Like most paths in life, the road to living a healthy lifestyle is
not always clear of obstacles. Habits, routines and dependencies can
hold people back from truly doing things for themselves and living
sustainably. Luckily, however, many of these obstacles are fairly easy
to overcome. Here are a few habits to kick in order to start your
summer, and the rest of your life, out on the right foot.
Nix caffeine and sugar
So the high from this morning’s three cups of coffee and two
doughnuts feels pretty spectacular. The throbbing headache, increasing
drowsiness, and overall desire to escape the world that comes with the
caffeine and sugar crash, however … not so much.
Sue Van Raes, nutritional therapist at Boulder Nutrition, says that
caffeine and sugar are merely false sources of energy. They provide
short bursts of activity before resulting in an inevitable crash. To
circumvent this crash, she says, caffeine or sugar addicts should try to
find more substantial, natural sources of energy.
Van Raes says that getting more sleep is a good way to reduce the
dependency on caffeine and sugar. She says that several clients she has
worked with tended to feel better, and more energized, once they stopped
relying on these stimulants.
Rachel Summers, executive director at QuickFit Boulder, suggests a
detoxifying liver cleanse to remove the biochemical dependence on
substances like caffeine and sugar. This cleanse, she says, can help
create a greater awareness for why certain cravings happen.
People can then give the body what it needs so that it stops craving what it doesn’t.
Many people don’t necessarily want to give up caffeine or sugar
completely. For those looking to cut back a bit, Van Raes suggests
turning to a few substitutions, such as less caffeinated coffees or teas
and natural sweeteners like agave and stevia.
She also says that artificial sweeteners — manufactured using chemicals — can be extremely bad for overall health.
Eat less, eat better
While overeating can often be chalked up to larger portion
sizes at restaurants and a general perception that more is better, the
issue — which can lead to health problems related to weight gain and low
energy levels — is not always so simple.
Van Raes says that a common cause of overeating is eating too quickly.
When people don’t stop to pay attention to what their body is telling
them, they have a tendency to ignore what it really needs.
“When we eat really fast, our body cues are not as easily heard,” Van Raes says.
This is often amplified, she says, when people are met with
distractions during meals. By eliminating certain technological
distractions, such as watching television or surfing the Internet,
people can create a space where they are more mindful of what and how
Van Raes says that emotional eaters can also benefit from limiting
distraction and slowing down because it gives them the opportunity to
become more in tune with their bodies and experience their feelings as
something separate from hunger.
Some foods, Van Raes says, are more likely to promote overconsumption.
Products like refined carbohydrates — including breads and pastas — can
delay the sensation of feeling full. She says that proteins and
whole-food-based carbohydrates like brown rice can help people avoid
binging on meals.
Van Raes suggests that people need to listen to their bodies and
learn to understand what their health and wellness truly craves —
quantity or quality?
Get more sleep
Yawning at the desk again? Couldn’t stay away from those
late-night re-runs of Glee? Maybe coffee will keep this day afloat. Or
maybe it’s time to ease up on the espresso overdose and get some
Rem Sleep Medicine’s Mark Hickey, M.D., who is board-certified and
fellowship-trained in sleep therapy, says sleep deprivation can lead to
several issues that impact daily activities. Not getting enough sleep
can affect memory and emotional state, increase stress and impair focus,
reaction time and judgment.
If the brain doesn’t get rest, Hickey says, it doesn’t function as
well the next day. Sleep times vary from person to person; some people
need more, while others get by on less. Many, however, don’t realize
when they aren’t getting enough.
“People in general aren’t really good at judging when they are deprived of sleep,” Hickey says.
One indicator of sleep deprivation, he says, is drowsiness in low
stimulation situations. Dozing off while reading or watching TV in the
middle of the day can be a sign that a person simply needs more sleep.
Hickey says that it is important to practice good sleep hygiene.
Consistency is key to maintaining a sleep schedule, especially when it
comes down to a daily wake time. Exercise and activity during the day
can help promote restfulness at night. And, he says, limiting the use of
the bed to sleep and sexual activity can work to program the brain into
understanding that a bed should be associated with falling asleep.
Hickey also recommends avoiding light at night — such as the light
from a computer screen — as it can simulate daylight and deter sleeping.
Walk, don’t sit
It is finally summertime in Colorado, and as we ease away from
dreary days into clear blue skies, it is also the perfect time to get up
from that well-worn spot on the couch and do something.
Rachel Summers says that one of the most common reasons for
inactivity or lack of exercise she hears from her clients is that they
just don’t have the time. Work, school, family and social activities can
become dominating factors in daily life, and it is sometimes difficult
to schedule in physical exercise.
For those determined to fit in a good structured workout, Summers
says that it helps to make more efficient use of the time spent
exercising. There are some workouts, such as those offered at QuickFit,
that require roughly 15 to 20 minutes, three days a week, to produce
Summers also says that, when it comes to being active, the little
things add up. People can get exercise simply by taking the stairs
instead of the elevator, or by walking from a more distant parking spot
rather than madly searching for one closest to the door.
And let’s face it — this is Boulder County. It isn’t hard to find some
way to enhance the elements of daily life in a healthy, active way.
Whether it’s a family hike at Chautauqua, or a sunny afternoon spent
wandering the Pearl Street Mall with some friends, there is always an
opportunity to get up and get out.
Summers’ last bit of advice: “Stay away from the dumb box, and go walk your dog.”
Quit the cancer sticks
These days, it’s pretty much common knowledge that using
tobacco is one of the worst things people can do to their bodies. It’s a
fact that has been drilled into the population with anti-smoking
advertisements, raised tobacco taxes and staggering statistics. So … why
aren’t more people quitting?
According to a 2010 Surgeon General’s report, cigarettes cause
approximately 443,000 deaths in the United States each year. Smoking is
currently the largest cause for preventable illness and death in the
Worldwide, the World Health Organization has estimated that 6 million
people per year suffer tobacco-related deaths. If left unchecked, this
number could rise to 8 million by 2030. Every year, more than 600,000
nonsmokers die from exposure to tobacco smoke.
OK. So maybe it’s time to forget the numbers for a second, drop the
scary commercials filled with body bags, and just think about the simple
facts. Tobacco is a harmful substance, no matter what form it is in.
Using it results in an unnecessary dependency on something that does
nothing but deteriorate health.
Ultimately, smoking just isn’t sustainable. The present state of the
economy doesn’t mesh well with the high price of cigarettes. Right now
is a time to prioritize. Save that paycheck for a rainy day? Or flush it
down the toilet for something that will only make that rainy day turn
into a full-on thunderstorm?
One other fact to consider is that quitting smoking is not a light
issue — it can be very difficult to do. There are several resources
around town that offer support for those looking to take the first step
toward quitting. One place to start might be the Colorado QuitLine at
1-800-8669 or www.coquitline.org.
Trash the pack. Stop coughing. Maybe save up for a trip to Fiji with
all that extra cash lying around. And breathe the fresh air.