Eat a healthy diet and avoid heavy meals late at night.
No nightcaps! Alcohol disturbs a good night’s sleep.
Watch caffeine intake. Especially later in the day and evening.
Go to bed earlier. Don’t start the next episode of your favorite show.
Keep big projects and work for the morning. Starting big projects or doing work close to bedtime will keep you from relaxing into a restful sleep. Even though the house is quiet, and it seems like a good time to get things done it’s better to get to bed. Then try the opposite to get that to-do list tackled, wake up early you’ll find your brain is fresher and more alert.
Tomorrow’s to-dos-keep a notepad by your bed and if something is keeping you up jot it down instead of losing sleep over it.
Go to bed at the same time each night. No matter what day of the week it is!
Set the bedroom up for sleep. Keep it dark, and cool, and consider removing the TV and devices.
No iPhones at bedtime!
Clear stuffy noses. A stuffy nose will make breathing during the night more difficult which will lead to insufficient oxygen intake. Open-mouth breathing is not restful. Take allergy medicines, use an air purifier or take a warm shower to clear your airways.
Be aware of snoring or irregular breathing at night. Those are common signs of sleep disorders and should be addressed with your doctor.
Listen to sleep sounds or white noise. These will help a busy mind calm. There are many apps with sleep sounds.
When we think about health measurements, we hear BMI a lot. What exactly is it and is it an accurate way to measure our health?
What is BMI:
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s a calculation of height divided by weight in pounds, times 703 that Doctor’s offices often use. There are many BMI calculators online to check your own without having to do the math! See the chart below for the ranges to determine where you fall.
What you should know:
BMI is a starting block for understanding your overall health. BMI does leave out some important factors.
When understanding fat, it is important to understand the two types of fats that the body carries. There is visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that sits right under our skin-think cellulite. It’s stubborn to get rid of but doesn’t bother our bodies. Visceral fat on the other hand is different. Found in the abdominal cavity around the organs, visceral fat is more dangerous because it secretes waste that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease. But with a healthy diet and exercise, visceral fat is easier to lose than subcutaneous fat.
What does this have to do with BMI? When we only look at BMI it does not consider what type of fat is in our body. This can leave us with an incomplete picture. You may have a low BMI but carry excess weight in the belly area. This is where another simpler way to measure your health comes into play. Waist circumference. Simply put, it’s measuring your waist. For women, it should be less than 35 inches, and for men, it should be less than 40.
One other point about BMI, on the flip side of abdominal fat, is muscle. For very active, muscular individuals BMI may not be as accurate because muscle weighs more than fat. So, another reason to check that waist circumference.
Here is the health coach take away: Understand what your BMI is and measure your waist. Use those numbers together as a place to start to get a clear picture of your overall health. The closer you are to “normal” BMI ranges and waist circumference the less likely you are to develop serious chronic health issues.
For the past 12 years, US News and World Reports put out a listing of the “Best Diets”. It is interesting to see the opinions and compare them to the diets we hear about from our friends and neighbors.
This year the top three diets are very similar- and this tells us something from the experts. All three of the “diets” focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and limited high saturated fat and sugar.
The Best Overall Diets are:
The Mediterranean Diet
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
The Flexitarian Diet (think Flexible + Vegetarian)
Besides their similarities in the foods, all three of these ways of eating are at their core simple and sustainable. There are no strict rules or restrictions. This makes them sustainable. And the more consistent and long-term, the better the overall health results. This leads me to the next benefit of these types of eating plans…..
All three lead to significant long-term health benefits. Decreases in risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity come along with all three of these ways of eating.
There are a few popular diets that I had to search for on the list. Intermittent Fasting (#27 Best Overall), Paleo (#30), and Keto (#37) are all so popular these days. Why are they so low on the list if there are success stories in our neighborhoods? Bottom line, all three are complicated, restrictive, and difficult to stick to long term.
Clearly, I am all about balanced, simple, non-restrictive ways of eating so my advice is to do your research and check with your doctor before you start any new eating plan. Each one of us is unique and has different needs. Just because your neighbor says Keto is the best…do your research. And likewise, for The Mediterranean Diet! And this listing is a great place to start your research (find the link below).
Healthy and motivation are two words that get used together. Understanding what is motivating us to improve our health can help long term success.
Let’s have a brief psychology lesson to understand the drives to do things.
The definition(s) of motivation are: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
There are a few types of motivation. First, extrinsic motivation is when we do something because of an external influence. An example is, “I am going on a diet so I can fit into the dress for the wedding”. The reward may be appealing, and doing some new behaviors are acceptable; however, the changes may only last for a short amount of time. Also, some motivation may lie in not wanting to disappoint or you feel obligated to others. In which case, you do it just because you want to avoid conflict. Extrinsic motivation can sometimes be helpful to get the ball rolling but usually we need a little more behind the behavior to make it stick.
The next two types are intrinsic and autonomous motivation. Instead of someone telling you to do something, you want to do it out of your own desire. Intrinsic motivation comes from our deep desires, values and beliefs. For example, “I am going to eat salmon 2 times a week because I know it will benefit my health. I want to be in good health to live a long life to watch my kids grow”. The motivation comes from loving the family and the benefits of overall good health.
Autonomous motivation is when we get enjoyment from an activity. An example would be, “I am going to walk in the park this afternoon, because I am feeling stressed, and the blooming flowers will help me relax”. There is enjoyment felt by this activity and the reward of less stress.
Self-motivation, like intrinsic and autonomous, brings an energy that is more successful. Intrinsic and autonomous motivation are more likely to lead to long term success with lasting changes. When there is a genuine interest and enjoyment out of doing the new behaviors, there is more success. It’s like when people ask what is the best type of exercise? The answer is the one you LOVE to do, because it is the one you’ll do. There must be a vested interest in whatever the change is we are trying to make.
How does this impact a health goal? The doctor, parent, nutritionist, best friend, etc. can try to tell you to make changes. Nobody likes to be told they must do something. We want to do the things we want to do and are in line with our desires, values, and beliefs. If the behaviors are not meaningful, the more challenging, frustrating, and possibly unsuccessful the work. So how next time you hear your neighbor tell you about the world’s best and easiest diet but you are truly not interested, just tell her good luck.
Now how do you get motivated if you need to make a change…like doctor’s orders? Think about why making changes could tie into what’s important to you. For example, say you were just diagnosed with high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes are one great start for helping this. The only thing you hear is how the diet for high blood pressure is bland and no salt. One of your passions is gardening, especially vegetables and herbs. What if, to get started on the new eating plan, you use your passion for gardening and turn what you grow into exciting new foods that are naturally lower in salt and high in flavor. PLUS, you’ll be getting activity which is also helpful for blood pressure. With this positive mindset, the motivation for addressing the “doctor’s orders” may be more appealing.
Motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. Get clear on what is your desire for making changes and that will drive your success.
Our busy and hectic lives keep us constantly on the move through a stressful world. Regular stress reduction is a key part of living a healthy whole life. Meditation is one tool we can use to help us manage and move better through our busy lives.
Why do we need to work on stress reduction? Sure, we like to relax and unwind with a glass of wine or watching mindless tv. Those activities, while enjoyable, do not lower the impact of stress on the body. It is important to do planned regular stress reduction to help relieve our nervous system. Chronic stress can cause issues with the endocrine system, cardiovascular health, digestion, sexual/reproductive system, and immune system. Regular meditation can improve mood, concentration, sleep, pain, blood pressure and much more.
So, what is meditation? Meditation is a practice of focused consciousness or thought. During meditation, you clear your mind and let the world around you come and go without thinking about it. Meditation dates back thousands of years. There are many types of meditation. Some commonly known types are guided meditation, mantra meditation and mindfulness meditation. Tai Chi and yoga are examples of physical meditation. Prayer, reading poems or sacred text are also considered to be meditation.
Meditation can be done anywhere. A fancy meditation room and a ton of time are not needed to get benefits from meditation. You literally can do it anywhere. Once during a stressful doctor’s visit, I did some breathing work (with the help of the Headspace app) while waiting on the doctor to come back into the exam room. It immediately calmed me and lowered my anxiety in a stressful moment.
Somewhere along the way with high protein diets and low sugar lifestyles, fruit has become something we have grown to be afraid of. I’ve had people tell me how they won’t touch a banana anymore because it has too much sugar. But fruit is not an enemy and should be a part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Fruits contain great amounts of fiber, vitamins that are hard to get in a regular diet (Vitamin C, folate, and potassium), plant compounds and antioxidants. Not to mention they are a convenient, satisfying food that is low calorie. A daily serving of fruit is 2- 2 ½ cups.
Eating fruit regularly can help with conditions like cholesterol, high blood pressure, digestive/ gut issues, help prevent certain cancers and heart disease. And there is even research on fruit preventing obesity because overall it causes people to eat less over time due to its “high satiety” factors. Think about when you have that banana for a snack. It keeps you full for a longer period.
Fruit is a real, whole food that contains fructose (naturally occurring sugar). Some fruits have more fructose than others. Lower fructose fruits: bananas, blueberries, and strawberries. Higher fructose fruits: watermelon, apples, and grapes. For one to get harmful amount of fructose they’d have to eat a lot. Fruit is a “self-limiting” food because it is hard to eat too much. How many apples could you sit down and eat? I know my jaw gets tired after one!
Fruits are loaded with fiber and water and “chewing resistance”. That means it takes a while to eat them in turn, longer to digest. The sugar in fruit won’t hit your system as fast, unlike drinking sugary drinks (and alcohol) that hit your system, particularly your liver, quickly causing issues over time. In small, slow amounts, the body can process it easily and not feel that sugar spike.
When it comes to fruit, be cautious with juices and dried fruit. Fruit juice is high in sugar and low in fiber. Dried fruits are high in fiber but usually also high sugar. Watch the portion sizes of both juices and dried fruit, a little is ok.
Lastly, smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to get your daily servings of fruit (and vegetables). They are convenient and a great option. To keep a smoothie on the healthier-low sugar side, watch a few things: read all the labels for frozen fruit, there could be added sugar. Use small amounts (or none) of fruit juice or mix 50/50 with water. If using yogurt, make sure it is no/low sugar. Smoothies made at home are the best choice because you can watch exactly what goes into them. Just because there is a “Smoothie” on the menu does not mean it is a healthy option. One commercially prepared smoothie on a menu of a popular lunch place has 50g of sugar!! Read nutritional labels when it comes to fruit.
Next time you are at the grocery, be sure to include a few fruits in your shopping. You’ll be happy to have them back in your life.