It’s that time of year when we all think about changing something in our lives for the better. This year, I’m not going to label my ideas “resolutions”, because that almost certainly dooms them to failure. I’m just going to talk about steps to improve health outcomes. That leaves room for adjusting the timing of such steps, and minimizes the concept of “failure”.

The Food Section

For weight loss and insulin resistance, nothing tops the impact of the food we eat. We want to get serious about improving our eating habits, but without being so rigid that we feel we are “suffering.” Suffering is something we do to ourselves, and it does not lead to permanent weight loss and reversal of insulin resistance. (For more on “suffering”, click this link here: “Byron Katie”.)

Be firm with yourself, but also kind – and let’s get started! Choose one or more suggestions from the “A” list below and implement it – now! “A” list entries have a more direct impact on one’s health. “B” entries are supportive of making healthier choices and achieving health objectives.

“A” List

  • Be more fully dedicated to reading food labels, and learn what the terms mean.
  • Minimize purchase of “foods” with non-nutrient items listed on the label.
  • Cut the carbs! You can’t eliminate them entirely, but you can take smaller portions and choose mostly from those lower on the glycemic index.
  • Eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
  • Eliminate trans fats (clue: “partially hydrogenated” = trans fat)

“B” List

  • Be mindful when you eat. Count to 5 or even 10 before popping a treat in your mouth that isn’t exactly healthy for you – a little time to think it over.
  • Pat yourself on the back when you make a better choice in what you purchase and what you eat. Every time you make a better choice, it counts.
  • Pay attention to how you feel in the next 48 hrs after eating “off the program”. Some food reactions take that long to manifest. Record any symptoms.

I decided not to put it on one of the lists, but consider trying an elimination diet to find the foods that really don’t agree with you. With so much evidence in that gluten is a major cause of health problems, including autoimmune thyroid and even diabetes, gluten is an excellent place to start. Educate yourself before you start, and perhaps even consult someone who works with dietary modifications so you can be sure you are completely eliminating all of the sources of gluten. “Cutting back” isn’t going to give you the results or the information you need.

The Exercise Section

This is a short section, directed at those who have been either sedentary or busy doing lots of things, but not getting cardio and/or not using some of their major muscle groups with any consistency.

  • Check with a doctor before significantly changing what you have been doing
  • Start moving more than you have been. (See September 30, 2013 entry @ Don’t start out with a difficult workout that is going to leave you so miserable that you aren’t likely to continue. Just walk a little farther or a little faster, take the stairs, wash the car yourself and forgo the golf cart. These are small things, but if they are accomplishments for you, they are a good place to start. If none of this seems challenging to you, congratulations – now take it to the next level.
  • Don’t forget to stretch before and after a workout. My favorite book: “Stretching”, by Bob Anderson.
  • Include a cardio workout, but don’t try to go from 0 to 60. If working out seems to make you feel worse, you may have the metabolic equivalent of “overtraining syndrome”. Both are due to oxidative stress and you can get to that state via stress and illness as well as by too much exercise. I am simplifying here, but you need to be monitored as you work your way back to “normal” exercise tolerance.
  • Add resistance exercise to your program. Again, you would do well to have supervision with this, since doing the exercises correctly can be more tricky than it looks. You want to isolate specific muscle groups for each exercise, and small variations in joint position can turn a good exercise into a useless one (or worse). If you are really out of shape, I do not recommend that you join a gym at this time for the supervision you need. (Watch for a guest blogger on this topic.)

The other topics I will be covering as part of this series on “changing some things for the better” are sleep (also see previous blog at 😉 and stress – some simple things you can do to manage the stressors in your life, and why it’s so important that you do them.

I am looking forward to this year in anticipation of new friendships, new adventures and many happy accomplishments. Happy New Year!

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