Making Time To Get Healthier

Making time for improving your personal wellness and health is easier than you think. I’ve learned over the years the best way to make sure I stay healthy is to schedule little wellness moments in my day. I start most days with 5-10 mins of meditation. I set at least 30-120 mins of exercise time each day. I always set aside time to sit and relax with my thoughts so I can plan the day’s events out. I always make sure I tell my wife how much I love her when we see each other or when we each go off to work. And before we go to bed at night, we always tell each other we love each other and give each other an affectionate embrace and kiss.

And when I get especially busy, almost too busy to take time out from the tasks of the day, I reward myself for the extra busy day or week by making time for a wellness moment the following day before the business starts up again! When I was in college getting my undergraduate degree in music and biology, at the end of finals week, immediately after the last final exam, one of my best friends (Larry or Ely) and I went on a 5-10 mile run. We were exhausted and tired  from studying and taking our exams which you would think a run would be the last thing we would want to do. But the run always helped us relax, rejuvenate, and feel really good about the end of the semester even if we had a terrible exam week. The post semester beer tasted even better for sure following our run. Three years of classes together with Larry and Ely including summers and I can still remember the wonderful feelings of those runs 35 years later. Now, that is the beauty of high quality wellness moments. Quality wellness moments are something that does not disappear when the event is over. Quality wellness moments produce such positive feelings inside you want to go back again and again to them. Simply put, you learn to develop a wellness habit. Each and every time you start your day, your wellness habits become more important to you than your morning cup of coffee. And, they are certainly much better for you!

Life Is A Gift

It seems like yesterday when I was a small boy playing each summer on the beach in NJ. Today, as I near 60 years of age, it is extremely unbelievable to me, I have spent nearly 6 decades on this earth. Based on the social security office's average lifespan of a male in the US today, 71% of my life is basically over. Accordingly to these statistics, by the time I reach 84 years of age, I have better chance of the after life than my earthly life. The thought of that fact takes my breath away. As we get older, I think we all realize how much our life is truly a gift. For many of us that realization comes after years of physical, social, and mental neglect. Many of us eat and drink too much. We allow personal, relationship, or work stress to take our peace much more often than we should. And, when it comes to eating well, we tell ourselves tomorrow we will starting eating as we should.

Then, after many years of forgetting life is a gift, we realize we have high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and many other lifestyle related diseases. Depending on how serious the situation is, the more likely we are to realize that life is a gift and we shouldn't waste time sitting on the couch watching TV and drinking too many beers. The other day I helped a neighbor learn how to ride her bike in way that she would enjoy but still get a pretty good workout when needed. She was so excited it seemed to understand that exercise can be both fun and good for your help. I was so proud of her that she took charge of her health. More importantly, I could see it in her eyes, she realized that exercising on her bike was a gift that give her a chance at a better and healthier life!

Why Your Diet Should Be Personalized

We are individuals consisting of a specific genetic profile. While we are genetically similar, we are also still genetically unique at the same time. Twin studies looking at a variety of health related items like diet and exercise clearly have shown that while twin pairs have very similar responses; between twin pairs, the responses are extremely unique. Thus, twin study findings illustrate the response to a health intervention in one individual can be completely different in another. Then the question arises why do most main stream health professionals believe that the best approach to diet recommendations is a one size fits all approach like eat a low fat, high quality carbohydrate diet is best for all individuals to optimize a person's over-all health and wellness.

Recently, data suggests that there are some individuals that consuming 50-65% of their daily food intake in carbohydrates promotes an increase in fasting triglycerides and an increase in oxidized LDL concentrations. In contrast, these individuals see a decreased concentration in oxidized LDL concentration when they follow a high protein, quality mono-unsaturated fat, and low carbohydrate diet. On a personal level, I have spent a majority of my life living the high quality, high percent carbohydrate lifestyle following primarily a vegetarian and vegan diet pattern. As an ultra-endurance cyclist and researcher, we are taught and I have read numerous studies about the importance of carbohydrates in regards to my cycling success. Yet, as I get older, despite a very high quality diet of natural primarily unprocessed CHO, low fat, and moderate protein, I found my triglyceride and cholesterol levels rising to dangerous levels. Thus, I began to seriously question whether or not I reached an age where following what is considered for many an extremely healthy diet pattern was not only wrong for my metabolic profile but extremely harmful.

After spend additional time looking into various diet alternative literature like Atkin based diets or other low carbohydrate alternative diets. I decided a diet make over was needed for own personal dietary intake. Thus, over the last 2 months, I decided to do something in my diet I would have never, ever imagined. I decided to try a high protein, high fat (primarily high quality fat like avocados), very low CHO diet. At first like all diet changes, it was not something I was comfortable with at first. After years of preaching the benefits of vegetarian based diets on health, I am suddenly eating a diet that went against everything I believed in. But, I was in a desperate place with total cholesterol levels 325 mg/dL, triglycerides over 225 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol over 125 mg/dL, and fasted resting blood glucose hovering around 100 mg/dl. My lipid sub fractional profile showed although I was very active and fit, had excellent aerobic capacity and strength values, and was only 18.0 % body fat for a 58 year old man, I was still just a few points away from a full blown metabolic syndrome profile.

Initially, cutting back on my CHO intake was a little difficult. But, as I began to cut out most CHOs except quality ones like those found in vegetables, nuts, or seeds, and then increase my protein and fat intake, I noticed that my constant need to eat 24/7 disappeared. I found a breakfast of avocado mixed in with two whole eggs plus extra egg whites plus a cup of morning coffee was enough to keep out of the kitchen for several hours. When I did get hungry I would snack on a few oz of raw cashews or almonds with an apple cooked in cinnamon, butter, lemon juice and splenda kept my sugar cravings away. Evening meals of a tuna or salmon in a steamer bowl with vegetables and flavored avocado sauce or spiced with home made hot curry sauce was all I needed for dinner. Amazingly, I felt very satisfied from a hunger perspective. But, more amazingly, after the third or fourth day of following my new diet, I was energetic and felt great. I suddenly had no indigestion, no CHO bloating or gas, no reflux events (which happen pretty much daily the last year or so), no post exercise cramps following my high intensity workouts. In fact, despite research showing the importance of CHO in maintaining exercise intensity, after about 10 days of the new diet, I found little effect on my over all cycling output on any type of training ride. I also noticed that my resting blood glucose in the morning was now finally below 95 mg/dL and my body weight was coming down. Since beginning my diet content change, I have lost currently 14 lbs, causing my body fat to decrease 2.1% without any attempt to limit calorie intake.

Last week, I complete a comprehensive hormonal profile, an advanced lipid profile including particle size, a thyroid profile, and all of the standard blood work. While 10 weeks is usually not a very long period of time to observe large changes in blood profiles, I am anxiously awaiting the test this week and next!

One Small Healthy Monitoring Moment At A Time

What is important to understand is that better health requires day to day preventive health practices. You age very slowly. Every day you look in the mirror and see the same person. Not much seems to change. But, I bet if someone could develop a computer visualization program that took your picture every morning in the mirror when you woke up. Then, once every couple of months projected your average look for the last week of that period with a comparison of your baseline picture, we would all be shocked to see the degree of changes our pictures would reveal. In many cases, seeing ourselves aging before our own eyes would motivate many of us to improve how we look. 

The same type of monitoring can be accomplishment by checking your weight once a week and recording it. Checking your blood measures regularly and recording it. Checking your blood sugar and recording it. That is why we are encouraged by the medical community to get a yearly check up. But, unfortunately, unlike looking at how our face ages over time in my example above, it is difficult for most people to realize that their health values are simply samples of the changes occurring in our body as a result of normal aging in combination with our daily habits - good and bad.

Once you know who you are and what your health profile looks like, you are now ready to take charge of your health. You can now take steps to successfully improve your health status and wellness. Small steps are the key because they are doable. Your successes are easily self observed and that helps to reinforce more change. That is why so many companies that promote better health or weight loss use real people showing their successes gradually over time. If they only showed you the end result of what a person looks like after following the given program, you would probably look at that person and say, “ That's impossible for me to ever accomplish. I am no world-class athlete. I have never looked like that in my life." You would probably say that even if you did look that way at one time in your life because you remember how much hard work went into looking that great when you were athletic and younger, you never would want to work that hard again!

So here's my challenge to you for this next month. Look at something you have wanted to change in your life that will improve your health. Take that one item, focus on it, and then set aside 30-60 minutes each day to plan, accomplish the goal, and monitor your success for that day. Set aside small time periods where that is what you work on guilt free.  If on a given day you are unsuccessful, record why you were unsuccessful and try to determine what you can do the next day that will allow you to succeed. Make this one small item important to you so that it happens early in the day. I can assure you, you will be pleasantly surprised how improving this one tiny little positive health step each day will change your life and well-being in very big way. You will never regret making the change. In fact, you will be surprised how much better you feel, how much more energy you will have, and consequently have a more productive day.

WELL it's time to move on to my first step of my to-do wellness list for the day. Exercise and meditation here I come!

Improving Your Health Is Thorny At Times

I don’t know how many times in my life I had the best of intentions about improving my own health. I will work out earlier tomorrow. I will make sure I only eat healthier foods this week. I am not going to work 12 hours non-stop on a pot of coffee every day this week. The list goes on and on. Although people think of us in the preventive health profession as health nuts. We have the same ice cream cravings, would rather sit down with cold beer than do the extra mile run, or have one more assignment to complete at work to prove myself to my boss or show my employees I am more driven than them.

Yet, without the intention, you will never have the seed planted to even have the opportunity to make a healthy intention one of your most cherished behaviors. Let me share with you a story about my mother. For as long as I could remember, my mom was a smoker. She was the kind of smoker who enjoyed one right after a meal or when relaxing with friends. She knew it was very bad for her but could not seem to find a way to quit until she was 78 years old. Why you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you why. Like many people, smoking was my mom’s crutch when she got nervous. And my mom seemed to get nervous very easily! There was something about smoking that made her feel calm despite the fact nicotine is a strong stimulate to the nervous system. For me, it was impossible to understand why mom could not stop smoking because when I was sixteen years old I watched my mom be devastated over losing both her parents in less than a couple of months to lung cancer! Yet, she could not find anything that could help her kick the  smoking crutch out the way for good until she turned 78 years old.

What was that magic pill of motivation? My mom, despite always being a smoker, has the most beautiful white smile. Her teeth meant everything to her. At 78 my mom found out that one of her teeth needed to be completely replaced with an implant. She went to several dentists and they all said the same. Not a single one of the dentists would do the tooth implant surgery for my mom unless she quit smoking for at least 6 months after the tooth removal and implant surgery was completed. Even my best friend who is a dentist would not do it for her. And just like that, my mom quit smoking cold turkey to save her perfect smile. One of the most amazing aspects of this story is the fact that my mom just celebrated her 85th birthday and 7-year non-smoking anniversary. WOW!

Today, she cannot even imagine why she started smoking and why she found it so hard to quit. The moral of the story is a simple one. No matter how many TV shows, fitness gurus, or celebrity diet & exercise experts you listen to and try to follow their suggestions, you will never adopt a new health behavior until you realize deep down inside it is worth doing for you and you alone. The first step is putting the intention to do something healthy like quit smoking on your “bucket list”. And one day, like my mom, something will come up in your life that will motivate you to take action. It may be living long enough to see you child graduate college, not wanting to die young like your best friend’s husband or wife did, or you are simply tired of looking in the mirror at a person you no longer recognize or care to know that will motive you to take your healthy intention and make it a healthy behavior for the rest of your life! Today’s challenge, add 3-5 healthy intentions to you bucket list!