Monday, June 20, 2011

Keep It Simple, Keep It Real

It's simple. It really is.

Eating well is very simple. One doesn't need to spend countless hours watching grams of fat, weighing food, counting calories, evaluating what's good for you or not, looking at a pyramid or a plate. Too much information can truly confuse one as to what types of foods they should consume. It's sad.

I see people talking about eating healthy because they buy low fat "x" or they eat only whole wheat pasta, without regard to the fact that it's loaded with sugar, or processed carbohydrates that turn to sugar in the body. The media, the marketers, all tend to give us half the story. They're allowed to call something healthy without any regard to whether or not it's truly healthy. And unfortunately, most of society sees that and jumps right on it, because it's what they're told. The results? Rampant obesity, skyrocketing numbers of diabetes in children, heart disease, removal of organs (the gall bladder is the most popular these days), and in general fewer and fewer people that are truly healthy.

It's a shame. It really is very simple, and the title of this post says it all: Eat real, eat raw. Real food, as I've said over and over, grows or had eyes at some point. That would mean vegetables, fruits, and meat. For veggies and fruit, it's best to eat organic, and for meat it's best to have range fed wild animal meat. This is what our ancestors ate for years, and studies done on their remains have shown nowhere near the episodes of these diseases of lifestyle that are so prevalent in our western culture. Our ancestors also moved a whole lot more than we do. They walked places, they spent time outdoors playing, they worked hard in the fields, they had no TV to spend countless hours in front of. I'd guess they probably didn't work til all hours of the night since communication was limited, which meant they tended to rest well. In short, they lived innately, the way we were designed to live.

I just had this conversation with a patient this morning. The problem we have in our culture is the desire/felt need for convenience. If we didn't always look for convenience in our eating habits we'd be better off. Yes it takes a bit more effort to eat innately. It's not always convenient. However, it's not convenient to be sick either, it's not convenient to have heart surgery, or take insulin daily, or be stuck in a hospital for days. And that is the result of eating conveniently. It's also MUCH more costly in the long run to eat conveniently when you count the days lost due to illness, the cost of medicine, doctors visits, surgery and the wear and tear of those procedures/meds on our body.

So, instead of making it so complicated, think of it the way I do. Make it simple. It will take some extra work, specifically it will take planning. At the start of each week, look at your schedule, plan out meals for the week. I know sometimes you can't affect your meals. Many times I have meetings where they supply food. Sometimes it's a good choice, sometimes not. But when I look at my schedule and see opportunities to eat well, I plan those out. A basic meal needs some protein (meat/chicken/eggs/nuts/seeds), and about 2 different vegetables of varying colors or a good salad and/or fruit. Snack on things such as raw veggies/fruit/nuts/seeds. Purchase lots of healthy snacks for the times when you can't prepare a full meal, but you can put together several healthy ready to eat snacks to make up a meal. Eat throughout the day, avoiding the typical huge meals that are common. I like to use the concept of grazing vs. gorging to make this point clear. If you eat out, realize their portions are way too big, so plan on taking some home. You can even request a to go box when your meal is delivered and then separate out part of it immediately. Sharing a meal is another option when huge portions come your way.

Keep it simple, overcomplicating things makes us less likely to follow through. It can be done, and I am around to help people work through this via our wellness consultations. Call me if you want to work on your plan for wellness, and we'll evaluate your eating, exercising, thinking, and resting habits to help you attain your wellness goals.

Until next time...Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wellness Days vs.Sickness Days

I'd venture to guess that most people experience too many "Sickness Days". They deal with too much stress, bad food, not enough rest or exercise every day of their lives. And since one's life is created one day at a time, the sum of all of our "Sickness Days" is a sick life. So, Wellness Wednesday is what we call the first Wednesday of every month in our office. On those days we focus on adding in a new wellness habit and we often have our patients experience the new habit, such as tasting a new smoothie, trying out a new supplement etc. Our goal is to get people thinking monthly about what they can try that is new and different and that can move them toward a wellness lifestyle. It's a great idea I think, and our patients look forward to it each and every month to try something new. If everyone started a new wellness habit every month, our health as a nation would significantly improve over the long haul.

Recently in doing some wellness lifestyle coaching with one of my patients, I came up with a new idea. We were talking about making changes in her lifestyle to get her moving toward wellness, and I take the approach of making just a little change at a time. My purpose in doing this is to not overwhelm the patient with too much too quickly. This is important as we don't want to set a patient up for failure, and trying to do too much too quickly is sometimes too painful to be successful at, and they become discouraged and tend to quit.

Instead, we focus on baby steps. For instance, instead of trying to go out and jog for 30 minutes when they've been pretty much a couch potato, we encourage them to try walking "x" amount of time, depending on their fitness level, "x" times/week. After they get accustomed to that new habit, they are then encouraged to do a bit more, maybe increase the frequency, or the duration of their walks. That way it feels like they are only adding in a little bit more to their already established routine.

But, in doing this, I've found it takes a long time for enough new habits to build up to create significant changes. So to accelerate the process, I decided to give a new idea a shot. It's called a "Wellness Day". It consists of planning a certain day as a total wellness day. On that day, they must plan in advance what they are going to do. I encourage them to focus on all 4 of our Pillars of Wellness (eat well, move well, think well, rest well) and make sure they have plans for each area.

So in advance they plan out their meals and snacks for the day. They have to focus on whole foods (real food) with no additives. Remember my definition of real food: It either grows or had eyes at one point, otherwise it is an "edible food like substance". They need to focus on consuming plenty of water for the day, maybe some tea with lemon, or an herbal tea of their choice.

They have to plan to move more than they might normally. This may not be much more than a 30 minute walk if they are sedentary usually. If they're already active, then any sort of normal exercise program they do is acceptable, but maybe they push their duration by 10 minutes or so more. If they don't usually do any stretching, this would be a good day to start that habit too. There are many stretching sites on the net to learn from. Just always remember to be careful if you've not been active, and if you're over 40 or have a history of cardiovascular issues, get cleared by your doctor before you begin any vigorous plan of exercise.

I encourage them to spend some time de-stressing and relaxing on their Wellness Day. It's a great time to schedule a massage for relaxation purposes, or some time at a quiet spot for dinner with their spouse (eating healthy of course). Making sure they spend some time being grateful is extremely important, and connecting with their Maker on a spiritual level is vital for this special day. This can also be accomplished by whatever activities they really enjoy doing, grilling a good dinner, playing with the kids, the dog or both.

Finally, I encourage them to work on their sleep hygiene plan. I want them to get good rest that night, so nothing with caffeine after 4 in the afternoon. As bedtime draws near the need to start winding down is vital and they need a plan for doing just that; turning down the lights, quiet music, a good book, good conversation with their spouse etc.

By creating a Wellness Day, one can see what it would feel like to live that lifestyle. The first Wellness Day may be a bit tough, but it's only a day, so plan it ahead of time. If you wait til the last minute, there will be stress when you don't have all the foods that you need for a certain recipe, or when you suddenly realize that you forgot to plan out some aspect. Remember, I want you to be set up for success, not failure. And if you do fail in some aspect for that day, at least the day you had was more wellness oriented than it would have been otherwise. You can also choose to do this in community with others and discuss/plan your day together for accountabilty.

Once you have a Wellness Day going once/week, or even once per month if weekly is too tough, then add in "a little more", like an extra day/week or month. Soon those days will become comfortable for you and you will be able to continue adding in a day or two more. Soon the majority of your days will be Wellness Days, and you'll have much less "sickness" days.

Until next time...Be Well!

Dr. Bruce