“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it a thousand times.” — Mark Twain
This observation by the great American writer and humorist easily could have been said about diet and weight loss. Many have tried it a thousand times, and we usually start Jan. 1 of every year. Health clubs are packed, new members sign up and weight loss programs and classes start booking up. Goals are set, and we promise to make this year the one in which we truly make changes for the better.
So how’s it going? I have already started to see the gym less crowded from the first few weeks. I always heard that Super Bowl weekend is when people blow it out of the water with their diet and by Valentine’s Day it is back to the same old, same old. So what can we do differently this year as opposed to the previous ones?
Here’s some advice for improving our health and longevity:
Drink more water and less sugary drinks
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day and preferably closer to 2 liters or half a gallon. Here's another way to stay on target: Drink half your body weight in ounces. I find when I don’t drink enough water, I experience fatigue during the day. We have to make a dedicated effort to drink enough water. I do like carbonated water, but to be safe make sure you are drinking good, plain, ole H2O.
Consume more veggies, fruit and complex carbohydrates
Just like water, we need to really focus and make an effort to consume a wide variety of vegetables that are tolerable to our bodies (spinach, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, peppers, onions, cabbage, cucumber, asparagus, carrots, leeks, green beans), legumes such as black beans, chickpeas and lentils, and tubers and roots such as potatoes and yams. Berries are a better fruit option if blood sugar spikes are a concern.
Include omega 3 and plant-based proteins
Solid choices for plant-based proteins are lentils, beans, peas and soy for protein. For omega 3, turn to salmon, halibut, sardines, cod, mackerel, oysters, clams, anchovies, grass-fed meat, omega-3 eggs or free range, wild game and poultry.
Avoid trans fats and eat good fats
Consume good fats in the form of olive and coconut oils, nuts, omega-3 enriched oily fish, avocados and butter from grass-fed animals. Studies show that people who consume olive oil and nuts on a daily basis live longer. Avoid refined omega-6 seed oils found in corn, safflower and sunflower. In the typical American diet, we consume 20 to 30 times more omega-6 fats than omega 3. This contributes to inflammation in our bodies that drives all disease states.
Don’t bring home the trigger junk food
It’s simple: If you can’t find it, you can’t eat it, so don’t make it available at your weakest moments such as late at night when you are craving a snack ... or two ... or three.
Exercise in some form at least 2.5 hours a week
Walk, bike, swim, stair climb, etc. Running is fine if your joints can handle it. In addition, some type of full-body strengthening and mobility exercises are needed to maintain muscular and bone health. As we age we lose muscle strength and bone mass. If we are not actively doing some form of cardiovascular and strength training, we will be more fragile and susceptible to injuries and incapacitation. In fact, strength in our legs (think of squatting motion like getting in and out of a chair, car or bed) is a key factor in how long we live.
Eat within a 12-hour window
Confine all eating to a 12-hour time period or less; for example, start after 7 a.m. and end before 7 p.m. Don’t eat anything within three to four hours of bedtime. Instead of eating six times per day as was suggested for the past 20 years, try eating only two or three times depending on your BMI or if you are trying to lose weight. I will focus more on intermittent fasting in my next post.
Changing your diet and lifestyle will take some work, but it will be easier than you imagine. Need motivation? Think of all the money you will save on doctors, medication and short-term diet programs that for the most part are unsustainable. In the long run your health, wellness and longevity are well worth the effort.