps to Better Health
- Thursday, March 17, 2011
Ah, spring: the time of year when daffodils bloom, robins nest, and commercials start blathering about how “swimsuit season is almost here.”
Just shoot me now.
Swimsuit or not, there is something about this time of year that seems to make healthier choices somewhat more appealing. Maybe it comes from shedding the sweaters for T-shirts or the uncomfortable realization that we just polished off an entire box of Thin Mints and called it dinner. (Or is that just me?)
So, the following are a few gentle suggestions for a healthier lifestyle. Before we begin, here’s my official disclaimer: I am not a health professional of any sort. The following suggestions are mostly common sense, but each person’s needs and physical condition are different, so implement these ideas at your own risk. Got that? Great. Here we go . . .
Step 1: Get a drink (of water).
Every system in your body depends on water. It flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.1 Trust me, if you are ever seriously dehydrated you will be highly motivated to avoid that feeling ever again. Still, the prospect of slurping down the generally-suggested eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day can be daunting.
(By the way, do you know how much eight ounces really is? At Starbucks®, it would be a “Small.” Not a Grande, not even a Tall, but that secret “Small” size that’s not actually on the menu. Eight of those equals two Ventis and a Grande. But I digress ...)
Back to drinking water, here’s what I do: I bought a fancy goblet that holds about 16 ounces, because I think water tastes better from a nice glass. I try to polish off one glass by ten a.m., one by noon, one by two, and one by the time I go home. I’m not always successful, but I began this process about a year ago and my intake is much higher than it used to be.
Yes, that much consumption does lead to more trips to the restroom, but that’s actually a good thing. It leads right into our second suggestion ...
Step 2: Get moving.
We have become a sedentary people. We sit hunched over keyboards for hours on end, while our muscles stiffen and our rear ends spread. What’s the solution? Get up. Whether you’re training for a triathlon or walking the dog, try to add a little more movement into your day. Stretch. Walk around. If all you can manage is a few steps, take them. Wiggle. (This last one is guaranteed if you’ve been drinking all that water and put off restroom visits until the last minute.) Try standing when you’re on the phone. Put a reminder in your calendar if necessary. While you’re stretching, walking, and wiggling, ponder this: the ability to move at all is a gift. Let’s not waste it.
Step 3: Get fruits and veggies into your diet.
The Center for Disease Control would like to remind you that those who eat more generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke, [perhaps] heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
That doesn’t make a handful of spinach more appealing than a box of Girl Scout Cookies, though, does it? Believe me, I know. Still, presentation can work wonders. For example, I like apples but don’t like clomping onto a whole fruit, so I bought a nifty corer-slicer gadget. Now when I want a snack, I can create appealing, easy-to-eat slices in a few seconds. It’s saved me from the siren call of the snack machine more than once.
One fun way to find fresh produce is to visit a farmer’s market. There’s something about seeing all that beautiful fruit and veg that inspires healthier eating. Take a friend along and you can split some of the bounty. My experience is it’s almost impossible to visit a farmer’s market and only take home only enough for one.
Step 4: Get enough sleep.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. Experts tell us adults generally need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. (That would be actual sleep, not snuggling in bed with your smart phone playing Words With Friends.)
Studies show people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, or obesity. Driving drowsy can be as deadly as driving while intoxicated. That’s the bad news ... now here’s the good stuff: Do you know what happens when you do sleep? Your body regenerates skin, and muscle, joints, and brain cells. Go to sleep to get smarter—I love that!
If you have trouble falling asleep, I recently heard it suggested that you start dimming all lights and sound in the hour before climbing into bed. Apparently it’s a little jarring for some bodies to jump from ON to OFF—this provides a sort of dimmer switch to make the transition easier.
Step 5: Get a physical
Granted, it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but an annual physical can be a life-saver—literally. I know people who don’t want to go to the doctor because “they might find something.” Yes ... and if they find it soon enough that “something” may be easily fixable. Let it slide and the problem may be much more difficult to solve.
Besides, what if you find out you’re healthy as a horse? Peace of mind is nothing to sneeze at. If you’re an impatient soul who doesn’t want to waste time in a waiting room, think of it this way: once you’ve seen a doctor, you move from the “new patient” category to the “existing patient” file. This means when you eventually come down with a raging case of whatever (it’s bound to happen eventually) you’ll get in to see the doctor much faster. Comes the day you feel like death on a stick, you’ll really appreciate that extra speed.
So there you have it: baby steps to better health. You may already be doing all of them but if not, consider trying one or five. They may keep you around longer. I’d like that. Your friends and family would, too.
1Water: How much should you drink every day. Mayo Clinic Staff. Accessed 2.27.11. www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
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