With the end of the year, and thoughts of 2020 and a new decade, it’s time to think about New Year’s Resolutions.
Historically, the vast majority of New Year’s Resolutions are health-related, either desire to eat better, exercise more, lose weight, quit drinking or smoking, go to bed earlier, or simply be kinder to oneself. Unfortunately, the majority of these don’t last more than a few weeks.
The purpose of this post is not to comment on the pros and cons of New Year’s Resolutions, and what you need to do for yourself, but rather step back and reflect on a reasonable strategy to ensure good health. It should be kept in mind that good health and wellness takes no vacation, is a 365 day a year activity, and neglecting it will result in a lifelong of disturbances for you.
The vast majority of chronic disease that ends up disabling us, and shortening our lives, can be prevented. I’ve spent the last 25 years focusing my energies on food and nutrition, adult and childhood obesity, and the need to eat unprocessed foods. Planning these meals, purchasing the ingredients, and then cooking and serving them is an art form we have sadly lost touch with. The number of people interested in cooking at home is quickly dwindling. The convenience of processed foods, and their omnipresence, increases the likelihood that we are going to purchase these items. We have an entire generation that is simply not interested in cutting and peeling, sautéing, grilling, stir-frying, or baking their food. If it’s anything more than peeling back the cover of a frozen meal and deciding how long to set the timer on the microwave, they’re just not interested. As a result of this nonchalant attitude towards meal preparation, obesity, and all of its complications, are taking hold decades earlier, which only spells disability, higher medical bills, less earning capacity, and a shortened survival for those that follow this path. Anyone reading this, and not alarmed, must be living in another galaxy, or simply doesn’t care.
Trying to make sense of these attitudes is quite baffling to me. To make an absurd comparison, if you knew that your house was at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, you would take immediate action and do all that you could to prevent injury or even death to you and your family members. Similarly, we buckle our children into car seats to prevent serious injury and death should we ever be involved in an automobile accident. It would be reckless endangerment not to do so. Yet, everybody seems to turn a blind eye with regard to adult and childhood obesity. The research and data on this is solid and indisputable. Obese adults die earlier. Obese adults develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cirrhosis. Obese children, in a similar fashion, are plagued with a dozen conditions that have the potential to ruin their life. Is it preventable? It sure is. Why we don’t have that instinctive response, the “gut reaction”, that tells us something has to be done, is absolutely bewildering to me. What about you?
If you’ve gotten this far and you feel as if you want to make a change for yourself and your family, I’ve outlined a handful of suggestions. I don’t consider these resolutions, but rather a healthy approach to living. Incorporating even a few of these will make a positive difference in your life, and the health of your family members.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables: they should be incorporated somehow at every meal and snack throughout the day. In order to properly prepare these vegetables, in a flavorful way, you’re going to have to learn how to cook, experiment with recipes, flavors, herbs, and seasonings, to make them palatable and fun to eat for the long haul. Enthusiasm for eating boiled carrots will last about a week. A favorite website of mine, Worlds Healthiest Foods, offers information and recipes on a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Take a serious look at this site.
- Eat out at a restaurant no more than twice per month. This sounds quite extreme, but when I hear patients telling me that they eat out lunch and dinner six nights a week, it’s clear why they are battling obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cirrhosis. Eating out is a hazard to your health. Prepared food at restaurants, regardless of how fancy or expensive, provided you with far too many calories, excess fat, and salt. This recommendation of limiting outside food ties directly into #1 above, making it necessary to become more skillful in the kitchen.
- Exercise every day. The human body was not meant to stand still, sit down, or remain immobile. You don’t have to get fancy. Walking for 30 minutes a day is a good start.
- Drink water. Regular or diet soft drinks are poison.
- Weigh yourself every day. Write it down. Simply recording your weight is associated with weight loss.
- Know your blood pressure. If you are not known to have high blood pressure, measure your blood pressure once every week or two. It’s a vital parameter to keep track of. If you are hypertensive, measure your blood pressure daily, make a log of it, and share it with your physician monthly. High blood pressure is a silent killer, and early intervention and control will save your life.
- Get seven hours of sleep every day.
- Consider intermittent fasting. There is growing research that fasting through the day or week is beneficial to you. You can follow a limited timeframe for eating each day (8 hours eating, 16 hours fasting) or a strategy that allows for fasting two days per week, taking in about 500 calories/day twice per week. You can contact our office for additional details on this.
- Help someone every day. An important part of maintaining good health is helping others. Lend a hand to someone – even to a stranger, pay for someone’s lunch, for the simple sake of being kind. You don’t need to tell them your name, or why you’re doing it, or why they were selected. This anonymity is invaluable. Random acts of kindness are needed for a sense of wellbeing. Don’t underestimate this contribution to your wellness.
- This year develop a meaningful relationship with your physician and treatment team. Make sure you have an honest and open communication style with them, transparency, and the trust to share your concerns. This healthy communication approach will lend itself to openness, early intervention to minor concerns, and a better understanding of what you need to do to remain healthy. This relationship is vital to your good health, and prevention of disease.
Have a wonderful 2020.
Dr. Joe Galati