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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Patella

The Backbone of Health

Updated: Mar 30

People often think this is complicated – it isn’t really.  Frequently we seek serious complex solutions thinking our chances for success increase.  But with our health the solutions are easy and simple.  We just refuse to make simple changes for our benefit and then it becomes a problem. I am hoping to impress on you the importance of this very basic information to show how easy it really can be to have great health!  It is medically documented that a sedentary lifestyle increases our risks for many diseases as well as speeding up the aging process. Every day new info surfaces and is at our fingertips.  Most of us are educated consumers.  We look up information on all kinds of things.  Ever bought something then saw an article on why it was not a good choice?  After that you probably look up information before every big purchase - right? Let's make it really simple and avoid all the noise of conflicting information:

What is the “backbone of health”?

  1. A healthy body

Take what you have and keep it healthy.  Your body is made to move.  So why keep it locked up on a couch, desk or chair all day?  Whether a brisk early morning walk, an evening stroll, swimming or other activities - move.  Moving lubricates your joints, burns excess calories, increases vital blood flow, releases stress and helps to keep everything in working order.  After moving don’t you always feel better?  Pheromones, a sense of accomplishment, a release of stress and the reality that you did something good for yourself. So with such positive feedback why are we resistant?  Sometimes we resist what is good for us.  We rationalize it by procrastinating – “I’ll start tomorrow…”.  I will tell you right now if you don’t start moving you will regret it later.  Ever heard the term “if you don’t use it you will lose it”?  It is true.  Lack of movement decreases your ability to do so.  You lose range of motion, your joints become tight, you gain weight and lose muscle.  I am not talking about hours of exercise a day.  Top research reveals we need about 20 minutes a day of some form of consistent movement: walking, yoga, fitness class, hiking, swimming – the choices are endless but the fact remains – about 20 minutes a day – is vital to your health. Easy solutions:

  1. park far from the store – the walk will do you good

  2. take the stairs up 3- 4 floors-easier on the knees to go up rather than down

  3. do a bike ride around the neighborhood

  4. put some music on and dance-with or without a partner

  5. go for a swim-do 5 laps, any style, twice

2. Healthy food This is where I get the most resistance.  People sometimes feel I am trying to get in between them and their favorite foods or drinks.  But really all I ask is to moderate treats.  After all if we eat them regularly they are no longer a treat – right?  There is not a single chronic disease that is not powerfully affected by diet.  Even the word “diet” represents a negative to most people when all it means is the kinds of foods a person or animal regularly eats.

The way to eat healthy for life is to emphasize plants and healthy proteins.  But wait there are lots of questions like How much to eat daily? How do I do that if I am vegan? What about all the fad diets being promoted as the BEST way to eat healthy?  Think like this: real food for real people. Freeze dried, modified, treated with chemicals for long shelf life – those do not add up to “real food”. Portion control is another factor: 3 ounces protein and twice for veggies – eat 4-5 small healthy meals a day. If you take time to read the label the first 5 ingredients are what it is mostly made up of.  What about if I am really busy?  Or I don’t cook?  My answer to that is find a solution that is healthy.  It may take some time initially, but you are making an investment in your health.  Honestly it doesn’t take much time to grill or broil a healthy protein and steam some vegies with garlic and onion or any other combination of spices.  Perhaps 30 minutes including prep time? But then I understand many are intimidated by the kitchen.  I was for quite some time until I gave it a try and found I enjoy it. Easy solutions:

  1. Follow the Mediterranean diet

  2. Follow the paleo diet

  3. Meal prep-cook up enough for 3-4 meals at once – maybe on a Sunday afternoon and pack it up in the freezer including some for lunches

  4. Make eating out a treat – not the norm. Restaurant food, no matter how healthy it is marketed, has extra, salt, sugar and fat to make it more tasty.

  5. Don’t skip a meal – you will end up starving and out of control grabbing the first thing that is easy for you

3. Sleep

Sleep has become a trillion-dollar commodity.  It often escapes us even when we are tired.  We start thinking and the mind takes off.  We start looking at our phones and realize hours have passed.  There is something bothering us and we start focusing in on it.  Honestly can we really solve these problems at midnight or 3:00am?

There are numerous tools provided for us to sleep: drugs, meditation, CBD oils, relaxation techniques and many other devices marketed as the key to a good night's sleep.  The reality is sleep is essential for survival.  It is the time when our body and brain recover and repair itself.  Without it we can’t function well.  During sleep your brain sends waste and toxins out of the cells and brings in nutrients that replenish the cells.  Sleep affects your memory, mood, energy, the ability to be alert and fully engaged.  Also blood sugar, blood pressure and strong bones. Sometimes we set ourselves up for NOT sleeping by doing those things I mentioned earlier. Easy solutions:

  1. Turn off all electronic devices like phone, TV, IPAD, computer, and instead turn your phone to sleep mode so your sleep is not disturbed by the light and sound of every email coming in. Or how about those loud commercials designed to wake you up in the middle of the night so you are stuck watching TV half the night.

  2. Prepare for bed-take a relaxing hot bath; enjoy a cup of chamomile tea; pray or meditate to relax your mind and emotions; put your work and problems aside for the next day

  3. Make the room dark and cool. It will signal your brain to turn off and your body to rest

  4. Balance blood sugar by eating a light protein instead of candy or ice cream. Something like a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg – definitely not something spicy that will church up your stomach and wake you up. Drinking alcohol will put you to sleep but it will also wake you up in about 3 hours.

  5. If you need to get up to use the bathroom, try not to turn on the lights and slip back into bed without starting to think of things you can do nothing about in the middle of the night.

  6. Use breathing techniques to get to sleep and get back into sleep-breath in through the nose for 4-6 counts and out through the mouth 4-6 counts. Before you know it you will be resting peacefully.

4. Happiness That is a broad word and means different things to different people.  Perhaps a better phrase may be peace of mind and contentment with ourselves and our lives.  Those are also works in process throughout our lives. At 17 happiness may be our social life and handling our responsibilities so our parents allow us that social life.  At 25 it may be the beginning of our career or completing our education or still could be that social life.  But at 40 most of us are engrossed in our career and or family.  At 60+ we are looking at retirement, doing things we always wanted to do and seeking out like-minded people to share those things with. If you are alone and not pursuing some form of social life and “bucket list” you may feel lonely, unimportant and the beginnings of depression.  There are also those who say “yes” to everything and are not honoring their own desires.  There is a balance and we each deserve to be happy.  Our souls crave it! Easy solutions:

  1. Make a list of 3 things that are important to you and why-then review the list to see if you are making time for each of those things. If not look to see how you can make changes to fulfill your desires.

  2. If you worked most of your life and didn’t make time for people then now is the time. Find a community center or an activity that others will be doing and engage.  You will meet like-minded people and make friends.

  3. If travel is one of your goals but have no one to travel with then join a tour group. You will meet others and share the tour and experience with your new friends.

  4. If you live alone and are lonely get a pet. The pet will require care and love as well as return the love and provide opportunities to meet others at the dog park or pet market.

  5. Get involved in your church, synagogue, museum events, community center, or volunteer at a non-profit. The world needs you! The backbone of health is a simple way to live a quality life not spent going to doctor appointments, taking meds, feeling left out and being unhappy.  These are easy solutions to a rich and rewarding life!

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