The physical dimension of life balance is one often overlooked by Americans. We spend billions of dollars every year in healthcare, yet we are one of the unhealthiest countries. The Army Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho began a campaign when she entered her position to try to stem the tide of deteriorating health among military members’ long-term healthcare needs by focusing on three simple areas that produce long-lasting results in this physical dimension, nutrition, sleep, and activity.
Nutrition – Eating Right
Americans top the list in terms of eating the wrong things at the wrong time. We know what’s right, but just fail to follow the rules. Because of our affluence in the world, we have a tendency to eat tremendous amounts of sugars and fats, grains and processed foods. More than any other country we over indulge and eat more. We want our money’s worth! So we go for the buffet lines. Consequently, our adults are morbidly obese, our kids are obese, and we have the highest diabetes rate in the world. Is it genetics? If it was, it would be type I not type II. Face it, we’re fat because we eat too much of the wrong stuff.
The answer to our physical dilemma? Eat right. Look up a heart healthy or diabetic diet and follow it. Period. Start early. Put your kids on it…now! Teach them that fruit and vegetables are better than chocolate cake…by example! Take the soft drinks out of the house, make them an exception to the rule instead of the drink of choice. There are a lot of fad diets out there that won’t work. Sure they will take off pounds, but the pounds will come back as soon as the diet ends.
The secret to weight loss and healthy living is lifestyle change. That’s where the heart healthy or diabetic diets (they are almost the same) come in. You can change to these diets for a life time and make them your lifestyle eating habits. If you value your physical condition, change your eating habits. it will make a world of different in how you feel day to day.
Sleep – the body’s time to heal
Before electricity, we went to sleep when the sun went down and woke up when the sun came up. We took naps when we got tired and our bodies told us what to do and we did it. Somehow in the last century we decided it wasn’t good to listen to our bodies and most Americans figured out we don’t need as much sleep. We stay up all hours of the night, force ourselves awake with a blaring alarm clock, drag through the day, fall asleep on the coach watching TV, but stay up to watch that movie we just can’t miss and end up going to bed at 1:00. Then start the process again the next day.
Take a few months and figure out what your optimum sleep time really is. Go to bed at the same time every night. No TV, no radio, no distractions. Just a dark room. Set your alarm if you have to, but get up when you wake up and see how long you’ve slept and how you feel during the day. Start at 10:00 for one week, move an hour either way. Tired may mean either too much sleep or too little sleep. Most adults need 7 – 9 hours sleep. Most teenagers need 9 – 12 hours sleep. Most children need 10 – 12 hours sleep. It depends on the person’s metabolism, but figure out what’s right for you. It’s during your sleep that the body heals itself. To improve your physical condition, figure out how much sleep is right for you, not too much, not too little.
When you find the magic number, you’ll find you seldom need an alarm clock. Go to bed at the same time every night. Make yourself a routine. Plan to go to bed at or near the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning. Even on those day that you could sleep in – don’t! If you find you have to stay up for a special event on some nights, that’s okay, get up at the usual time the next day, but schedule a power nap during the day to let your body catch up on sleep. Don’t break the wake up times. You’re body will thank you for it in the long run.
It really is okay to schedule power naps. A ten minute power nap can do wonders for you in the middle of the day. More than twenty minutes, though, will give you a groggy feeling that is hard to get over, so don’t plan longer than a fifteen minute rest. There are relaxation techniques that can help you get into a restful state quickly to take full advantage of those ten minutes if you have trouble clearing your mind or relaxing. The last ten minutes of a lunch break or that dreaded 2 o’clock wall is a great time to plan a short power pick me up nap.
Activity – moving doesn’t mean becoming a jock
Americans somehow equate the mandate to get active with going to the gym five days a week working out with weights and running a hundred miles a week. Because we see all the gym advertisements and the specimens of physical perfection encouraging us to work out, we slugs assume they must not be talking to us, right? And so we sit on our couch and stuff ourselves with potato chips as we think about what a slug we’ve become.
The third stool of staying healthy doesn’t mean becoming a jock. It means moving every day. So what is that exactly. It means quit circling the parking lot trying to find the closest space. Instead, just park and walk. After all, you’re going to walk every aisle in the store anyway, right? Just add some more steps in the parking lot. It means walk up one flight of stairs and down two flights instead of taking the elevator. It means if you’re at an open air mall, don’t move the car if you’re going to another store, just walk. It means walk around the block. It means if you own a business, reserve your parking place at the back of the parking lot instead of at the door (that’s good customer relations anyway!).
Just move. Make it a point to add some physical activity to your life. Get up off the couch and do some physical things that raise your heart rate a little. Do some things that move your muscles and joints every day. Do so physical things that will let your body recognize that you are not hibernating.
How do you manage these three components of your life?
What are your tricks for eating right? sleeping right? moving more?
How do you avoid the temptations to fall back into bad lifestyle patterns?