This time of year there are lots of resolutions flying around cyberspace. I thought I would focus this week on a few simple tips that can make a big impact on your health now:
1. Ditch the sugar. We Americans are sugar addicts. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, about 200 years ago the average Americans ate about two pounds of sugar each year. Today, however, the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year/ That means we eat about three pounds each week!
Diets high in sugar are linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and increased inflammation, even diabetes and heart disease. Most processed foods contain sugar—even breads, crackers and other typically 'savory' foods. Ditch the processed foods and in turn decrease your sugar consumption. According to the Cleveland Clinic, women should limit their intake to 6 teaspoons per day and men to 9 teaspoons per day. For more information on this topic, read How Much Sugar Do You Eat? by the NHHHS.
2. Park farther away and take the stairs. You’ve likely heard this little tip many times before, but do you actually do it? Now, parking farther away and taking the stairs isn’t going to result in mad calorie burn. However, it does increase your daily activity and over time can help maintain weight loss and general good health.
3. Get a check up. When was the last time you had a checkup with your physician? Focus on prevention rather than reaction and schedule a yearly checkup now.
4. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. We are overworked and 'undersleeped' – OK, I don’t think 'undersleeped' is a word, but you get the point. Sleep deprivation has been linked to memory problems, depression, weakened immune system and increased pain perception. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to weight gain because lack of sleep effects your metabolism’s ability to function properly.
In addition, sleep deprivation affects the two hormones closely related to eating and weight maintenance: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin triggers our desire to eat, and when you are sleep deprived you produce more ghrelin. Leptin tells the brain to stop eating and when you are in a sleep debt you make less leptin. To complicate the matter, sleep deprivation compounds over time. One good night’s sleep will not make up for habitual lack of sleep. The average recommended sleep for adults is 7.5 hours per night, according to Sleep and Weight Gain by Denise Mann.
5. Turn off the tech. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, stow the iPad and spend quality time with your friends and family engaging in old school fun— play a board game, go for a bike ride, complete a puzzle, or make dinner together. I believe that we are feeling more isolated and alone these days even though we are surrounded by our internet “friends” on a constant basis. Nothing replaces interpersonal relationships. Take some time to develop yours.
6. Stretch at the office. Sitting for 8 or more hours a day is not good! We leave our offices after stressful days at work feeling hunkered down, as I like to call it. You know what I mean: Your shoulders feel like they are up to your ears, your lower back aches and you have a tension headache. Spend a few minutes throughout the day stretching your neck and shoulders, forearms and chest.
7. Drink more water. There is actually very little research that proves adults needs 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated. However, it just makes sense to me. If our bodies are about 70 percent water, doesn’t it seem that we should be regularly hydrating? Research has shown that individuals who drink two glasses of water prior to meals lose more weight than those who do not. In addition, it helps balance body fluids, assists kidney function, helps maintain bowel function and is good for the skin.
8. Ladies: Give yourself a self-breast exam. This is a simple, effective preventative measure that most of us don’t do. If you don't know how to do this, you can see directions here.
9. Stop texting and driving. Need I explain this? Take Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge and join more than 430,00 other Americans dedicated to reducing distracted driving.
10. Smile. I dare you to feel sad while smiling. Go on…try it right now! Sit there, turn up the sides of your mouth and smile. How do you feel? It's hard not to feel better, right?
11. Write down one goal for January—just one. Write it on a piece of paper and place it somewhere you will see it everyday. Remember: just one goal.
12. Wear a pedometer. They are inexpensive and effective. Strive to get in at least 10,000 steps a day. Having trouble meeting the goal? See tip #2 listed above.