Wednesday, March 16, 2011
MY HEALTH 101
^ that's me playing basketball with my fiancé in Miami
First of all, let me preface this post by emphasizing that, 1. I am by no means a health specialist, and, 2. I believe best health practices are individual to a certain extent, so in terms of quantitative values for the below-listed recommendations, they may be best-determined by paying attention to what your own body is telling you.
I am, however, a person who stays in great physical shape, gets sick extremely infrequently, and generally seems to be in exceptional health. Health optimization is something I think and read about often, and I have devised my own theory that I often share with my friends who are interested in improving their health habits, getting in better shape or simply feeling better. This is important to me, so I feel compelled to share.
With respect to health optimization, there are four main goals/rules I will identify and expand upon: 1. Eat and drink right; 2. Exercise as often as pleasurably possible; 3. Get enough high-quality sleep; 4. Avoid and/or reconcile stressors
1. EAT AND DRINK RIGHT
In terms of eating, I have devised my own rule that I follow, and it is pretty simple. Basically, I only eat things that occur naturally (and are certified organic or the equivalent thereof). For example, a carrot grows out of the ground naturally, a fish swims in the sea naturally, but a cookie doesn't grow or swim anywhere! A cookie is just one example of something I will generally not eat, and advise you not to eat.
--Processed foods I recommend staying away from include: pasta, bread, crackers, candy, cakes and the obvious relatives of these. Generally speaking, stay away from anything that is or contains processed sugars or processed carbohydrates.
--Foods I recommend eating VERY OFTEN are: all vegetables, all fruits, rice, quinoa, and other beans, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts. Here is a great list of the healthiest foods.
--Some foods I recommend eating pretty often are: eggs or egg whites, specific types of granola that are made exclusively of grains, seeds and fruits.
--Foods I recommend eating a significant portion of only about once a week maximum: Meat of some variety (ie fish (preferably lower in mercury if eating fish most often), poultry, red or other meat); dairy
Here's an interesting article I read recently about eating right: Murdock Health
As is highlighted by this article, fruit smoothies and vegetable soups are GREAT food choices.
In terms of drinking, I believe so much in the power of fresh juices. I recommend drinking mixed fresh juices almost every day. (and I do not mean those Naked juices distributed in grocery stores; I mean juices you either juice for yourself at home or buy at a health food store where they are juiced immediately before consumption).
--My favorite juice is: orange + apple + carrot + ginger + lemon + (sometimes garlic) juice.
--Another juice I drink relatively often is a Green Juice (celery + cucumber + kale + spinach + apple + I add lemon).
The benefits of drinking fresh juices are profound and many in number:
--high level of nutrient-absorption, to promote great health across the board
--getting your body much-needed enzymes (which are destroyed when food is cooked); these enzymes keep you energized and boost your metabolism
--getting important phytochemicals, which help your body fight [off] disease
--getting sufficient antioxidants and other vitamins, so as to keep the immune system at its highest functioning level and keep your skin from aging prematurely
--helps prevent a vitamin deficiency, so that you can also be at your best both psychologically and phisiologically
I assure you, if you start drinking fresh juices often you will notice a major improvement in the strength of your immune system, your energy and focus levels, and probably even in your aesthetic appearance.
Other than that, we all know drinking enough water is very important, so I make sure to do this too, especially when I am exercising. However, I will tell you that I am very skeptical of plastic bottled waters and I would not recommend drinking out of them. I always opt for filtered tap water, or glass bottled waters, like Voss water.
As far as coffee goes, I think it is just fine for you as long as intake is limited to one cup per day.
2. EXERCISE AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE, AND DO SO IN A PLEASURABLE FASHION
Did you play a sport when you were younger that you really enjoyed, and then suddenly stop playing just because you weren't on your college team? My recommendation: don't be shy: get back in it! If you enjoy playing sports, there may be no better way for you to exercise, and especially get your cardiovascular workout in. I typically play in a pick-up basketball game for three hours on Wednesday nights, and in a pick-up soccer game for a few hours on Saturday mornings. These are some of the most enjoyable hours of my week- and they also keep me toned and keep my endurance level high. Also, let me add that even if there was not a sport you loved to play when you were younger, there are many sports you can pick up pretty easily later in life. Some suggestions (obviously depending on your geography) are: paddle-boarding, tennis, surfing, kite-surfing, swimming, skiing, snowboarding, or even dance.
I do not enjoy the gym, so if I go to the gym, I like to splurge on a trainer or a yoga (or other exercise) class; otherwise, I will simply not stay engaged and I will get very little out of my exercise. If you can't fit a trainer or exercise classes in your budget-- which is highly likely and understandably so!--I recommend scheduling one or two sessions with a highly recommended trainer and take mental notes during the sessions; then run straight home to jot down some notes on the exercise and begin practicing on your own; there are also some really effective exercise videos out there that you can watch and follow-- Tracy Andersen puts out some great ones I have done a few times and I have really felt the effects. I recommend working out with a trainer or taking a exercise classes only as often as you want to. There is no need to do so every day if you don't like too; then exercising will feel like a chore, which is counterproductive. I do believe exercise should be something enjoyable and exciting (not stressful!). For me, making the same exact exercise a daily routine, would completely diminish the enjoyment factor.
Going for a quick run outside when you are feeling lethargic is an exercise no-brainer. Just throw on a pair of sneakers (or not!) and go for a quick, fast-paced run. I, personally, get bored running very long distances, and I tend to believe that a short, fast run is just as beneficial, if not more beneficial, than a long, moderate-paced run. I suggest running outside, as opposed to inside on a treadmill, because it is important to get outside and get some Vitamin D from the sun. These days, with skin cancer fears running rampant, many women in America have severe Vitamin D deficiencies. I take my dog for runs on the beach, which is a great way for me to accomplish a few things all at once: I get a quick dose of the exercise I need, my dog gets a dose of the exercise he needs, and he has gone out for one of his multiple daily walks!
Basically, I suggest doing some form of exercise every day, but I think it's best to mix it up a bit, and don't forget that the team sports you love are a viable option as a weekly exercise !
3. GET ENOUGH HIGH-QUALITY SLEEP
I recommend sleeping no less than six hours per night. Sleep is so incredibly critical and omnipotent that it is definitely worth getting a sufficient amount. I typically sleep eight hours per night! There is no doubt in my mind that sleeping patterns greatly affect the way you look and feel. We all know, there is no better way to recover from common sickness than to get a lot of sleep. This speaks volumes.
Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep from Harvard Medical School.
4. AVOID AND/OR RECONCILE STRESSORS
I am a firm believer that stress is one of the most deleterious threats to one's health. I believe that high levels of stress make us especially vulnerable to disease. (Did you ever realize that so many of the most notorious carcinogens are directly linked to your level of stress: think cigarettes and deodorant)
Here is a VERY interesting article (written by a friend of mine who writes for the Wall Street Journal, and whose articles you should keep up with) about the physiological impact of stress:
Stress Health Link
The most advisable thing to do is, 1. identify the main causes of your stress and 2. find ways to manage and reconcile these stress patterns. All of the items I have already discussed above are natural stress-reducers, ie eating and drinking right, exercising and sleeping sufficiently. Here's a quick article from the Harvard University Health Publication re: stress management and reduction that you can take a look at: Taking the Sting out of Five Common Stressors
All in all, I strongly suggest taking steps to maximize your health and I hope a little insight into my own health management techniques has been helpful or even inspiring.