Every year around this time, we all take a pause from our busy lives to make resolutions that follow us, with varying degrees of success, into the new year. We promise ourselves that we will lose weight, be more compassionate, exercise regularly, do more for the environment, eat a healthy organic diet. Some promises are more ambitious than others, but one thing experts agree on is the need for us to simply set priorities and make incremental changes in our lives that keep us healthy. “When women tell me they’re too busy to exercise, cook or make time for themselves, I use it as an opportunity to explore what’s really important to them,” says Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and author of Life Is Your Best Medicine ($26; National Geographic). “Because if you think you’re too busy to do those things that will lessen your risk of chronic disease and premature death, I’d say it’s probably time to reevaluate and reprioritize your life.”
Here is the advice we’ve gathered from the experts:
In her new book, Life is Your Best Medicine: A Woman’s Guide to Health, Healing and Wholeness at Every Age ($26; National Geographic Books), Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, Director of the Fellowship at Andrew Weil’s Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, offers a road map to healthy, balanced living. Her book cites research showing that if Americans embraced a healthier lifestyle, 91 percent of diabetes, 81 percent of heart attacks, 50 percent of strokes and 36 percent of all cancers could be prevented.
“Think green. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to the adverse health consequences of environmental pesticides and chemicals. Look for products that are Certified Organic, Eco-Cert and/or go to ewg.org to get the scoop on limiting exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in skincare and cleaning products.
“Make every step count! Pedometers are inexpensive and one of the best ways to track your movement. Gradually increase your walking until you clock in at 10,000 steps every day, it’s one of the best ways to pump up your mood, maintain your weight, protect your heart and reduce your risk for diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
“Go low. Low-glycemic, that is. Ditch processed carbs and sugary drinks, chips, doughnuts, white pasta, white bread, and candy. This dietary approach has been proven to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and help you manage your weight. The New Glucose Revolution by Jennie Brand Miller is a great book to get you started.
“Grab some Zees. Habitually not getting enough deep restful sleep is stressful for your body and mind, leading to weight gain, depression, diabetes and heart disease. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and install f.lux on your computer, a free software program that gradually shifts the light of your computer screen from blue to red as night approaches. Blue light suppresses melatonin, red light doesn’t. And speaking of melatonin, taking 0.3-1.0 mg 1-2 hours before bed can help if you’re having trouble falling asleep.
“Stay connected. Healthy relationships with friends and family is vital to your health. Don’t invest energy in people you can’t trust or who make you feel bad about yourself. Make time for those who matter. Do a pot-luck, invite friends over, be a good listener and a good friend.”
Dr. Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University and the author of Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics ($29.95; University of California Press), with Malden Nesheim. The new book helps us understand how to interpret calories in food labeling, how diets work, why calories are critical, how food marketing encourages overeating and what you can do about it.
“Make Better Choices. My principles of healthy eating are to eat less (if weight is an issue), eat better (eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and don’t eat too much junk food), move more, and enjoy what you eat. I find these rules easy to follow, particularly because I enjoy eating vegetables, raw or well cooked. This approach leaves plenty of room for eating what I like best, and having treats—in moderation, of course.
“Control Your Portions. The biggest dietary problem for most people is being confronted with large portions. Larger portions do three things that are difficult to deal with: they have more calories, they induce people to eat more calories than would be consumed from smaller portions, and they confuse people into thinking that they haven’t eaten so much. Dealing with portion size is necessarily #1, which means ordering smaller sizes, insisting on smaller portions, sharing large portions with friends, or cutting them in pieces and saving most for later or never. Making surer that fruits or vegetables are included in every meal is another good idea.”
James P. Nicolai, M.D., Medical Director of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ, is the author of Integrative Wellness Rules: A Simple Guide to Healthy Living ($24.95; Hay House). The new book offers easy, attainable ways to integrate wellness into your life.
“Tune In My biggest recommendation for the New Year is to develop a quick and dirty practice to ‘turn off’ from the pace of life and ‘tune in’—to yourself, into now time and away from ‘to do-list’ mode or your past history bleeding into your day. “This practice does not have to be long — 5-15 minutes daily — and should involve practicing breathing techniques that create what I call “active calm.” Breathe fuller, deeper and more rhythmically even. Try a 4-in-4-out technique where you breathe in for a count of 4 and then exhale to the same count of four. Imagine this breath as if it’s a wave—up and down in a rhythmically even fashion. Breathe more with your belly as opposed to your chest. Your abdomen should expand while you breathe in and contract while you exhale. Practice this by exhaling first and on the last part of the exhale, squeeze your abdominal muscles pointing your belly button towards your back. You should notice your belly expanding like a balloon as you take a breath in.
“Be Grateful Do this while you do a quick gratitude practice, feeling and expressing gratitude for all the things you can be appreciative of in this moment.”
Starting this month, The Lodge at Woodloch, a luxury destination spa on a private lake in Hawley, Pennsylvania, not far from New York City, is expanding its holistic Fit & Fab program. “The 12 Week Tune-Up,” offers guests a chance to sign on to a personalized fitness regimen, four times per year, to jump-start fitness. At the 3600 s.f. state-of-the-art fitness center with four studios—all with gorgeous lake views—Cindy Wasilewski, Fitness Director, meets with guests one-on-one to discuss diet, sleep, work habits, and workout. “We weigh and measure you, do a fitness assessment, and design a custom program for here and to take home,” she says.
“Start Small. Even 15 minutes in the morning is good. You can get a good cardio and strength training in 15 minutes, then do 10 minutes later on in the day, if possible. It only takes 15 minutes to start, and everyone has that. Do what you like—hiking, yoga, sit-ups—and build it out.
Eat Smart. “If you are a workaholic and can’t find time to sit down for a meal, eat small meals (five or six, about 300 calories each) all day long. Don’t go to bed hungry. If you do, you won’t sleep well. Avoid eating fat and proteins before bed, eat simple things that will digest quickly like yogurt, fruit, popcorn, crackers and cheese. Eat something with your glass of wine at night, it absorbs better that way.
“Set Obtainable Goals. It makes more sense to target a five pound weight loss instead of 30. Or resolve to cut out late-night pizza instead of telling yourself to ‘cut out carbs.’ ‘Stop drinking’ doesn’t really help, either, but ‘Stop drinking during the week’ is obtainable. And before you start planning for a marathon, think about training for a 5K.” thelodgeatwoodloch.com