Twelve Steps to a Healthier You!
1. Don’t go on a diet. Yes, you read this correctly, don’t go on a diet. Diets are things you go on and then go off. If you really want to lose those last 10 pounds or even if you want to lose 80 pounds the answer is changing your lifestyle. Start with eating ¼ less than you normally do. Each meal, each snack, eye ball it and then remove one-quarter. Size matters. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Big portions = Big calories. Start losing weight by downsizing your plate.
2. Start moving. If you don’t move it, you will rust. Get off your butt and go for a walk. Better yet, go buy a pedometer. You need to walk at least 10,000 steps everyday just to maintain health. Trying to lose weight or get healthier? You need to walk anywhere from 15,000 steps to 20,000 each and every day. Sound daunting? Start slowly and try adding 1,000 steps per week. By the end of the month you’ll have logged an extra 4,000 steps per day. Or buy a dog. A tad more expensive compared to a $29.99 pedometer but either way you’ll be moving more. I have a dog and a pedometer. It’s a win/win situation. I’m on the move everyday chalking up miles and smiles with my beloved Wheaten Terrier, Bailey.
3. Add weight resistance exercise. Translation for all those sedentary people out there – start lifting weights. Not only will your bones thank you for helping them remain dense and strong, but so will the jiggly part of your upper arm, aka the bat wing.
4. Eat more fruits and veggies. Those little darlings of the plant world fill you up with fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and micronutrients that will make a difference in your long term health. And besides, if you are eating all those wonderful brightly coloured foods you may not have any room for the empty junkie stuff you’re usually chowing down on.
5. Work on destressing. Find a way – be it yoga, Pilates, going for a run, joining a Church Group or meditation. Whatever works for you, become proactive with stress. If you don’t, it will seek you out and then it may be too late.
6. Watch the kind of fat you are eating. Too many trans fats spell disaster. Read labels and avoid foods with trans fats in them. Man made trans fats found in hydrogenated fats raise the bad LDL cholesterol in your body as well as lower the good HDL cholesterol. It’s the worst fat you can consume. Lower your consumption of saturated fats found in high fat dairy and meat products. The best fats to choose are extra virgin olive oil and canola oil. Both are monounsaturated fats and are considered heart healthy.
7. Add nuts to your diet, sparingly. Women, we are allowed a small handful, it works out to be about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) and men, you are allowed approximately 4 tablespoons (60 mL) per day. They are a source of fat, albeit a good monounsaturated fat, but those calories add up. So watch those portions. No grazing at the nut bowl.
8. Eat whole grains. Forget the white stuff. Go back to the natural and become an old hippie. Embrace whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread, barley, oatmeal and ancient grains. If it’s got the whole grain intact your body loves it. So does your colon and your pancreas just to name a few of my favourite organs.
9. Eat beans. Yes, I know they make us toot, pass wind, fart, whatever you call it, but they are a great food to add to your diet for long term health. Packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and complex carbohydrates beans a winner.
10. Fatty fish, especially salmon, is packed full of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. This heart healthy fat has been shown to decrease the stickiness of your blood, reduce inflammation of the artery wall as well as keeping those arteries flexible. These are all great things in the fight against heart disease.
11. Get enough calcium. Choose low fat dairy or fortified whole bean soy beverage, low fat cheese and/or low fat yogurt to meet your calcium needs. Calcium, as well Vitamin D, contributes to bone health, reduces your chances of developing colon cancer and helps regulate blood pressure.
12. Get enough Vitamin D. This very underestimated vitamin is also known as the sunshine vitamin because your body makes Vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin. In the winter months, if you live in Canada, you would have to lie outside sans sun screen and clothing from October to May; aside from frightening the neighbours you wouldn’t even come close to producing what your body needs. In the new Canadian Food Guide, Health Canada has even recommended that aside from following the eating guidelines that anyone over 50 take an additional 400 IUs of Vitamin D every day. Make it Vitamin D3 when you buy it as a supplement. We know that Vitamin D’s function is to aid in calcium absorption, but it also inhibits abnormal cell growth, and is linked to a reduction in many cancers. People who get plenty of Vitamin D appear to be less likely to develop arthritis, MS, diabetes – both types, as well as have stronger immune systems. Reason enough for me to make sure that I drink fortified milk or soy milk and eat plenty of fatty fish like salmon. When taking vitamin D make sure you are having it with some fat, this fat soluble vitamin needs fat to help it get into your cells.