Nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management. These are four main factors affecting our health day in and day out.
Losing weight is like an iceberg. When you see an iceberg, you only see 10 percent. The rest is hidden below the surface. When people discuss losing weight or getting healthier, there is this idea that it is simply calories in versus calories out. To me, that is the same as saying that if you put gas in the car then it will run. That works for a new or a well-maintained car, but what about a car that has been abused –no regular maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations, appropriate fluid levels, proper driving, etc. What if this car needs a new battery? It needs new spark plugs, or an alternator or brakes. Will this car run if you just put gas in it? Nope. This is the same for many people. Most people do not function at the same level as a new car. They have parts that do not work, they have majorly messed up hormone levels, they have extremely poor gut health, and their stress levels have been elevated and unchecked for years.
Often times, people experiencing these symptoms have bounced around from diet to diet while losing and gaining weight for years. They may eat well under a thousand calories every single day. They feel lost and have no idea what to do. While a nutrition plan varies person to person, there are two major hurdles everyone can clear (if they want to) to help them get on a positive track.
These are both equally important and they all are intertwined: time and money.
Let’s talk money. Point blank: Can you afford to be sick? I’m not talking about the flu. I’m talking about long-term diseases, like diabetes or heart failure. Could you afford that? If you think that won’t happen to you, you’re wrong.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the world and the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 375,000 Americans a year. Twenty-nine million people (9.3 percent) have diabetes; 1.7 million people aged 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Below is a list of the leading causes of death in the U.S. from the CDC:
- Heart disease: 614,348
- Cancer: 591,699
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
- Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
- Diabetes: 76,488
- Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773
As you can see, the likelihood of you dying from a lifestyle pathology, meaning a disease process that we develop through our lifestyle choices, is high. At some point in time you will have to pay for your health choices. There are really two ways about this: Pay as you go or pay up front.
By paying up front, you decrease the likelihood of having to shell out thousands of dollars when you are diagnosed with a deadly disease. Pay a little more for regular self-care and maintenance of your body by eating healthier, exercising regularly, and investing in quality sleep and stress management. By paying as you go, you increase the chance of a large bill at some point in time that many of us aren’t prepared to financially handle. The choice is truly yours. Your healthcare is not free. You will be paying for it one way or another.
The second hurdle is time, and this is where things start to get fun. We’ve all heard this whether from a friend’s lips or our own: “I don’t have enough time!” Let’s take a step back and really look at this. You are reading this because you want to enhance your health. You do not need more time, you to become more efficient.
We can become more efficient if we have better mental acuity and clarity. Think about when you have that first cup of coffee in the morning. It feels like you are starting to fire all cylinders, right? What if you could make that exact same thing happen without coffee or a stimulant? You can – and all by making better food choices. When we clean up our diet, we experience less inflammation in our bodies. With less inflammation, our bodies heal, allowing them to focus on other areas.
Healthier eating will allow our bodies to have less trouble falling asleep at night. Better sleep will allow for more restorative sleep. As little about sleep as we know, we do know that it is necessary. We can’t live without it.
Alcohol has direct negative effects on your ability to sleep. Prescription drugs designed to enhance sleep have direct negative effects on healthy sleep, too. You’re not really sleeping; you’re just unconscious. The better your sleep is the better your brain will function. Going to sleep before midnight is crucial for people who operate on a traditional work/life schedule (i.e. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two to three after midnight. Our bodies are not made to stay awake all night or for extended periods late at night. We are meant to shut down. Many of our daily habits affect this process. The blue light that comes from computers and TVs completely disrupts our sleep process. We often use these devices right up until we lay down and it interferes with our circadian rhythm, resulting in a lack of healthy sleep.
This lack of healthy sleep will disrupt the process of tissue repair, neurotransmitter synthesis, and the ability to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. This will throw hormones out of balance and decrease the effectiveness of neurotransmitter firing. This will lead to the body trying to compensate by craving high-sugar, high-salt and high-fat foods, decrease the desire to move, and decrease cognitive function. This will also decrease your body’s ability to deal with and process stress.
When it comes to the exercise you do, the quality and intensity will trump the quantity and the duration. I have seen many people do more for themselves in five minutes than most people do in an hour in a typical commercial gym.
Stress is just plain stressful. It is the Goldilocks of life. It needs to be just right. Too much pushes us to burn out, but not enough affects our motivation. Somewhere in the middle of all that, we find this perfect oasis where we run smoothly and feel we can handle everything. It is like how Bradley Cooper’s character felt when he took that magic pill in the movie Limitless. You have no idea what you are capable of when you take care of your body. It is the most powerful computer we have ever known.
By taking the time to make better food choices, sleeping better and exercising, you will become more efficient. You will quickly see all the ways you function better and, in turn, spend less time on daily tasks. You will feel less fatigued, decrease the likelihood of sick days and wake up more energetic and ready to attack the day. You will be better equipped to handle stress. You can’t put a price on that!