by A. Brooke Hall, DO
We all know the old saying: Change is inevitable. Our minds may accept the notion, but sometimes it’s a little harder to accept emotionally. While we can’t control all the changes in our lives, we can control many of them. In fact, Change can be good! Nothing is more empowering than changing things up for the better. So why do so many of us avoid it—especially when making a few tweaks could help us enjoy a healthier, happier life?
“I meet a lot of patients who are afraid to make changes,” says A. Brooke Hall, D.O., a family medicine physician with USMD Saginaw Clinic. “I reassure them that even a small change can make a big difference in the way they feel and their overall health.”
In fact, Dr. Hall encourages her patients to strive for small victories rather than fret over big, dramatic changes that they can’t stick with long-term. Here are four healthy tips Dr. Hall says anyone can do starting today.
Drink more water.
Did you know drinking eight 16-ounce glasses of water each day can raise your metabolism and help you burn up to 100 extra calories a day?! Not only that, water can help you avoid overeating.
“A lot of patients confuse thirst for hunger,” Dr. Hall says. “They think they’re hungry when they’re actually thirsty. Before you eat a meal or reach for a snack, drink a glass of water first to see if that satisfies your hunger.”
Along with helping maintain a healthy body weight, water carries vital nutrients to every cell in your body, flushes toxins, waste and even fat from our bodies. regulates our body temperature, aids digestion, lubricates our joints and a lot more.
Keep healthy foods handy.
When it comes to diet, almost everybody has an Achilles heel that can throw them off track. “For many people it’s portion sizes,” Dr. Hall says. “For others, it’s easy access to healthy foods instead of high-fat fast foods. If there is one common problem, it’s convenience. Patients who work need convenient, healthy food—and that can take a lot of preparation or money.”
Dr. Hall recommends preparing a week’s worth of healthy, nutritious meals over the weekend, then storing them properly so they can be quickly pulled from the fridge or freezer and warmed for eating.
Don’t have time to devote part of your weekend to meal prep? As a busy working mom, Dr. Hall says pre-packaged food programs can be a good alternative.
“I did a pre-packaged meal program for two years—not for weight loss but for maintenance and to ensure that I was getting enough protein in my diet. The only way we can sustain our energy throughout the day is to get enough protein in our diet. If I hadn’t had the meals with me at work, I would have eaten a couple handfuls of candy for lunch just because it was convenient.”
Whichever solution is best for you, remember not all calories are equal.
“If you’re sticking to a 1,200-calorie diet, sure you can have a hamburger and French fries, but that’s all you can eat for the entire day,” says Dr. Hall. “Or you can have egg whites and turkey bacon for breakfast, a salad with grilled chicken or protein shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner and satisfy your 1,200 calories while getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need to actually help build muscle and burn more calories. You really have to look at the macro nutrients in food—how much protein, how much fat, how much carbohydrates are in your diet.”
Move your body every day.
Want to look 10 years younger and 10 pounds leaner? Nothing works better than 30 minutes of exercise each day. “Many people think they don’t have time to fit a workout into their day,” Dr. Hall says. “But you don’t have to do a two-hour workout. You can break it down into small timeframes. Go for a 15-minute walk. Pull up a low-impact exercise video on YouTube instead of watching television, or get on the floor and do some stretches, push-ups and sit-ups while you watch your favorite TV show.”
Dr. Hall also recommends yoga—especially for individual who haven’t exercised in a while. “A yoga class or yoga video is a great way to start because it’s just going to start waking up and stretching those muscles you haven’t used in a while,” she says.
Yoga is also great for seniors because helps improve balance, which in turn, can help prevent falls. Of course, everyone benefits from daily activity—no matter what your age. Regular physical activity reduces your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, and other life-threatening diseases. Studies show that people who don’t exercise regularly can lose up to 80 percent of their muscle strength by the time they turn 65. So keep moving!
Limit the amount of time you spend sitting.
It can be hard with so many of us spending long work hours in front of a computer. Still, too much sitting isn’t good for your body. Studies have linked long periods of sitting with obesity and metabolic syndrome—a condition that includes high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol—along with excess fat around the waist and a greater risk for heart disease and cancer.
“Some experts are calling sitting the new smoking,” says Dr. Hall. “It’s important to get up out of your chair. Not only does standing improve your posture and circulation, but the muscles you use to stand help trigger the breakdown of fat and sugar in your body.”
Dr. Hall recommends an ergonomic desk that allows you to raise and lower your work surface so you can stand for periods while you work. If that’s not doable, simply finding a high counter top you can place your laptop on that allows you to work upright.
“Trading your desk chair for an exercise ball is another good option,” she adds. “Sitting on an exercise ball may not seem like it’s doing much, but when you’re sitting on the ball, you’re working your core muscles while maintaining your balance.”
Activity trackers are helpful, too. “These devices allow you to set a reminder and will buzz when you’ve been sitting for 15 minutes and need to get up and stretch,” she says. “Plus they track your steps and motivate you do move more.”
A. Brooke Hall, DO, received her doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and completed her family medicine residency at Plaza Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. She practices family medicine at USMD Saginaw Clinic.