Dr Libby on find­ing a healthy bal­ance

MAIN­TAIN­ING A HEALTHY LIFE­STYLE CAN BE A JUGGLE BUT FIND­ING THE RIGHT BAL­ANCE IS ES­SEN­TIAL FOR HAP­PI­NESS AND WELL­BE­ING

NZ Life & Leisure - - Contents - WORDS DR LIBBY BHSci ( N& D) ( Hons) PhD

I PRE­FER TO AVOID spe­cific rules about what’s OK and not OK when it comes to well­be­ing. Pared down, it’s gen­er­ally quite sim­ple. This is why I al­ways bring it back to the fun­da­men­tals of eat­ing food the way it comes from na­ture (mostly plants) and en­sur­ing that wa­ter is our main drink. Most of the time we know what to do, we just don’t do it — some­times be­cause it’s eas­ier and more con­ve­nient to make less nour­ish­ing choices.

Re­mem­ber that it’s what we do ev­ery day that im­pacts our health, not what we do oc­ca­sion­ally. Too many peo­ple make nour­ish­ing choices for days, weeks, months and then af­ter one oc­ca­sion of poor-qual­ity eat­ing be­lieve they’ve “ru­ined” ev­ery­thing and make lousy choices into the fu­ture. Count­less times, pa­tients have told me they have fallen off the wagon. But there is no “wagon” to fall off. There’s just life. And the be­lief in the wagon in the first place is part of the prob­lem faced in mak­ing sus­tained good-qual­ity food and life­style choices.

That said, there are some health con­sid­er­a­tions that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily top of mind when it comes to tak­ing bet­ter care of our­selves.

Pri­or­i­tize time to rest

Our body needs to rest – and I don’t just mean when we’re sleep­ing. We need time where we don’t feel like we’re “on” or avail­able; time dis­con­nected from de­vices and dead­lines so the body can catch up. Try sched­ul­ing in a cou­ple of hours a week where you don’t have to do any­thing – in­crease that to to a whole day if you can man­age it. Re­lax on the couch with a book and a cup of herbal tea or have a bath. You may also like to en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties that help to ac­ti­vate your parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem (the arm of our ner­vous sys­tem that is our nat­u­ral “rest and di­gest” path­way) and en­cour­age a rest­ful state in your body. They in­clude qigong, tai chi, restora­tive yoga, med­i­ta­tion and breath work.

Re­mem­ber that poor food choices can’t be burnt off

There is noth­ing in the world that can re­place a highly nu­tri­tious way of eat­ing. If you eat like a piglet you can­not ex­pect ev­ery­thing to fall into place. That’s just com­mon sense. Yet I’ve met thou­sands of peo­ple who ex­er­cise fre­quently (and with in­ten­sity), es­pe­cially af­ter mak­ing poor food choices, with the in­ten­tion of “burn­ing off ” calo­ries they con­sumed the day be­fore. Usu­ally this is based on the equa­tion of calo­ries-in-ver­sus-calo­ries-out, which is out­dated. For one thing, it doesn’t take into ac­count how our body me­tab­o­lizes dif­fer­ent foods. Think about the calo­ries con­sumed from eat­ing a bowl of kale, which is filled with nu­tri­ents that our body can read­ily uti­lize. Now con­sider the calo­ries you might get from eat­ing a choco­late bis­cuit that doesn’t of­fer much in the way of nutrition. No amount of ex­er­cise can burn off the ef­fects of poor-qual­ity eat­ing.

See your symp­toms as “mes­sages”

I like to say that con­di­tions such as PMS, con­sti­pa­tion, bloat­ing, refl ux and headaches are com­mon but not nor­mal. Pay at­ten­tion to your body’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion − it has the power to change how you ex­pe­ri­ence health and vi­tal­ity on a daily ba­sis.

Treat your liver as the su­per­star or­gan it is

When the liver be­comes over­loaded, it has a flow-on ef­fect on en­ergy, sleep qual­ity, hor­mone bal­ance and much more. Yet, we of­ten make life­style choices that load our liver with all kinds of sub­stances it needs to change (detox­ify) be­fore they can be elim­i­nated. We need to be hon­est about our in­take level of the sub­stances I lov­ingly call “liver load­ers” and re­duce our ex­po­sure to them as much as pos­si­ble. They in­clude al­co­hol, caf­feine, re­fined sugar, trans fats and other syn­thetic sub­stances.

Be pre­pared when it comes to snack foods

Many peo­ple man­age to eat well dur­ing their “main” meals but let them­selves down with poor snack choices. Of­ten this is due to con­ve­nience and avail­abil­ity. It can be dif­fi­cult to find nour­ish­ing snacks in a hurry and much eas­ier to find high-sugar, high-fat (poor-qual­ity) snacks.

Be­ing pre­pared is the best way to avoid this. Hav­ing an af­ter­noon snack can be help­ful to reg­u­late your blood sugar – and en­sure you don’t walk in the door af­ter work and con­sume any­thing or ev­ery­thing you see. Raw nuts, hum­mus and veg­eta­bles, a green smoothie or home­made bliss balls are great al­ter­na­tives. If af­ter­noon teatime is your down­fall, also con­sider adding ex­tra fat from whole foods to your lunch.

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