As 2010 kicks off, CNNHealth Diet & Fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis urges you to think beyond calories and working out and focus on bigger changes that could help you live a healthier life.
Diet and Fitness Expert
Dr. Melina Jampolis
Physician Nutrition Specialist
It's New Year's again and for many of you that probably means resolving to lose weight, especially after the food-filled holiday season. This year, rather than focusing just on dieting and exercising, why not tackle a few issues that may be contributing to your weight loss struggles, or focus on eating healthy to save the planet, not just to shrink your waistline? Here are a few resolutions for 2010 you may not have considered.
Beat the Blues. While you may be suffering from a temporary bout of depression after stepping on the scale in early January, significant depression can not only make you feel miserable, research shows that it can negatively impact your health too. A 2008 study published in the journal Obesity found that women who were depressed had higher levels of CRP (C reactive protein), an important marker of low-grade inflammation in your body that has been associated with an increased risk of abdominal obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. If you think you may be suffering from depression, see your doctor. If you are just feeling a little down, you may want to consider nutrition-based approaches including getting a daily dose of omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA which is found in high levels in the brain, getting plenty of B vitamins, especially B6, B12, and folate, and if you are still feeling a bit down, you may want to consider taking an herbal remedy such as St. John's wort, which has been found to be almost as effective as some prescription anti-depressants. Be sure to let your doctor know if you take an herbal supplement as it can interact with prescription medications.
Up your Zzzzzs. In the 1960s, Americans slept eight to nine hours per night. In 1995, the average sleep duration dropped to seven hours per night and today, more than 30 percent of Americans report sleeping less than six hours per night. Short sleep duration, defined as less than seven hours per night, is associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes because of its negative effect carbohydrate metabolism. Short sleep can also increase hunger and decrease metabolism, which can lead to obesity. So if your goal this year is to lose weight and improve your health, sleeping better should be a priority. In addition to scheduling at least seven hours for sleep, make sure to build the best sleeping environment possible including limiting noise, light, and controlling temperature (many experts recommend 68 degrees as optimal). In addition, try to limit computer use for a couple of hours before going to bed as some experts believe that the computer screen lights may negatively impact sleep hormones. Establishing an evening ritual can also be helpful, including going to bed and waking up at about the same time each day, taking a hot bath before bed, or having a light snack such as yogurt. If you still have problems with sleep, you may want to try an herbal remedy such as melatonin or valerian, or see a sleep specialist for evaluation or cognitive behavioral therapy. There is a relatively common condition called sleep apnea that could be significantly impacting your sleep and is important to treat for optimal health.
Eat Green. Not only will eating a greener, more plant-based diet improve your health by decreasing your intake of saturated fat and increasing your intake of fiber, eating green will also have a profound impact on the environment. First, limit red meat. Not only does red meat contain cholesterol-raising saturated fat, raising cattle for human consumption takes a large toll on the environment. Going meatless several times a week can make a difference. Next, try to buy local. Not only do local farms often practice sustainable farming, buying local can also reduce carbon dioxide emissions from decreased transportation requirements and decreases the use of packaging materials and preservatives necessary to keep food fresh. Finally, buy organic when you can. Organic food can be a bit pricier, but it contains far fewer pesticides and hormones and is better for the environment as organic farming uses about 30 percent less fossil fuel than conventional farming. If you can't buy everything organic, try to emphasize organic fruits and vegetables, many of which are more likely to contain pesticide residues than meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. In particular, focus on the "dirty dozen," a list of produce created by the Environmental Working Group that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. On the list: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, celery and potatoes.
Finally, the best piece of advice that I can give you when it comes to New Year's resolutions is to lose the all-or-nothing mentality. Whatever your resolution is, set smaller, incremental steps to achieving it and don't let a few setbacks throw you completely off track. Small changes over time really do add up to big results.
Happy New Year!!
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