Five Ways to Live Healthier
- Consider fruits and vegetables to be "free foods." You have to be responsible for anything you put on them -- salt, sugar, dressing -- but you can eat as much of the underlying fruit or veggie as you want without counting calories or feeling guilt. Most are pretty low in calories anyway, especially compared to the nutrition they provide. I suppose it is theoretically possible to eat enough avocados to gain weight, but I honestly don't think anyone can sustain that level of consumption for very long. Too often, we hear advice such as that I once heard repeated that one should decrease one's consumption of yellow and orange vegetables because they lead to weight gain. Even if I thought that was true, I'm going on the record to say that I don't think that excess consumption of carrots and squash are part of this country's obesity problem.
- Avoid food with HFCS or preservatives; meat from animals who received growth hormones, prophylactic antibiotics, or an inappropriate diet (such as all corn for cattle, which are ruminants and eat grass); and plant foods that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides. Avoid food from GMOs, and try to cut your exposure to BPA in your food containers and other places in your environment. Some of these will ultimately be proven to be absolutely safe. Some of these will be thought safe until that is disproven some years in the future. Some we are pretty darn sure right now are unsafe. But all of these things raise caution flags, and cleaning up your diet in this way can't hurt. Far better to eat three cookies made at home from unbleached flour, turbinado sugar, organic butter, and free range eggs than to have three cookies filled with HFCS and a bunch of stabilizers and preservatives.
- Pick a hobby that requires you to move your body, and practice that hobby for its own sake, not for the exercise. We dance, swim, and garden, but I am perfectly happy to recommend golf, shuffleboard, or darts-throwing if that is where your heart lies. Just get up out of your chair and start doing something you want to get better at, and along the way you will move around a little or a lot. If you need to, treat yourself to the gear that goes with your hobby, like the proper equipment or a magazine dedicated to the subject. Just watch out for your attitude. If you find yourself saying "I've got to X tonight" about your hobby, you are not doing it for enjoyment, and you will quit. Pick another hobby.
- Build in some movement during the day, especially after meals. This doesn't have to be a big thing, either. Go out and walk around the yard after dinner, or walk to a sunny spot to eat your lunch rather than driving to a restaurant. Bike to a local errand, or swim a couple of laps in the pool when you take your family on the weekend. I'm a big fan of the "non-smoking break," where you take 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon to get up from your desk and walk around outside, just as you would if you were taking a smoke break, but without the tobacco. Make that an expectation at your place of business if you can.
- Find a way to get in touch with your soul. We practice yoga once a week at least, but you may like to build in some meditation or a religious service if you are so inclined. Whatever helps you deal with stress and get back in tune with the moment is a great thing and can only help you live a healthier life.