Start the Year Off Right with Healthy Living Practices

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Jessica Scruton, BSN, RN, CCM, joined me once again on the Population Health Podcast discussing a topic that has no designated month: healthy living. Undoubtedly, you have seen plenty of New Year’s resolution articles on how to make 2020 “your year.” That is not a bad sentiment, and there are always reasons to make impactful changes for your physical and mental health. Be sure to listen to the full episode on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Before we begin, Jessica wants to stress an important first step: speaking with your doctor. That way, you can develop the best and approved methods to go about your goals, whether they are weight loss, kicking a smoking habit, heart health, or another. Together, you can create an action plan with small, reachable goals instead of an overarching “resolution,” something we refer to as micro-resolutions. By meeting small goals, you can build confidence in what you plan to achieve in the long-term.

A Well-Rounded Diet and Plenty of Water

We have heard many of the same tips on healthy eating: create plates with color, monitor red meat intake, avoid fast food, have sugar in moderation, and others. All of these are true, but it is beneficial to review what makes a healthy, well-rounded diet. To begin with, you should drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before meals. Sometimes the feeling of hunger can just mean dehydration, which can lead to overeating and eventual weight gain. Drinking plenty of water can increase the number of calories you burn and improve your metabolism, too.

Incorporate protein in your diet regularly, especially with fatty fish like salmon that are rich in omega-3s. Protein is key in the improvement of metabolism and its ability to make you feel fuller and reduce cravings. Red meat and poultry should still remain protein options, just not every night of the week. Eggs (the yolk and all) are great sources of protein and are not high in cholesterol, as many people believe. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and high-fiber foods should be part of everyday meals and snacks; avoid refined carbs and artificial trans fats. Avoid sugar-filled sodas and juice drinks, and always read the labels; even “healthy” drinks can be extremely high in sugar with little of the antioxidant benefits that are claimed, and diet drinks are not the best alternative, either. Our last two tips to improve your diet and make it tastier: swap out regular cooking oil or butter for extra virgin olive oil and use plenty of herbs and spices; some have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Regular Physical Activity

Everyone should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and you do not have to do all of it at once. Start small; go for a short walk with your coworkers to boost your heart rate and spend time outside. Workouts should begin at a lower intensity, and when you feel ready, add some higher intensity practices like cardio. Cardio exercises are highly beneficial for your body, especially your heart. Additionally, incorporating weights into your workout helps build muscle, body composition, metabolic health, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Tips to make exercising easy:

  • Exercise with a friend! Having an accountability partner makes working out more enjoyable.
  • Sign-up for exercise classes. Having an instructor to guide you and a group to work out with can improve motivation.
  • Plan for exercising. Schedule it by putting it on your calendar, like a standing appointment.
  • Reward yourself; after a walk with friends or coworkers, grab a healthy bite to eat or a smoothie.

Alcohol and Tobacco Use

Tobacco use will never have any health benefits. If you have a smoking habit, there are many resources to help you quit, and the first step is to discuss how to best do so with your physician. On the podcast, we talked about ways you can replace what would be time for a cigarette with something else, like leaving the cigarettes behind and going for a walk instead. Over time, it will become easier. When it comes to alcohol, we should consume it in moderation. Moderate drinking is classified as one drink per day for women and two for men, according to the Mayo Clinic. Keep in mind age, medical history, prescription interactions, and family history before consuming.

Consistent Sleep Schedules

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is critical for many reasons, like the routine release of the sleep hormone, melatonin. We discussed this topic last month on our seasonal depression episode; melatonin releases around the same time in the evening and helps us naturally drift to sleep. Consistency is the primary way to promote healthy sleep cycles, and regular sleep helps maintain normal appetite hormones, avoid insulin resistance, and promote overall mental clarity. The topic is discussed in greater length on the blog, and also offers additional guidance if you are fighting the winter blues.    

Personal and Social Relationships

Your personal and social relationships are critical for your mental health. Community and camaraderie enhance happiness, give us confidence, release stress, and can increase our energy levels. Take an active role in these relationships; allot time to spend with friends and family or find an organization that aligns with your interests or values. All in all, it affects you more than you know and should be a priority for a healthy 2020.

Read more from Laurel Derr, Lightbeam’s Marketing & Event Coordinator.

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