The best health care plan of all is to stay well. When the calendar flips to a New Year, we can be inspired to turn over a new leaf in health by making resolutions. One reason those pledges are often soon forgotten is that we bite off too much at once and set ourselves up to fail. So, consider instead working on one aspect of health at a time until it becomes a habit and then try another. The list below is a just a start and isn’t necessarily in priority order. Pick the one you think might make the biggest change in your health and energy and tackle it first. Or, check off the ones you are already good at and pick another that sounds easy. That way you can build on your successes. In any case, don't just think about it. Print this out and assign a step to each month. Post the plan where you will see it and remember that a trip of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step.
• Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. The more you remove, the better you will feel and the less you will crave it.
• Eat more vegetables. Every study I review, no matter what the disease focus or overall diet plan, agrees on this one thing. Frozen vegetables are often as good as fresh and easier to have on hand. A past newsletter had suggestions for making a quick salad.
• Plan meals a week at a time. A lot of our nutrition indiscretions occur when we are hungry and our survival instincts lead us zombie-like to a vending machine or drive-through window. Twenty minutes a week of planning before going to the market will make sure you have what you need. Having a plan will also allow you to pack your lunch, pull something out of the freezer or turn on the crock pot before you head out for the day.
• Drink sufficient water. The standard advice is to (1) take the number that equals ½ your body weight in pounds and (2) convert that to ounces per day. (For example, a 150 lb person would drink 75 ounces. See how many ounces your glass holds and you’ll know how many glasses to drink. Some may hold 8 but other standard glasses are 12 or more.) Of course, I'm talking about pure water, not tap water. Measure out the amount for the day into a glass bottle or pitcher and you can see as the day progresses how you are doing.
• Get 8-9 hours sleep. If you are in the habit of staying up late, go to bed ½ hour earlier each night until you get to the target. Computer work before bedtime makes shutting your brain down harder. If prayers or visualizing a relaxing vacation spot doesn’t send you to dreamland, consider Natural Calm, melatonin or 5HTP.
• Improve your digestion. Chewing thoroughly and being relaxed when you eat are a good start. Probiotics, a fiber supplement, enzymes and adequate water as suggested above all help. As I discuss in my book, it is a very bad idea to shut down digestion with acid-blocking drugs.
• Get your structure straight. Make a standing appointment for a chiropractic checkup to make sure you aren’t stressing your body with something out of place. Misalignments can cause interference with nerve supply and/or circulation to almost any body part or system.
• Reduce stress in your life. You know where it is coming from. Make a plan to get rid of the sources and put in more pleasurable things. At the least, be determined not to let the things you can’t change control you. Don’t forget the little things that add up, like clutter. (I just disabled the annoying ding that tells me I have email.) Pay attention to your breathing. Slow deep breaths from the gut are relaxing and cleansing.
• Clean up the toxic chemicals in and around your home. Substitute natural environmentally safe cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. Use organic pest and weed control—follow the advice of Howard Garrett.
• Make up vitamin packs (in little zip lock baggies) so that you are more regular with your supplements. The bead department at a craft store is a good place to get the right size baggies. In my evening packs I put a little note reminding me to take my fish oil which I keep in the refrigerator.
• Take better care of your gums. Gum problems lead to cardiovascular problems and adult tooth loss. Use a Sonicare brush, floss, Waterpik, dissolve a probiotic gel cap in your mouth as you sleep, see a periodontist…whatever it takes.
• Exercise. I saved this for next to last because advice to exercise is everywhere. Start wherever you are and make gradual improvements. If all you can do today is walk to the mail box, maybe by next week you can get to the neighbor’s. We are reminded less often to do strength training, but it is equally important. You don’t have to go to a gym or even have fancy equipment. Here is a site with some useful suggestions. Link.
• Lose weight. This is most likely the New Year’s Resolution made and broken most often. It too can be reduced into steps. Look for those in next week’s Health e-Note.