It seems like every day we are asked by our acupuncture patients what they can do to improve their health. Of course, the answer varies depending on the circumstances and health of the person asking. What we have found over the years at Acupuncture in the Park, however, is that there are a few changes that you can make to create a solid foundation for your health. These simple changes can help you feel better, have more energy, and protect you from future illness. Here is our list:
1) Eat at home. This also means learning to cook, if you don’t do so regularly. You don’t have to be Julia Child or Wolfgang Puck, but trying one new recipe a week would be great. By eating at home, you are better able to control your weight, eat nutritiously, and spend valuable time with your family.
2) Eat food. Many of the items you see in the grocery store are processed with chemicals and ingredients that are not considered to be food in any way, shape, or form. When you’re shopping, ask yourself two questions: Would my grandma have eaten this? and Would I have any of these individual ingredients in my pantry? I’m guessing your Granny wouldn’t have cooked with BHT, sodium nitrite, or potassium bromate, nor would you have some sitting in your cupboard.
3) Eliminate sugar from your diet. The average American eats about 150 pounds of sugar each year. Unfortunately, sugar in the form of sweeteners and refined carbohydrates is the culprit behind many major diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, over consumption of sugar can speed up the aging process, decrease your immunity, rob the minerals from your bones, and is responsible for the epidemic of obesity in this country.
4) Eat good (unprocessed) fats. When you press olives, you get olive oil. When you churn cream, it becomes butter. If you squeeze corn, you don’t get corn oil. Oils such as corn, safflower, soy, and rapeseed (used to make canola) are heated to very high temperatures in the manufacturing process, which makes them rancid (you don’t notice it, because they’re deodorized, too). These polyunsaturated oils directly contribute to the accumulation of plaque in your arteries. Choose unprocessed oils and fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and butter.
5) Eat breakfast. It balances your blood sugar and eliminates food cravings (Translation: you won’t need that mid-morning Crispy Creme donut.)
6) Eat a little protein at every meal. For the same reason as above; protein levels out your blood sugar and helps with cravings. Also, protein makes a great snack!
7) Get enough sleep. Sack time is restorative; you heal and rejuvenate while you sleep. Lack of adequate sleep is associated with a whole host of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and weight gain. In addition, not getting enough shuteye increases your risk for accidents, kills your sex drive, and ages your skin. How much is enough? Everyone is different, but most experts will tell you to aim for eight hours a night.
8) Exercise efficiently. Yes, walking the dog is better than nothing, but if you’re going to spend the time to exercise, do what it takes to get the most benefit. You don’t need to spend an hour on the treadmill. You’re better off mixing in some short, intense bursts of speed into a shorter cardio workout and by adding some weight training into your routine. By doing so, you can get better results in less time; you’ll burn more body fat, slow the aging process, strengthen your bones, and burn more calories at rest.
9) Deal with your stress. Stress is the root cause of 85 percent of hospital admissions, according to the American Medical Association. Stress can come from anywhere, but usually relationships, money, health, or work is the source of most peoples’ stress. It’s imperative that you deal with your stress–through meditation, counseling, acupuncture, Yoga, paying off your debt, turning off the news, or learning how not to over think–or whatever else works for you.
10) Do something you love. It’s amazing how many people I see who work hard all week, run errands on the weekend, and spend very little time for themselves. The balance between time for yourself and time for others is every bit as important as the work/rest balance or eating a balanced diet. Spending time doing something you love is not only the key to happiness, but it’s important to your health.
11) Develop a relationship with the natural world—this is the foundation of Chinese medicine. Eat foods that are local and in season now. Go outside and play, spend time in a garden, grow a few of your own vegetables, take a walk in the forest. Researchers inJapanhave found that just walking in the woods improves your health and lowers your stress.