The Principals of a Healthy Life
In college I wrote a research paper on this subject for a class on special needs children. In my heart I always wanted to believe that nurture could trump nature. Then I turned forty. Around my fortieth birthday I was working for the countries largest non profit doing community work like bringing farmers markets and nutrition counseling to a diverse group of people. I was fortunate enough to be able to receive some amazing training in the social aspects of choices. This was one of my first wake up calls to how nurture or environment can impact our health. The lack of choices and opportunities we have greatly impact our ability to care for ourselves. If we can't get out and safely walk or have no access to workout facilities then it's hard to exercise. If there are no stores near us besides dollar stores and convenience stores then it's hard to get fresh fruits and veggies. If you worked all day for $50 and you come home and your kid want's a Happy Meal for $4 you are more likely to give in because you are exhausted and you want to see your child happy and it something you "can" do. People are much more likely to be obese when they live in poverty due to these factors, yet our society berates them.
About a year ago my fiance who is a world class athlete and has been an athlete for forty three years was having chest pains. He went to the doctor and found out he needed bypass surgery. His arteries were 80 to 90 percent clogged. Had he waited six months he would have been dead. In 43 years he probably hasn't missed a week of exercise. His diet has mostly been made up of Southern cooking for the 57 years he has been on earth. The past eight years he has been eating very healthy. At the end of the day it was determined that his blockages were mostly related to his family genes.
As I write this one of my dearest friends is in the hospital after aortic valve replacement surgery. She is forty five. She and I own a health and fitness business together, we are both very active. She is vegan, a yoga teacher, by all accounts lives an incredibly healthy life. A few months back she started to clear her throat, she was very tired all the time and feeling weak. One day while in a parking lot a man backed into her car hard enough to hurt her back. She went to the doctor only to discover the heart murmur she had was much worse and actually she needed major surgery to save her life. Again this was something that runs in her family, her mother and her cousin both have the same condition.
Then there is my own history with Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome which is an endocrine disorder that affects your entire endocrine system. In fact I also have thyroid disease and blood sugar issues. My grandmother, aunt, and cousin all have the same exact issues.
So this may sound all doom and gloom as if there is nothing you can do about it, your fate is in your genes and your destiny. Well there is hope. It is my belief that because I have taken such good care of myself I have staved off diabetes, excessive weight gain and a whole host of issues that come along with my diagnosis. My friends and fiance and I often remark that given our genes we can't imagine where we would be if we hadn't lived such healthy lives. In fact my fiance and dear friend may be dead already. I could likely be suffering much worse from the whole host of issues that come with P.C.O.S. and thyroid disease.
It can be frustrating to know that you eat healthy, workout, take vitamins and go to the doctor and still develop an illness or chronic disease. It can be a struggle to not have access to the things that contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Many years ago I suffered with a horrible eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia from the age of twelve to eighteen. I'm convinced that a host of my stomach troubles have been attributed to the laxative abuse, purging, and binge starve cycle I put my body through during those years I was developing. If I could say anything to men and women out there today is to not sacrifice your long term health for short term gain. It is a huge weight on me to know that I did some of this to myself.
On a positive note, during that time I started to learn about eating healthy and exercise. I've exercised since I was young taking dance, ballet, and eventually was doing aerobics and weight lifting. In my late teens I discovered yoga which led to a dramatic change in my life style. Since I was eighteen years old I have walked, done yoga and eaten a very healthy diet. I've been poor at times and had to do with what I had. I am so grateful that for the past twenty seven years I've cared for my body. My skin looks much younger than it is at 44, I'm a healthy weight, overall I have aged really well, plus once you start living healthy you feel so good and when you eat bad you recognize what poison it is to your body.. Sickness is rare for me. Now as I go into have my ovaries and scar tissue removed next month I feel assured that there is a good chance I will recover much quicker because of my healthy history and lifestyle. Food and exercise are powerful medicines to the body.
To sum it up caring for yourself will lead to aging better, feeling better, and recovering quicker. My fiance is competing in a World Competition in Tae Kwon Do next week in Italy against hundreds of other black belts over 45. He had quintuple bypass ten months ago. Had it not been for his good overall health going into surgery I have no doubt any of this would have been possible.
It is never to late to start caring for yourself. If you are young don't wait you are setting yourself up now for your future, studies show heart disease actually starts in your childhood!
Here are some tips I've learned over my years of living a healthy life and empowering others to live a healthy life.
1. If you live in a food desert (without much access to healthy foods) there are still foods you can eat healthy. Foods you can find at a dollar store: Tortillas, beans (dried and canned), salsa, occasionally frozen veggies in some stores, frozen chicken breast in some stores, whole grain bread, cereal, oatmeal, nuts, honey, peanut butter, canned fruit it it's own juice *usually pineapple, low fat milk and cheese. Some ideas would be to make a pot of dried beans flavored with spices or broth and a pan of cornbread, breakfast could be oatmeal with pineapple and walnuts, another meal could be burritos with black beans, shredded cheese and salsa. Baked or sauteed chicken with veggies and milk to drink.
2. If you eat a lot of fast food. Some people eat a lot of fast food, two or three times a day. If you do this try things like Bean Burritos with Pico, Chicken Tacos, Grilled Chicken with veggies, water instead of soda, chicken wraps. If you still want the burger and fries try taking it slow and getting only the burger or only the fries, or try replacing one meal a day with a healthier version. Also eating one or two meals at home or packing your lunch. My teens make me crazy with fast food. When they are broke I encourage taking meals to work instead of giving them money. My daughter just packed a bowl of whole grain cereal and low fat milk to take to work. The other day my son took a banana, a granola bar, a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread and a bottle of water.
3. If you eat out a lot. There are so many hidden fats and calories in food that is prepared in a restaurant. I eat out about five times a week. Choose lower carb options like grilled meats or baked meats (fish, chicken, shrimp and an occasional steak), veggies with out all the topping or minimize those toppings, avoid the bread basket (tell them not to bring it), drink water with lemon. At Mexican restaurants only allow yourself a limited amount of chips and choose salsa or guacamole over cheese dip. Veggie based dishes like spinach quesadillas or enchiladas will help you get your veggies. I eat a Mexican dish of shrimp sauteed with pico and eat beans without rice. If you go to an Italian restaurant choose a dish that is based with fish or chicken. I don't recommend eating white pasta or bread. Fill up on salad or broth based soups. Then if you must have pasta choose a whole grain or gluten free pasta and put half in a to go container.
4. At home: Make smoothies with greens like spinach and don't use to much juice, it adds calories ans sugar. Dr. Oz's magazine has so many easy and healthy ideas. Pick them up at the Dollar stores or Walmart. Add fruit and nuts to your oatmeal, cereal or yogurt. To make a good salad add a variety of veggies and use a base of spinach or spring greens. Iceberg is only good for wedge salads. Keep veggie based soups. Learn to make a soup base it's easy. Saute chopped celery, onions, and carrots in a small amount of butter or olive oil, add broth and veggies, then add cooked meat. Use beef broth with beef, chicken with chicken broth etc.... This is an easy way to get veggies and so good.
Learn the basics of cooking. Start eating whole foods, you don't need a lot of recipes. A healthy diet should consist of whole foods like veggies, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Minimize dairy, processed foods, and sugar based foods and watch the bread, pasta and rice. On grains you want to eat brown rice, quinoa, and things like oats. Americans eat entirely to many grains, they are high in carbs and the body turns them into sugar when we consume to much. Grains need to be eaten with protein to slow down the body turning them into sugar.
5. Exercise: Find something you like. I go through bought of lifting weights and other strength training but that is not what I like. I like to do yoga, walk and dance. I've been consistently walking and doing yoga for over 27 years. It makes me happy. Find what makes you happy and keep it up. When your body doesn't get exercise it deteriorates. You lose muscle mass and collagen. Exercise regulates your circulatory system, stimulates your immune system, exercises your repository system, regulates hormones and so much more. Even when you don't feel good a little bit of exercise can make a difference. For me exercise is like taking an ibuprofen but instead of taking medicine I exercise or eat right. Headaches, back pain, tummy issues can all be helped by proper diet and exercise. Keep it up for life and you will experience less illness and chronic pain. You will also recover better when you are ill. If you are chronically ill then start slow and do a short 10 minute walk or a 5 or 10 minute yoga video. A little bit is better than nothing. Celebrate your accomplishments.
6. Positive Thinking and Meditation- I include this because I believe that how we think is what we become. Find the positive in your life, make plans, have a spiritual practice, read positive material, listen to positive music, seek out positive mentors. It's important to have a community of positive people in your life. Who you hang around is who you will become. Negativity breeds negativity, seek out positive people. Don't let yourself be exposed to much negative media.
7. Sleep- The importance of sleep on our bodies cannot be over stated. Sleep regulates our hormones, fights infection and keeps us in a state of balance. A regular sleep pattern will keep you healthy and happy. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time. If you have irregular sleep patterns then set a time that you will go to bed and get up. Avoid caffeine at least six to eight hours before you will go to bed, turn off blue lights (computers, phones, games and t.v.) at least an hour before bed. Use yellow colored night lights in your house to promote an increase in melatonin in your brain. Turn the overhead lights out and lamps on in the evening. Workout earlier in the day or evening, to close to bedtime can stimulate you to much. Drink herbal teas like chamomile or Valerian to stimulate natural sleep.
8. Proper Breathing - Learn some type of breathing exercises. Proper oxygen intake and learning to expel carbon dioxide efficiently is essential to muscle and organ health. Our bodies need oxygen to survive and we expel carbon dioxide as our bodies pull waste material out through respiration. A simple one is diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing can increase your lung capacity, decrease the symptoms of asthma and other lung conditions, increase energy and regulate your nervous system.
Diaphragmatic breathing technique or Durga Breath : Breathe in (Inhale) until you cannot take in anymore oxygen, then hold your breathe with your lungs full for a moment or as long as you are comfortable to expand your lungs a bit more, then exhale completely blowing the air out until you feel you cannot exhale anymore, make sure you pull the diaphragm in and up by pulling your naval back towards your spine. Repeat. If you get dizzy stop.
These principals are not uncommon. In Sivananda yoga these are actually referred to as the five principals of yoga : Proper Exercise, Sleep, Nutrition, Positive Thinking, and proper Breathing.
Though these principals were codified by Swami Sivananda they are basic principals we know from Eastern and Western Medicine help us to leave a balanced and healthy life.
In Love and Light,
(c) 2015 All rights reserved Courtney Butler and Balance Yoga and Wellness
Sivanada Institute, Sivananda.org
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