Monthly Archives: April 2014

Healthy Together Series: Cycle 3B. Physical Activity – It only takes a little.

toa-heftiba-fmQh9ouUofY-unsplashToday’s physical activity note:

Increasing your overall activity level adds up.

  • Stand instead of sitting if you can.
  • Tap your foot if you are sitting.
  • Use a stability ball in place of a desk chair.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Plan to walk or bike places instead of driving.

The more you move, the better.

  • Walking and getting up and down from a chair or seated position is very good for you. Stand up when you take a phone call or if you are on a conference call.
  • Go up and down steps or stairs- it is working against gravity and aging. Walk upstairs to use the bathroom on a different floor.
  • Dancing or swinging your hips is good for everyone. Solo or with a partner or in a class, great music makes it way more fun.
  • When you raise your arms overhead, it’s hard to feel bad or to cry. Smile at yourself when you reach up.
  • Stretch your arms  up and out if you’ve been staring at a computer screen or smartphone. You can feel your body open up.

Find ways to just increase your overall daily energy expenditure. Moving is what keeps your body and mind young and able to adapt to changes around you.

 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 3A. Nutrition — When you’re hungry…

josh-bean-i817tD8-Ly4-unsplashNutrition notes today:

How to stay in control and eat for nutrition and health and achieve a healthier weight.

Do you frequently have times when you make poor food choices because you were too busy or tired to prepare ahead or cook? It’s all about having a plan and easily available options for when you get hungry. Make a list and make it a habit to keep a few options on hand ALWAYS.

First, recognize that sometimes, it’s not hunger but boredom or loneliness or feeling bad in some way and needing to fill a void. A walk, connecting with nature, listening to music, meditating or journalling for 5-10 minutes may resolve the “hunger.”

If you are still hungry, drink water first. Add lemon or lime or cucumber slices and even mint leaves if you like. Thirst can present as hunger.

If still hungry, eat protein. If the thought of eating protein doesn’t sound appealing, reassess if you are hungry. Boiled eggs or some meat, chicken, turkey, canned fish, precooked shrimp can be easy to keep available. Make some extra chicken tonight and store it in the fridge in strips that can be eaten tomorrow as a snack dipped in dressing, on a salad, in soup or in a Romaine lettuce wrap (like a taco). Nuts and nut butters are also easy to have on hand.

If you eat some protein and are still hungry, eat non-starchy veggies- like celery, leafy greens, cucumbers, peppers, jicama, radishes, cauliflower, zucchini, etc. Crunchy seems to be more satisfying sometimes!

If you are needing something creamy, Greek yogurt, smoothie, hummus, or a nut butter works.

Want something cheesy? Have a cheese stick or small individually wrapped cheese or real cheese dip for your crunchy veggies.

Craving chocolate? Dark chocolate covered almonds dusted with cocoa works wonders. This is also good when you want something sweet and/or crunchy.

If you HAVE to have fruit, a handful of berries are good.

Remember, most of us are chronically dehydrated- so drink water. When you eat, you are supposed to be nourishing your body with essential nutrients that are found in proteins and veggies. So if you are hungry, provide your body with those essential nutrients.

Make your list of “Go To” foods and have a couple of them available regularly. Then, when you are urgently needing some nutrients, you will be able to fill that need without resorting to the foods that don’t nourish you and that you will regret later.

 

Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 2D. Putting it all together — What it looks like now…

Today’s post is an example of putting it all together.

No matter the time of year, we should nourish our bodies. This 2nd cycle included much of the basics of nourishing ourselves. After a brutal winter, I am definitely needing to make sure my body & mind has what it needs to continue to function at its best. Spring is here & I get the feeling of fresh beginnings and new blossoms.

At this time of year, in addition to looking for a new haircut, outfit or makeup, I reassess my nourishing health behaviors and make sure to keep moving forward. In one of my favorite books, Joe X, the author, Avery Hunnicut, notes that we are never just maintaining. We are either moving forward or moving backwards. If you don’t move forward, you will move backwards by default. So, of course, I choose to move forwards every day.

At this time, I make sure I am continuing to stay hydrated ideally with water. During the winter, sometimes I get into habits of drinking other fluids too, so often in the Spring, I switch back to more water. I have a couple of water bottles that I LOVE — they are bright and colorful & girly and cheer me up when I see them, so I take a swig of my water. Sometimes, I will add lime or lemon or some mint leaves to the water – my favorite is a squirt of lime in my ice water.

So, I drink an entire large water bottle of iced lemon/lime water with my workout in the morning on waking. I’m wearing my heart rate monitor while I work out and I am logging my “data.” I keep track of my daily activity with a FitBit.

Although I feel active at work, I notice on the day I don’t do any planned work out, on Monday, I am lucky if I walk 4,000 steps at work! Yikes! I guess I am NOT so active at work. Now that I know, on Monday evenings, I will incorporate an evening walk with one of my boys, my dog or my husband. I also have great music I can listen to if I want to walk alone. My goal: to make sure I bump up that number closer to 10,000 steps!

On my workout days, I definitely hit the 10,000 steps. If I seem to be going way over, then I don’t feel so bad if on Monday (my day off from working out), I log fewer steps.

In addition, I note that my baseline (resting) heart rate is low (which is good when due to regular exercise). I also monitor how long it takes my heart rate to come back to baseline (my recovery time- remember shorter time to recovery means better fitness) & am very pleased it is still improving. I’m also excited because I am able to do so much more with the same effort. I’m continuing to move forward!

Finally, I have to check my sleep. I use the Sleep Cycle app on my iphone. I notice a pattern: 2 nights a week, I get only 5 hours of sleep. The rest of the week, I am getting enough sleep. I feel extra good about this because one of the reasons I continued working out regularly was so that I could function just as well on less sleep (which leaves me an extra hour a day to do what I want). I had learned that when people are fit, their sleep-time needs decrease. I needed to function on less hours of sleep in medical school, so I knew I had to maintain my fitness.

In addition, to make up my 5 hours of sleep debt in the week, I found I can make it up on most Friday nights if I am not on call & don’t have Saturday clinic. Also, I can add 30 minutes over several other days in the week depending on the week- I just have to schedule it. And, I realized that I will need to make a conscious effort to get in bed on time so I get adequate sleep. The boys, my sexy husband, the iphone, emails, internet, books & journals are easy to get lost in…Time flies & next thing I know, I am cutting into my sleep time! Note to self: set a pleasant alarm to remind me to put all that away & get in bed! If I can’t sleep, I will meditate quietly.

Summary of Cycle 2:
1. Assess daily water intake and find ways to increase water intake. Attractive water bottles help.
2. Assess baseline activity level (count your steps every day) & aim to increase it 10% every 2 weeks (NOT TOO FAST) until your average number of steps is at least 10,000 steps or more.
3. Learn your baseline heart rate by checking first thing in the morning & then learn how much time it takes your heart rate to return to that baseline after you have been active or exercising. As you get more fit, the baseline gets lower and your body return to the baseline faster after strenuous activity or exercise. That is fitness!
4. Figure out your average number of hours of sleep over 5 days & make sure you get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night on average. If you are sleeping less than 7.5 hours on average, then you need to make it up over several days and find a way to get adequate sleep in the future. Determine which nights you can make up your sleep on a regular basis…your “make up sleep debt” nights. These are often the days when you can sleep in as late as you need.

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 2C. Relaxation & Sleep — How much is enough?

jordan-whitt-EerxztHCjM8-unsplashToday’s notes are about sleep.

Everyone needs it. Your brain is very active during sleep & it helps process all the events of the day, create memories and it performs repair, healing, maintenance and building functions during sleep.   Without adequate sleep, our body & mind suffers. We make mistakes not only in our awake activities, but our body cannot repair, heal or perform maintenance or building functions as well and may also make mistakes. With chronic sleep deprivation, our body and mind starts to wear down from the daily stresses and we may develop mental & physical health problems including weight gain, chronic diseases, illnesses, depression, anxiety, fatigue,  etc.

At different times in our life and depending on different circumstances, our  needs for sleep will change. During times of intense brain growth and development, we need more sleep (think babies, toddlers, children & adolescents). When we are sick or have chronic diseases, we may benefit from more sleep as we need more time to repair, heal and maintain. When we travel across time zones or have shift work, we may need more sleep because we often develop a sleep debt (I will talk about shortly). We may need more sleep in the colder, darker months than in the warmer, lighter months.

The average adult needs 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night for optimal function. [**NOTE: If you are fit, you may be able to get away with less sleep as your sleep is more efficient.] Each sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes and is divided into deep sleep stages and then REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage.

Note that sleep is different throughout the night. In the earlier cycles of sleep, more of the 90 minute cycle is spent in deeper sleep stages which are restorative. Later sleep cycles have more of the 90 minutes spent in REM sleep, when you are dreaming. If you have missed sleep, your body naturally will try to make up the sleep stages it is missing, but it throws off your sleep balance and takes time to get back into your natural sleep/awake rhythm.

Overall, you want to maintain a regular sleep routine as much as possible. Remember how important your sleep time is & plan AROUND it as much as possible. Your mind and body will be in a better state if you get enough sleep because it will be able to do all the repairing, healing, maintaining and building functions it needs to to function at its best. Bottom line, you will feel much better and have fewer health issues if you allow yourself enough sleep.

So, prioritize sleep and make sure you get enough. How can  you get enough? First, assess your sleep:

1. Add up 5 days’ worth of sleep hours. (I get the number of hours of sleep from my smartphone app). If it is 37.5 – 45 hours, you are fine. If you have LESS THAN 37.5 hours total over 5 days, you have not given yourself enough sleep time.

2. You can also figure out the average number of hours of sleep over 5 days.  It should be at least 7.5 hours daily on average. (I add up the number of hours over 5 days & divide by 5. That’s my average number of hours of sleep each night.) The average is nice to know so that you can see how much more time you have to add each night in the future (after you have made up your sleep debt).

3.  If your your total sleep time is less than 37.5 hours OR your average number of hours sleeping each night is less than 7.5 hours, you have a sleep debt you need to make up. 

Good news: If you have a sleep debt ( you are sleep deprived),  you CAN make it up over several subsequent nights.  

Here is how you can make up your sleep debt:

1. Figure out how many hours you need to make up & make them up over the next several days. For example: Total sleep was 32.5 hours. You are short 5 hours. You will have to make it up over the next several days (not all at once!). You may have a couple of weekend days when you can sleep in a little longer or you may want to go to bed earlier.

Note, that in the example of total sleep = 32.5 hours (there is a sleep debt of 5 hours total), also means on average, 6.5 hours of sleep per night. You would want to plan to make up the 5 hours over the next several days, such as sleeping 8.5 hours each night for 5 nights. But also note that in the future, you will need to find a way to add 1 hour of sleep per night to stay out of the sleep debt. Adequate sleep is important so that you don’t burn out your mind or body and you can maintain optimal functioning.

2. If your sleep debt is more than 9 hours, you may need to allow extra make up sleep to catch up, maybe 10 or 11 hours of make up sleep over the next week to make up a 9 hour sleep debt. So don’t let the sleep debt build up! It pays to pay off the sleep debt earlier, before it adds up to too many required make up hours where it becomes harder to catch up!

3. If you have insomnia or cannot sleep, that’s ok. You will still benefit if you allow yourself to lay quietly for the time you have planned. Whether you fall asleep or not is not as important as turning yourself off to the outside world for a period of time. You can still allow yourself much of the restorative functions of sleep by closing your eyes and meditating or relaxing so that you do not have to respond to anything. Laying quietly or with some soothing sounds will allow your body some time to perform some of the maintenance and repair functions that might have been skipped due to lost sleep hours.  With regular routine rest times, over time, your natural sleep/awake cycles will coordinate with your timing needs and allow you to sleep as your body and mind needs.

Sleep is important. It’s the time your body takes care of you and gets rejuvenated, healed, repaired, tuned up and restored. Protect your sleep time and work to respect your needs for sleep. Prioritize it. Take care of your body and mind & they will take care of you! Humans were designed to be healthy!

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash