The thought of changing our dietary habits or exercise routine can be daunting and sometimes limiting, which can actually cause a person to move further away from a healthy lifestyle. As a Registered Dietitian who has seen the ill effects that a poor diet and sedentary life can have on a person’s health, that is absolutely the last thing that I would want to occur. You may be in a position in your life where you can’t exercise due to injury or illness, you’re not ready to change your diet, or simply put, you just don’t want to. I am here to tell you, that it is okay for now because a healthy diet and active life are not the only components that can contribute to someone’s well-being.
- Sleep: Did you know lack of sleep throughout adulthood actually ages us? Our memory, skin, and cognition decrease while our risk for diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, immune-deficiency. Not to mention when we don’t get adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night) we become tired as a result which leads to depressed mood, increased cravings and calorie consumption for non-nutritive food choices, and more stress.
- Stress Management / Self-Care: Most of us know that poorly developed stress management/self-care strategies can affect our mental health, but did you know it could affect our physical stress as well? The big word that comes to mind is, “cortisol”. Cortisol is a hormone secreted in our bodies in response to stress as a way to protect us, however when put under stress repeatedly the body begins to release cortisol in excess which can lead to blood sugar imbalance and diabetes, increased appetite and weight gain, a weakened immune system, and gastrointestinal problems. Stress may also make sleeping difficult, see how the cycle continues?
- Personal Hygiene: “Bye, bye bacteria!” Let’s start with handwashing. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Handwashing is a win for everyone, except the germs.” In addition to handwashing, dental hygiene is equally important. The inside of our mouth tells a story and poor oral health is often linked to major chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Bacteria live inside of our mouths and if we are not flossing and brushing daily then those bacteria can multiple which can lead to cavities and infections, not to mention bad breath which can limit or social interactions and self-esteem!
- Say “No” To Drugs, Alcohol, & Smoking: Anything that chemically alters our state of mind is a drug, thus you’ll be less likely to make good decisions that can impact your health significantly. Drugs, alcohol, and smoking also age us, dehydrate our skin, and are often correlated with additional poor lifestyle choices.
- Deep Breathing: Breathe. Do it. Right now. Did you realize you were holding your breath as you were reading this? Many of us are not breathing properly. We never never truly allow the diaphragm to fill up which means are stomach muscles are weakened as a result. We also never fully breathe in/out which means we aren’t getting enough oxygen in our body and allowing enough of the carbon dioxide inside of us to get out. Breathing helps to relieve blood pressure, manage stress mental and physical stress, and relax the muscles in our body. Practice deep breathing by focusing on breathing in for 3 seconds, watching your stomach expand and then release for 5 breaths, watching your stomach come back in. Repeat 3x.
Although studies continue to prove over and over again the positive impact that the combination of a healthy diet and active life on a person’s overall health, it is not the only way to be healthy. Practice the steps above and when you’re ready to improve your nutrition, contact me so I can help you be the healthiest version of you!
Like what you read? You can also watch and listen to me talk about these 5 steps here!