"...what a person accomplishes in life is directly correlated with the people around them." - John Berardi

Saturday, December 3, 2016

10 Simple Steps to a Whole Food Lifestyle (Part 10)

Here we are, wrapping things up! Have you started cooking up some bone broth or did you sneak any liver into your meatballs for dinner? I just started a big jar of sauerkraut that only took a few minutes to make (with a few weeks to ferment) that will support our gut health for many weeks! I really can't emphasize enough, the importance of incorporating these densely nutritious foods into our diet on a regular basis (refer to Step 9). As you do, I know you'll notice the health benefits they provide too.

Okay... for the final step, we are going to address a few things that will make sure you are getting the most out of your efforts to eat many whole foods every day. Any idea what I mean? Let's dig in!

I am living proof, that even if you're eating fantastic whole foods, sometimes things still won't feel quite right or seem "off." For example, the amount of hair loss I was experiencing LONG after my 2nd child was born, not just the typical few months after giving birth. Feeling "off" is often because we are not paying enough attention to our sleep amount/quality, movement, sunshine intake, needed time for injury recovery, stress levels, etc. Let's look closer at these other areas of life that may need a little bit more of your attention to really feel great!

Sleep Quality and Quantity

I am a little bit anxious for more of our society to really take sleep seriously. I find it interesting how we joke and almost brag about the little amount of sleep we get. Like that's a good thing? I don't get it. And maybe it is because I have always LOVED sleep. But the truth is, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. And kids need even more. Naps aren't just a routine thing, getting enough sleep will keep children (and adults) much healthier.  I really do believe this is true. I am a huge advocate of sleep! 

As we get older, there are some pretty obvious signs when our hormones are not "firing" at the correct times, which is often initiated from not sleeping enough. For example, going to sleep late and not getting enough of it, will often make falling asleep harder later. This is because Melatonin isn't high enough in the evening to help make us feel tired to fall asleep and then Cortisol is kicking in too late in the morning (which is supposed to help us wake up & get going), which leaves us feeling tired and dragging all day. Insomnia, anyone? 

Many of us overeat when we are tired too. This is usually due to the correlation between Leptin and sleep. Less sleep usually means lower Leptin levels. In case you didn't know, Leptin is one of the hormone that tells your brain that you are "full" and satiated. When there isn't enough Leptin, we might overeat. Don't blame Leptin, it is there to keep you from starving... 🙂  

Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of pretty vicious cycles, and quickly. When you have time, read up on the other hormones affected by sleep deprivation. There are many. In the meantime, check out this post I did on ways to improve the quality of your sleep. This is something that is worth making a daily priority!

Stressed Much?

Remember how I mentioned having some really late postpartum hair loss? Yes, stress was the key driver. I had put my adrenals through a lot and they definitely needed some extra support that I was not providing. The way my body was communicating that need to me, was through hair loss. Our bodies are trying to tell us things all the time, we just may not realize it (headaches, acne, stomach aches & bloating, skin flare ups, achy joints, inflammation, etc.). 

Thankfully, there are a lot of techniques (and supplements) to help manage stress:
  • I have become a pretty huge fan of a nice hot bath with a couple cups of epsom salt in it with a drop or two of lavender essential oil. A good 15-30 minutes of soaking always leaves me feeling better.
  • Journaling can be an effective stress management technique. There is something about writing things out that can bring them into perspective and aids the brains in coming up with strategies to handle them. 
  • Meditation can also be great tool for working through stress. Sometimes just a few deep, intentional breaths can help diffuse a situation. I really do believe in the power of the mind and that we believe the things we are "telling" ourselves often. Meditation can help us realize the things we are repeatedly telling ourselves that we may not have realized otherwise. 
  • Exercise can be a good method to relieve stress for some people but it can also be an additional stressor for your body (depending on what you are doing). So I just want you to be aware of that possibility during stressful times. Sometimes a little R&R (rest and recovery) will do more for you than exercise, especially if you have had a physical injury. 
  • I have found some gentle yoga practice to be happy medium option for managing stress while still getting in some stretching, movement, and toning. It is also great to help clear the mind and become more connected with how the body is doing. 

"Exercise" is an interesting thing to talk about. I am definitely of the opinion that more is not more in this avenue. I don't even really like the word "exercise" because it has such a negative connotation to it for so many people. I much prefer to talk about daily movement. As the days pass, I am more and more convinced that it is absolutely critical to make time for movement that you LOVE DOING. Because you will Keep. Doing. It. I don't care if you finish P90x if you then go back to not exercising for the next year, or two... or ten. Intense programs may be helpful to reach a short-term goal, but are often not a sustainable life-long movement strategy. 

Consider a few things here... Are you successful at getting movement in on a regular basis by yourself? Do you have more success with an "accountability buddy?" My current accountability buddy is the child care at my city Recreation Center. I schedule the days I want to get in some movement and then I make it there because I will be charged if I don't show up to drop off the kids. Not losing my money is a pretty effective strategy for me! 

What do you love to do? Hike? Ski? Play soccer? Swim? My favorite movement is still volleyball. So I play in a competitive league every week, whenever it is available. One of my other favorites is road biking. This is something that my husband and I enjoy doing together, so we made the investment to get all the gear and attachments to bring our kids along as well. I feel like that money is well-spent since we get movement in, enjoy time outside, and are experiencing it as a family. Win-win-win! 

Don't know what you like? Try something new. I recently learned how to play Pickleball and now I am kind of hooked! It is a lot like tennis (which I also love to play) but is easier on your body. The ball is more like a wiffle ball, so it moves slower than a tennis ball. I am lucky that there is already a pretty great Pickleball community at my Recreation Center. We have an 82 year old that comes every week! That is someone who has found movement they love for their lifestyle! So cool! 

No matter what movement you choose to do each week, find someone to enjoy it with as often as possible. Also keep in mind that a good walk outside will always serve you well, is easy on your joints, and can be done on days when your energy levels are low or the weather isn't perfect. 

Daily Dose of Sunshine

I have written about this before, but Vitamin D actually has the potential of reducing the risk of type 1 & 2 diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases. Need I say more? Aim for 15 minutes a day as a minimum. Work up to that and beyond if your skin type requires it. Your immune system will thank you!

I live in the Mountain West, so I know how hard it can be to get 15 minutes of sunshine in the winter months. It is possible on some winter days but impossible on others. With that in mind, consider supplementing in the winter time with a good Vitamin D supplement but try to get outside and absorb 15 minutes of sunshine when you can (even if it is just your face on a cold, winter day). It will boost your immune system and winter blues. That, I can promise! 

Spiritual and Emotional Needs

Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack of), as a human being, we all crave and need connection with other humans. Make sure you are part of a positive community. We need purpose to add meaning to our lives. We also need quiet time, to rest our busy brains and to take time to notice the beautiful world we live in. 

For the health of your mind, which will enhance the health of the rest of your body, I would encourage you to make time for reflection and meditation on a daily basis. It doesn't have to take a long time. Even just 5 minutes a day will provide significant benefits. If you have kids, practice this healthy mind habit with them! We all need different things at different stages of our lives. Let meditation help you figure those things out through each stage. 

Make Time to Play! 

I am sorry, but growing older is sometimes really lame. We acquire way more responsibilities, become tired, overbook our schedules, and too many of us forget to make time to play! Addressing the need to play is critical for me to keep tabs on emotional eating. When I make time to play, I am much more fulfilled as a person, partially because I am less "bored" and have fun things to look forward to. 

The great thing about playing, is that it can be extravagant or it can be extremely simple and you will still reap the benefits. Whether you plan a big trip or simply wrestle with your toddler, taking time to play will help you appreciate the season of life you are in right now, regardless of the difficult parts of it. If you can find activities that fulfill the need for movement, play, and sunshine, in the same activity, even better!

You made it! 

Woot! I really am so proud of you. I would urge you to reference these steps as you are going at your pace toward a whole food lifestyle. There are a lot of tips, tricks, recipes and ideas to help support you in this journey. Not everything will resonate with or work for you. No worries, but keep trying out different ideas. A journal can be really helpful in figuring out how different foods make you feel or how your mood varies when you spend some time outside, how your mind changes when you play... etc. 

If you feel like you need extra support in this journey or are having ongoing symptoms, finding a good Naturopathic Doctor or nutritional Therapy Practitioner near you can be priceless. I have utilized a Naturopathic Doctor a few times and found it very helpful! 

Finally, can I ask one favor of you? Please share these steps with someone you think could benefit from them! Let's change the health of our culture one person at a time. Starting with ourselves. I wish you well in this journey of health and thriving! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help as you are chugging along!