The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for many of us to start with a clean slate in many areas of our life. Because health is wealth, I wanted to share a few ways you can make improvements to your health without making drastic changes like working out 6 days a week and engaging in a severe calorie deficit diet programs.
Contrary to most opinions and beliefs out there, there is more to good health than diet and exercise. We engage in many activities that are not beneficial to our health that have subtle negative effects. For example the stress of our day-to-day jobs and lack of sleep can eventually take a toll if you aren’t taking care of yourself properly.
Here are four simple ways you can improve your health in 2019.
Rest when you are tired.
We are living in an era where being busy is respected. You may here sayings such as ‘team no sleep’ or ‘no rest for the weary’. The truth is, lack of sleep is detrimental to your health. Studies have proven that lack of sleep leads to weight gain, ages your skin, and impairs your attention span, just to name a few. With all the distractions we have these days, coupled with long work hours and managing family, sleep usually is put on the back burner.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the belief that sleeping was for lazy people. I’m not sure where that idea came from but when I became an adult I often felt guilty for sleeping in late and taking naps. What I’ve found out as an adult is when I am tired my body needs rest. If I ignore that signal, I end up paying for it by getting sick. Getting sick is worst case scenario. The subtle hints my body gives me when I am tired (before I get sick) are lack of mental clarity, irritability, and sometimes I become depressed.
I was able to fix my sleep issues when I visited my doctor to inquire with her about an issue I was having that was unrelated to my sleep. She inquired about the number of hours I sleep and I indicated to her that I sleep around 5 hours a night and those hours are usually interrupted. She immediately was able to correlate the issue I went to see her about with my lack of sleep. She recommended a natural supplement to take and suggested some improvements to my diet.
If you are chronically tired and are getting less than 7 hours of sleep, first and foremost, I recommend you sleep when you are tired. Also, take a look at your day and figure out how you can cut out some activities that are not providing you any benefit, yet they are stealing precious sleep time. Lastly, visit your doctor and see if s/he can provide you some recommendations.
Identify, then avoid the foods that irritate your gut.
Believe it or not, regardless of the approval from the FDA there are plenty of foods that have negative effects on our health, including painful digestion, irritability, inflammation, and loss of sleep. Many of us continue to eat them because the effects I just named are not chronic. However, consuming certain foods like dairy and processed foods could be holding you back from feeling your best.
I used to have this irrational belief that if my body is not violently rejecting food I’m consuming by forcing me to vomit, then the food I’m eating is okay to eat. My belief changed when I went to see a doctor after becoming fed up with feeling gassy and bloated every time I ate a meal.
As a result of visiting my doctor, she recommended a 60-day elimination diet in an effort to identify the the foods I was consuming that were causing me such pain. After 60 days she suggested adding them back in gradually. The greatest gift I received from doing this is more energy because my body wasn’t busy digesting crap. Also, I discovered that gluten and dairy were the culprits for the painful digestion and my issues with eczema. Armed with this new information I was able to drastically improve my health.
You’re probably wondering if I still eat gluten or dairy. The answer is sometimes, but I always regret it once it’s time for my body to digest it.
If you are having issues with your skin or feeling bloated or have discomfort digesting food, please know that it’s not normal. Visit a gastric specialist and they can help you. If you don’t feel like going to the doctor, I suggest you try the Whole30 eating program. You’ll never go wrong with eating food that has come from the ground or has a mother.
Take standing and stretch breaks throughout your day.
Starting my first professional job was my introduction to sitting around for excessive amounts of time. I had two and half hour commutes round trip, along with 10 hour working days sitting in the same spot. This was my life for many years. I used to have chronic pain in my shoulders and upper back area as a result of all of this sitting. Needless to say, I felt miserable.
In the era of cubicle farms a majority of us are sitting all day coupled with long commutes adding to the time we are sitting. According to the Mayo Clinic, an analysis of 13 studies concluded that sitting for more than 8 hours a day has risks of dying similar to the risks of dying from obesity and smoking.
In the last few years or so, I have forced myself to take standing breaks or go for walks. Adding this habit to my workday, improved my productivity at work and it also helped to reduce the pain I was feeling in my body from sitting around all the time.
In addition to taking standing and stretch breaks, improving the ergonomics of your workspace can work wonders for your body. At my current job I requested a standing desk and it’s been very helpful for my posture and the overall feeling for my body. Check with the company you work for to see if they can improve your workspace ergonomically. If you sense some resistance, see if you can get a doctors note to influence the accommodations.
Add stretching to your routine
Do you ever feel miserable for many days after you’ve had a hard workout? Or do you feel stiff when you get out of bed and it takes what feels like an eternity for it to go away. Do you just feel inexplicably stiff or sore all the time?
If you feel any of this it’s probably time for you to add stretching to your routine. It doesn’t have to be for a long period of time, plus you can do it right before bed while watching your favorite show. If you’d rather not stretch before bed. Try to spend 10 minutes doing some stretches prior to getting ready for your day.
There are a multitude of benefits to stretching. The reasons I love stretching is it improves my recovery time from all the strength training I do in CrossFit. In my younger more naive days, I used to avoid stretching because the soreness was unbearable, I now understand that spending time stretching improves my time for muscle recovery. Another benefit I get from stretching is that I feel flexible and bending over to pick up things feels much better.
The bottom line is…
Your health and well-being encompasses more than just diet and exercise. You may be perfect in those areas and still might be feeling less than optimal. If that is the case, consider making one of the four recommended tweaks to your habits and see how your overall health improves.