Is this the year you take charge of your health?

This article below was originally published in my column Holistic Outlook in The Times Herald Record on February 2, 2011.

Link to original article is here. Links to the 3 tips are separate: here, here and here.

Researchers now predict that one out of three of us will have diabetes.  Twenty five percent of our kids take prescription medication before they’re out of their teens. Forty-eight percent of us take at least one medication, and the average number of prescriptions per person is somewhere between 12 and 15, depending on the research you look at.  People over 65 filled an average of 31 prescriptions annually, with women taking about one-third more than men.

What is going on?  Are we really so ill-designed that we now need pharmaceuticals to function and survive?  Is there no alternative to our bodies breaking down so terribly, long before we’re done using them?  Is being and staying healthy so uncommon it’s no longer “normal”?  And is it inevitable for our bodies to function so poorly as we get older?

My answer to all of those questions is a resounding NO!

Much of what people take prescriptions for, including cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, even depression and anxiety, has a great deal to do with lifestyle choices, and often can be addressed nutritionally.  Please understand: I am not saying stop taking your medications!  But I am saying that people who are willing to make significant lifestyle changes can also often work with their prescribing doctor to reduce or eliminate their prescriptions as their health improves. And it can. I have seen it happen hundreds of times in my practice, with young kids as well as adults in their 50s, 60s and even 70s.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who stopped smoking and started juicing. He knew both changes would be theoretically good for his health, but he was surprised to find how much better he felt, so quickly, and – bonus – that he no longer needed caffeine to get him through the day.  All of a sudden, he had so much more energy, naturally.  When we reduce the toxins and improve our self-care, the results are often remarkable.  That’s how we’re naturally designed: with a remarkable ability to heal.  Why not take advantage of that, and make some changes that will not only help with how you feel, and how you look, but with how you age?

Are you afraid that in order to get good results, life as you know it would end? Or that you’d have to deprive yourself of everything you like? It’s not true!  Even small changes can make a difference.  In fact, it’s better not to do everything at once. Slow and steady is much more likely to succeed for the long run. The trick is to keep making small changes consistently, so that they eventually add up to big ones.  You can begin with one step, as long as you begin!  Then, maintain that change, and add another, building on your improvements week by week.

I recommend starting by adding some new healthy habits in before you take the less healthy ones out.  That gives you additional support. You can use the lists below to get some idea of how to start.  Pick one to start, and then commit as if your life depended on it.  It just may.

TIp #1: What to add in:
Lots of water. Green juice. Fiber (think beans, legumes & veggies rather than grains). Non-starchy veggies, like broccoli, zucchini, salads, kale, chard, cabbage, etc. (Make these half your plate, twice a day.) Fruit, especially berries.  8 hours of sleep.  Exercise – find a way to move that makes you feel more alive.

Tip #2  What to take out:
Fried foods. Foods that come in packages. Caffeine, especially those syrup-sweetened lattes! Sugar. Artificial sweeteners. Artificial creamers. Alcohol. Diet and regular sodas. Breakfast cereals (you need protein at breakfast). Fruit juice (highly concentrated sugars). Snacks when you’re not hungry.  Eating late at night.  Mindless eating, any time.

Tip #3: Substitutes
Xylitol or stevia for sugar. Green tea for coffee. Club soda & flavored seltzers for sugared or diet sodas. Coconut milk for creamer. Brown rice for white. “Real food” carbohydrates like sweet and white potatoes, beans & legumes, peas and carrots for processed foods like bread, bagels, rolls. 70% or higher cocoa bars for milk chocolate.

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