We’ve all said it, this past year has been crazy in so many ways. Masks, lockdowns, businesses and restaurants closing…the list goes on. Sure, pandemic has scared most of us, but has it scared you into taking responsibility for your own health?
This post is not meant to tell anyone how to fight COVID or recover. Several of my friends who are very healthy have had it and some have been very serious, others mild. This information is about getting and staying healthy so we can be at our absolute best, threat of a virus or not. We don’t know what’s coming next but being in optimal health can help defeat viruses, colds and even disease. Why not take your health into your own hands instead of expecting your doctor or the government to do it for you?
We do have control
I’ve been so completely frustrated at the lack of motivation that many people have for their health. No one is going to do it for you! You control what and how often you eat! You control what time you go to bed at night and you control how much you move during the day! I see so many people that would rather just take a pill or shot and continue their unhealthy lifestyle, rather than put the work in.
I get it, there are many things we can’t control in this world. On the flip side, there are more than a few things we can do to create lots of positive benefits. As a flight attendant, I have very little control over how much radiation I get from a flight. I choose to fly domestically which reduces the amount compared to flying internationally. But there are many things which I can control. I choose to bring my own food (yes even if I’m gone for a 4 day trip.) I prioritize my sleep and many days I do get up at 3am to go to work. I do my best to stay on my circadian rhythm and avoid flying red-eyes at all cost.
What are the biggest factors in being healthy?
There are many of course, but I’ll list the ones I’ve researched, practice myself and believe are most important.
- Eating whole foods (from Mother Nature — avoiding anything processed)
- Avoid sugar and fake sweeteners
- Limit or avoid alcohol
Let’s break these down a little more. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Ideally going to bed between the hours of 8pm to 12am to make sure you get adequate REM sleep. An easy trick to find your ideal bedtime, subtract 7-8 hours from what time you need to get up adding 15 mins to fall asleep. Compromised sleep can compromise immunity, brain health and weight. For more sleep check out my previous post on how to optimize your sleep.
Exercise — we all know it’s good for us whether you love it or hate it. You don’t have to go to the gym! When the pandemic hit, many people used this as an excuse to not workout. Well, you don’t need a gym to go for a walk. If you’re in a cold climate during the winter you’ll have to be more creative. If it’s too icy or raining, try a free You Tube workout. Caroline Girvan is my favorite! Inexpensive and convenient substitutes are resistance bands, free weights and a jump rope. Quite a few of my friends bought Pelotons and enjoy the variety of workouts available to do at home. I missed my yoga classes and found a few of my instructors offered zoom classes.
Sunlight— our bodies do best when we have optimal sunlight and vitamin D. Studies have shown that people with optimal vitamin D levels had reduced admissions to hospitals as well as death if diagnosed with Covid. Sunlight also plays an important role in our circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning helps our bodies to produce adequate levels of melatonin which help us sleep more soundly and equally important, stave off diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Those bright rays of sunshine can also help improve your mood! If you have animals, notice how they instinctively find the sunny spot on the carpet to take their afternoon nap!
Eating Whole Foods
Eating whole foods means just that. Real foods like vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, fish…There’s even diet called The Whole 30 in case you’d like more info. I encourage you to make it a lifestyle, not just 30 days! Ideally you’ll want to chose organic whenever possible and if you can’t afford or find organic check out this list from the environmental working group on which produce is safe to buy conventionally grown.
The Dirty Dozen means definitely buy organic. The Clean 15 means ok to buy conventional produce. As far as processed food goes, avoid anything in a box or a bag. For more information on why it’s important to eat organic click here.
Sugar is so incredibly addicting and yet so bad for us. It causes obesity, diabetes and can suppress your immune system. You may think you don’t each much sugar but if you start checking labels you’ll find added sugar in many sauces, salad dressings and drinks. Other foods that can cause issues with blood sugar are bread, pasta and white rice. Diet sodas are just as bad. They contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, (Splenda) saccharin and aspartame. These fake sugars can actually cause you to gain weight! Our body responds to them very differently than regular sugar. They can be 200-700 times sweeter than regular sugar which causes stronger cravings while our taste buds lose their ability to appreciate the natural sweetness of fruit for example.
Alcohol can cause many problems with our health. It has small benefits in moderation— i.e. one glass of wine a day but these benefits can outweigh several risks including dependance, cancer, blood sugar issues and I’m sure you already know —weight gain. Booze can also affect your sleep so that nightcap to help you sleep only backfires at 3am when it causes rebound alertness.
This may not see important but having a circle of friends and family around leads to a longer, happier and healthier life. If you haven’t heard of The Blue Zones these are 5 areas scattered across the globe where people regularly live to be 100. Not 100 in a hospital, nursing home or debilitated, but with energy and a great quality of life. These blue zones share several lifestyle traits including movement, a healthy diet and a sense of belonging and community. Loneliness, depression and mental health issues have all increased with the lockdowns. Do your best to connect with friends, neighbors and family members. It’s been so hard with churches, restaurants and businesses closed down but even a phone call can brighten your day or someone else’s.
So do I do all of these things all of the time? Of course not! However, I do try my best. I am very serious about getting my sleep. I may not be able to get in a walk or a workout when I’m getting up at 3am to fly from LAX to the East Coast and back (yes all in one day) but I am certain to move while I am on the plane. On my days off a workout always happens even if it’s only for 30 minutes. If you fly with me you know I always bring my own food and never buy anything in the airport.
The key take away… no one is going to or CAN do it for you! Start small and incorporate what you can easily do first. It won’t happen overnight but if you stick with it all those small changes add up and you’ll be on your way to better health in no time!
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