March 14, 2011

The Holy Trinity of Health

This is the first thing you see as you walk into
my office. He's smiling, he's welcoming, and
he is definitely healthy!
I wish I was that creative, but I read that label in the latest McLean's magazine the other week. I thought it was a brilliant way to refer to the three most important health practices one can include in their lifestyle...so I thought I would post about it today.

The "holy trinity of health" is made up of three lifestyle behaviours; sleep, nutrition, and exercise.  If someone walked into my office today and stated that they sleep 4 hours a night, eat like crap, and sit on the couch all day, but were looking for a change, which change would I suggest first? In other words, which lifestyle behaviour is most important for good health? Give up? If you said sleep....you are right on! My first suggestion for this person would be doing what it takes to get 7 - 8 hours of quality sleep a night before all else.

If you are snickering over that number, you aren't the only one. Most people I talk in front of have the same reaction. That's because most people don't get 6, let alone 7, hours a night. The challenge for many is the quality of their sleep. While they go to bed at 10 (hitting the alarm at 6am), they may be waking up many times during the night or worse, waking up at around 3 of 4 am and not able to get back to sleep again.  If we don't get this deep, quality sleep we are unable to absorb the nutrients we get from our food (and may be more apt to munch during the day). We are also unable to mend our muscles (after breaking them down during our exercise) as effectively and may start feeling really run down or weak by the end of the day. Sleep is the most important factor in good health and a great stress-management tool.

Eating well includes a wide variety of vegetables with limited amounts of red meat. In addition, the elimination of (or reduction of) sugar, processed foods, and trans/saturated fats is also strongly encouraged to enjoy the best health possible. Easier said than done...right? Hence, my previous posts all on eating behaviour and change. But there ya go....another very important factor (but not as important as the sleep). Eating a healthy diet will also help you feel more energetic, positive, and cope with stress more effectively.

The best memory I have of my fitness career as a post-cardiac rehab specialist (I'm the one in the black running suit). Everyone was welcomed, cared for, and life long friendship were made...in the name of physical activity!
Finally, we have physical activity. Another very important factor in life long (good) health. Not only does daily physical activity promote weight management / loss, but it helps to maintain bone density, keeps our hearts and lungs working well, enhances our mood, reduces the effects of aging (you don't need a night cream if you workout every day), and much more. Physical activity, in my opinion, is the magic pill for for so much. It can bring people together, it can mend the mind, it can keep us young, and it can motivate us to achieve things we never thought we could achieve. People change when they add physical activity to their lifestyle....I see this every day.

There continues to be a huge gap between knowing and doing (and that's why the diet and fitness industry makes so much money). No one seems to know the answer to successful change..but they promise you they do (for 4 easy payments of $21.99 + tax). The one thing I do know is, for many people, their health must be threatened before they make a change. For others, they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. The motivation for increased health must be the driving force behind lifestyle changes (vs. losing weight for a high-school reunion) or it ain't gonna be permanent....I promise you that.

Healthy eating doesn't mean eating the same, boring,
stuff that makes you even hungrier (is that a word?).
Above, I made avocado fries and they were both
healthy and really amazing (especially when combined with
Greek yogurt, chives, and lemon juice.
Finally, if you are ready to make a change, be sure to choose just one facet of your lifestyle to start. Jumping into a change in sleep, eating habits, and exercise will most certainly lead to failure. Choose the one you feel you will be most successful in and go from there. Go slow, be patient, and forgive yourself when you fall off the wagon....you will fall off the wagon. Think 12 months from now and for each month in between create a goal to reach (making it realistic). I have a tested theory that we must focus on a 12 month time period versus the usual 8-12 weeks. Nothing permanent comes from 8-12 weeks.......

That's all I got.
K

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