Your Health: Holiday Binging

When the holidays approach, the focus starts shifting to two things: gifts and food. And when it comes to food, well, let’s just say we won’t exactly be lacking. In addition to the feasts on the holidays themselves, we’re bombarded with treats leading up to them: pies and cookies and all sorts of sweet and succulent temptations. It’s far too easy to go overboard. How do we stay on track with our health goals?

I am of the mindset that you shouldn’t deprive yourself. If you truly want something, forcing yourself not to have it often has the opposite effect of the desired: you want it even more, and eventually go on a binge, resulting in more consumed calories than if you had simply had a small portion of the item you desired in the first place. That bein said, going crazy and eating everything that looks or sounds good is not the right course of action, either. You need to evaluate what you want most, and focus on portion control: a single cookie instead of a plateful, a small slice of pie or cake, a lone pastry. Satisfy the craving, and move on.

Despite the plethora of treats, meals around the holidays often also have assorted not-as-bad-for-you options. Thanksgiving’s main attraction is turkey, and if you stick with white meat, it’s very low in fat. You can also opt to load up your plate with vegetables (whole, not candied or casseroled!) and perhaps a small portion of a whole grain or complex carbohydrate to round out the meal. Avoid filling up with breads and sweetened sides, which are filled with empty calories.

Another method I’ve heard is to eat before you go to holiday events. Fill up with a salad or other healthy option before you go to that party or meal, and you won’t be as tempted to grab everything you see — you’ll already be pretty full, so you’ll only have a small portion of whatever looks best.

The most important thing is to keep your eye on the prize. Remember why you’re trying to lose that weight or get healthy. Is having another cookie worth faltering in that goal? Take action to remind yourself every time you go to reach for something. Keep a note or picture in your pocket, so you can pull it out periodically as a reminder. Or if there’s someone with you who knows about that goals, have that person be your conscience — and tape the back of your hand every time you try to grab something you shouldn’t. Stay focused on your ultimate goal, and you can more than survive — you’ll succeed!


Your Health: Monitoring Your Progress

Keeping track of how you’re advancing in your health goals can not only keep you motivated to keep going but can also ensure the actions you’re taking are having the desired effects.

General goals can be difficult to quantify, so if your goal is to “get healthier,” you may want to break that goal into specific steps and smaller goals. Some suggestions? Lose weight (with a specific target weight), eat better (with specific goals such as cutting out sweets or eating more vegetables), start and maintain a fitness routine, get blood pressure or cholesterol under control, etc.

If your goal is to lose weight, monitoring your progress is easy: just weight yourself. But if you’re working out while you’re losing weight, the simple number can be deceiving. As a result, you may want to calculate your body fat and measurements as well. That way you know if you’re losing fat weight even as you’re gaining muscle weight.

To monitor eating or workout habits, try keeping a journal. Keep track of what you eat, when you work out — and even what actions encourage what you eat or when you work out (i.e. eating junk food when stressed, working out when angry, etc.). Knowing what you do and why you do it can help guide you in your actions and help you modify your thinking and doing so you’re successful in your ultimate goal.

To monitor your progress when it comes to medical concerns, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and certain diseases and disorders, you will likely need to partner with your doctor. He or she can order tests and help you stay on track with medications, dietary restrictions, and other guidelines. Your doctor can also give you guidance in what your ultimate goal should be and how to not only reach it but keep yourself there.

Your Health: Coming Up With a Game Plan

It may seem a little late in the game for this post. After all, shouldn’t you have had a game plan before you even started? But when it comes to taking charge of your health — and determining ways to address your concerns — there is a lot of trial and error. It can be hard to determine in the beginning what will work for you. You may start with the best of intentions, and decide to stick with a strict diet and exercise routine, only to find that you’re constantly “cheating” and not sticking with it. What good does that do?

So by now you should have some idea as to your style: what will work for you and what won’t. It’s time to gather up all that knowledge and figure out where to go from here:

  • Are you working on getting a disease or disorder under control? Are there specific steps that must be taken?
  • Is there something your doctor has indicated you must do to get healthy? (i.e. cut out sweets to lower your chance of getting diabetes)
  • What are your ultimate goals? What steps must reasonably be taken to get there?
  • What kind of diet restrictions do you have? How healthy can you make your diet over the long-term?
  • What kind of fitness regimen works best for you? What will you be able to stick with over the long-term?

The key to this is longevity – both in game plan and in life! The reason so many diets fail is because they’re not sustainable. It’s not likely you’ll be able to give up all your favorite foods for the rest of your life. But finding a diet that works for your personality and lifestyle can help you make better choices and stay healthy in the long-term. And the same applies to most health choices: exercise, getting professional help, relieving stress, etc. Unless something is truly a matter of life and death, you have flexibility in determining what you’ll do to improve, and what lifestyle changes you’ll make.

So what works? Upon evaluating your trials and errors over the past several months (or years!), what have you found that works for you? Are there changes you can live with and stick with for the foreseeable future? Determine what these changes are and how you’ll incorporate them into your life.

Remember: nothing is set in stone. If you find something doesn’t work, or you want to try something different, you can make adjustments accordingly. Just keep in mind that if the ultimate goal here is to get healthy and live longer, you want to be able to tolerate the choices that you’ll be living with — because you’ll be living with them for a while!

Your Health: Diets

When you think about diets, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is losing weight. Atkins, South Beach, Slim Fast — specific diets designed to make you lose weight fast. But diets are about so much more than shedding pounds.

The food you consume plays a huge role in your life. It can affect not only your weight, but also your energy levels, your risks of getting certain diseases, and your overall well-being. Having a well-balanced diet can help you lower your weight, true, but it can also just plain make you feel good.

When you’re evaluating your diet, keep in mind that even something that’s nutritious won’t offer everything you need. You have to balance: proteins, carbs, fruits and vegetables. Start with meals that offer lean protein in the form of meat, eggs, tofu, or beans. Add whole grains. Finish off with a salad and/or other vegetables — the brighter and bolder the colors, the better. When it comes to snacks, look for treats that offer nutritional value. If possible, get snacks that offer protein, as well, to keep you feeling full longer. Some suggestions: apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter, veggies dipped in hummus, plain yogurt with fruit or granola mixed in.

A little planning ahead can revamp your diet and fill your body with wholesome meals and snacks. Try making as many of your own meals as possible. This will help you avoid preservatives and processing that may negate some of the nutritional qualities present in your food. Plan your menu in advance so you have all the necessary ingredients to put together a balanced meal. Prepare snacks ahead of time so you’re not scurrying to the vending machine when a craving strikes.

Be on the lookout for empty calories. Sweets, salty snacks, and processed foods are all high in not-so-good-for-you ingredients. They may fill you up, but they won’t give your body the nutrients it needs. And your body responds to sugar and artificial sweeteners like a drug — it craves more, leaving you feeling hungry, cranky, and reaching for more empty calories. And don’t forget what you drink. Sometimes that can play just as big a role as food. Reach for water whenever possible, forgoing sugary soft drinks.

Your Health: Get Moving

If you’re looking to lose weight or get in shape, your life changes have to consist of more than just eating well. You need to get moving! But there’s a reason so many people who sign up for a gym membership on January 1 forget they have it by February 1: going to the gym is not for everyone.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who is disciplined and motivated enough to go to the gym regularly, that’s great. Work with a personal trainer and design a regimen that’s geared toward your goals and workout style. Whether it’s bulking up or slimming down, your gym will have equipment to help you.

If you’re not so inclined, however, fear not. There are other ways to get your body moving that don’t require a gym membership. Here are some guidelines to help you get started:

  • If you like the equipment you find in a gym — but don’t have the motivation to drag yourself to the building itself — look into purchasing a piece or two of workout equipment, free weights, etc. to have in your home. Be sure to look for pieces geared toward your fitness goals.
  • If you walk into a gym and just aren’t sure what to do, look into workout classes or DVDs that offer a fitness regimen in line with your goals. The guidance and itinerary can help keep you on track with better results than floundering on your own.
  • If the idea of lifting weights or walking on a treadmill for hours at a time completely bores you, look into more engaging options. Try Zumba or dance workouts designed for video game systems. Trust me, you’ll still sweat!
  • If money is an issue, check out nature for some free ideas: walking, hiking, bike riding. You can also head to the local park for basketball, tennis, or swimming.
  • If you find it hard to stay motivated, try linking up with a workout buddy or a group of friends. That way, when you’re tempted to skip a session, you’ll have to disappoint others. The thought alone may keep you going. Along the same lines, you can also play sports with community organizations or with a group of friends — letting you socialize and get your exercise in at the same time.

Your Health: Alternative Medicine

Whether you have an aversion to doctors or just prefer a more natural method of treatment, there are a variety of alternative options for you. Depending on your ultimate goal, one or more of the following can help you succeed:

  • Massage Therapy: Known mainly for relieving stress, massage can also stimulate and soothe muscles and increase range of motion.
  • Hypnotherapy: By placing you in a hypnotic trance, the hypnotist taps into your subconscious to locate underlying concerns and help you move past grievances or addictions.
  • Acupuncture: Various spots on your body act as pressure points. Stimulating these spots can have a reaction on different parts of your body By inserting ultra-thin needles at precise places on your body, an acupuncturist can use these pressure points to heal, specifically in cases of pain or nausea.
  • Chiropractic: By applying pressure and “cracking” certain areas of the spine, the chiropractor will realign the spine. This can relieve pain and pressure along the spine and can relieve symptoms throughout the body.
  • Nutrition Response Testing: Using the same pressure points as acupuncture, the practitioner can locate weak points in your body. He or she does this by applying pressure on the pressure point and pushing on your raised arm to detect strength or weakness. In the case of weakness, supplements are placed on your body and the process is repeated to determine which supplements can help your concerns. As time passes, supplements may be added or subtracted, and dietary changes may be made to fine-tune issues and rid your body of toxins and weakness.

To learn more about these alternative medicines, or to find someone who practices them, search online or check out your local phone book. As alternative methods have gained popularity, you may also have luck by asking friends, family members, and coworkers for referrals or checking out local health and wellness fairs for local vendors.

In addition to the more physical techniques above, you may also want to look into other holistic approaches, such as essential oils and reiki. Ask others what has helped them, but be aware that there is rarely a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to health.

As with anything that alters or affects your body, each of these methods may have risks in addition to the perceived benefits. Be sure to get all of the information before partaking.

Your Health: Stress Relief

Few, if any, of us can say that we live stress-free. It’s part of life, and it does have a purpose. The results of stress can help us deal with moments of crisis and stir us to action. But too much stress can negatively impact our health, encouraging problems from heart issues to gastrointestinal concerns. So how do we take control of our health and cut back our stress levels? It can be easier said than done, however, here are some ideas that may help you.

The first step is to figure out what’s causing you the stress. If a particular situation, person, or item on your to-do list is creating your stress, identifying it and dealing with it can be the most effective solution. This means you’re taking care of the cause, not just the symptoms. If the cause cannot be taken care of, however, there are ways to deal with the symptoms that may bring you relief.

Massage is a popular choice, as is any method of pampering: manicures and pedicures, salon and spa treatments such as facials, relaxing in a hot tub. These can help loosen your muscles and get you to breathe easier, leaving your mind free to deal with the stressful situation.

Along the same lines is physical activity. Getting your body active can also let your mind clear. Take a walk, go for a hike, or ride a bike. Go to the gym. Play a sport with friends. Dance. Sing. Do yoga. The more muscles the activity uses, the better. Then, after you’ve exerted yourself, take a warm shower to soothe your muscles and let your body unwind.

You can also try simply taking deep breaths. Sit in a comfortable chair with your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Focus only on your breathing. Let your shoulders sag, your muscles relax. Roll your neck. The longer you’re able to focus on your breathing, the better. Let the stress melt off you.

Sometimes the best cure for stress is getting your mind off it. Participate in an activity that brings you joy. Do you have a hobby you enjoy? Are there friends you like to socialize with? Is there a food or activity that gets your mind off everything else? Go out to the movies (and pick an upbeat comedy rather than that dramatic downer). Read a book. Listen to music.

To really get your mind off your own problems, try helping others who are less fortunate. Doing volunteer work can make your situation seem a whole lot simpler. Check out VolunteerMatch for ideas and opportunities or call your local social services department to find out where you can help.

Last but not least, don’t forget taking action. I find that if I’m stressed about a situation, taking actions to improve that situation brings me the greatest relief. Then I feel like I’m actually doing something, instead of avoiding it. Even if the solution has not been found, and the cause is not completely dealt with, at least I know I’m getting there. And that can help relieve stress in the long-term, not just the present.

Your Health: Online Help

No matter what your health goals are, there are probably people out there who are going through the same thing. Whether it’s losing weight, starting an exercise program, eating better, or dealing with a particular disease or ailment, rest assured that you’re not alone. As a result, there will be websites to help you in your journey. In a previous post, I listed several sites to help you find a doctor, optometrist or dentist. If you don’t have a doctor yet, I urge you to start with that, before tackling any specific goals or self-diagnosing.

For overall medical information, my favorite site is WebMD. I can search by symptoms, or get general information, home treatments, and tips on when to call my doctor. While it’s not a replacement for actually seeing a doctor, it can be a helpful tool when you have a quick question or want to find out what that symptom might mean. The Mayo Clinic also has helpful information and research tools that can help you. When I was pregnant and had a newborn, I also found The Bump to be a helpful site. Not only do they have articles in which they answer questions, but there are also a variety of forums on the site to help anyone who is trying to conceive, who is pregnant, or who has a child. These sites, however, are certainly not the only ones out there.

Specific Diseases
If you’re looking for information on a particular disease or ailment, your best bet would likely be to do an internet search. There are simply too many categories for me to list on here! Just visit your favorite search engine, and type in the disease or ailment you’re looking for information on. If you’re trying to find a support group or forum, search for “forum: disease or ailment,” filling in “disease or ailment” with the actual disease or ailment you’re looking for information on, of course!

Losing Weight, Getting Healthy
When it comes to losing weight, starting a fitness regime, or eating healthier, the material out there tends to overlap. Therefore the sites below cover multiple categories, despite the names. And some sites will also offer forums, making them a valuable resource to discuss your goals and progress with others. Keep in mind that these are just a tiny sampling of the helpful sites that are out there.

Also keep in mind that some weight loss programs, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, also offer online components to their programs, which can be valuable tools as well if you find yourself needing extra help in your goals.

Beyond the Internet
Websites are not the only tools out there to help you succeed in your goals. If you have a smart phone or tablet, search for health apps. From calorie counters to pedometers to personal trainers, there’s an app for it. You can find yoga positions, healthy recipes, relaxing sounds, and more. There are even apps to help you quit smoking, train for a marathon, or learn emergency first aid. These apps can offer valuable information or an added boost to keep you motivated. Just be sure to check out review to find the best ones!

Your Health: Getting a Tune-Up

With the overall busy-ness of life, it’s easy to let your health take a backseat. Women, especially, are notorious for putting everything and everyone ahead of themselves. So until something happens, visiting the doctor is bottom on the priority list. If you’ve decided to take charge of your health, it’s likely you want to change at least some part of this.
Taking charge of your health, though, is more than just tackling the weight issue or the quitting smoking issue — or any of the more specific, demanding goals you’ve established. Taking charge of your health should be about making sure you’re running your best, keeping yourself in shape and healthy. Still need convincing? Here are some reasons why making your health a priority can be a good thing:
  • You’ll feel better
  • You’ll look better
  • You’ll catch problems earlier — which means better chance of recovery
  • Lower overall medical bills, because you’ll have less issues less often
If you’re convinced that taking overall care of yourself is the best course of action, there’s no time like the present to start. Schedule a physical with your primary care physician (PCP) to get checked out. Women, also schedule an exam with your gynecologist. Don’t have a PCP or gynecologist? Try the sites below to find one:
While you’re at it, you may want to schedule a check-up with your dentist and optometrist, too. Get everything checked out so you know what you’re working with. To find a dentist or optometrist, try the sites below:
Once you’ve made your appointments, take a few minutes to think about anything you might want to discuss with the doctors. Are there any concerns you have? Questions you have? Have you noticed anything “off” about your body lately? Any symptoms you can’t quite explain? Write down anything you want to know more about or want the doctor to check out.
Now here’s the key: take that list and actually talk to the doctor. It can be easy to get shy or nervous when talking about personal, private things like your body. But the doctor can’t help unless he or she knows what’s wrong. And that doctor won’t know how you feel. Try not to be nervous — there’s likely nothing you can say or feel that the doctor hasn’t experienced before. Think how much better you’ll feel just getting reassurance or taking measures to get better!
Once the appointment is over, though, you’re not done. It’s one thing to go to the doctor and get checked out. It’s quite another to follow through and actually carry out the recommendations the doctor has made. To get yourself in tip-top shape and keep yourself there, you need to take into consideration what the doctor has recommended.
Take notes if necessary. What is the doctor recommending you do? Are there vitamins or medications he or she is recommending? An exercise regimen to start or continue? Special diet to follow? Are there tests he or she is sending you for? Anything you need to monitor? If you don’t agree with something or have concerns about it, get a second opinion.
Once you have a course of action, stick with it. There will be times that it’s not easy, especially if the changes are drastic. And you won’t feel spic-and-span brand new right away. Things take time. Just take things one step at a time and keep your eye on the ultimate goal of being healthy. And think about how great you’ll feel when you get there!

Take Charge of Your Health

When it comes to your health, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t. I’m sure if we could all live a healthy, pain-free life, we would. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything possible to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

Overall Maintenance
Regular physicals are a great idea. Not only will they let you know how you’re doing — and catch potential problems early — they’ll also give you an opportunity to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have had. You can ask questions, get checked out, and see what you need to do to get yourself in good shape.

If you’re not a fan of traditional medical establishments, there are alternative medical practices that can help you as well: chiropractic, acupuncture, Nutrition Response Testing and others. You’re kind of like a car — if you maintain yourself, you’ll last longer. Don’t take care of yourself, and you’re bound to encounter problems.

Getting Better
If you have medical concerns, discuss with your medical practitioner how to help yourself. Are there vitamins or medications you should be taking? Is there a diet or fitness regimen you should be following? Knowing what you should do to put yourself in the best position possible can help put you in control and make you feel like you can change your life. Even if you can’t control everything, controlling the controllables can put you in a better position overall.

Most of us have probably been on some kind of diet at some point in our lives. Whether it was to lose weight, get healthy, or follow a medical recommendation, these diets have likely altered our ways of eating. Did they work? What was effective and what wasn’t? Why or why not?

A well-balanced diet filled with nutrients is, obviously the best choice. Your dietary needs and limitations can adjust the specifics of what you can and cannot eat, however, and to determine the best diet for you I encourage you to discuss with your medical practitioners. If you have no specific limitations, look to fill your diet with a variety of proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Limit sugar and fat intake. You know — the basics that you’ve probably been hearing about since elementary school. Your personality may make this easy or difficult, but keep in mind that you control what you eat, and you can take charge of this part of your life, just as you can with the others.

Keeping Fit
Most doctors will tell you that physical activity is good for you. Get moving and you can reap the benefits of higher metabolism, great muscle tone, lower body fat and others. You can strengthen your heart and keep everything working more smoothly.

I admit, I could do better in this area. And I hope to do so in the coming year. I’m sure having a little one to run around after will keep me in better shape! But baby aside, I need to walk more, move more, instead of so much sitting. To do that, I will be coming up with a game plan to get myself in shape. Exercise, partnered with a better diet, should help me make that a reality. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

In the meantime, think about what you can do to get yourself moving. Even if you have a tight schedule, chances are you can fit in a daily walk or jog, a quick yoga session, or even a dance around the living room, rocking out to the latest hits.