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Holidays are upon us so let’s take a moment to remember all that our bodies do for us throughout the year. They contribute to everything we do, our families, career, and friendships. They also help us through the challenging times. In fact, if you are reading this thank your body for getting you this far. While far from perfect, our bodies do a lot for us.
Say thank you to your body by taking care of it. Don’t worry, taking care of your body doesn’t have to be complicated, and with a bit of thought, you can easily incorporate a few shifts that will have a significant impact.
Sleep, good quality sleep is a commodity. It is sometimes difficult to wind down at the end of the day, and for some, hormone fluctuations don’t make this any easier. Rest is vital to supporting normal endocrine function, metabolism, energy, and appetite.
The average adult needs 8 hours of sleep. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night has been shown to contribute to an increase in fat storage, a decrease in athletic performance and recovery, a decline in cognitive functioning and memory, and can lead to elevated cortisol levels. In the long term, it can also contribute to premature aging.
So what can you do today to ensure you are getting enough sleep?
Sleep hygiene, slowing down the mind and body to prepare for sleep. Be sure to turn off all electronic at-least one hour before you want to go to sleep. You can take a warm bath, meditate, listen to quiet music, do visualization, or anything that will help you relax.
If you are a light sleeper, using earplugs, wearing a sleep mask, or listening sleep sounds may be helpful. Diffusing a calming essential oil can also assist in setting the right atmosphere. If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night ruminating over the laundry list of things to do, keep a pad of paper near your bed and just jot it down. Keep the lights
on at a low level and don’t look at the blue light on your phone or computer screen. Go to your happy place and get back to sleep.
I do not recommend over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids such as Benadryl, Ambien, Xanax, or Valium as they give you a “false sleep,” meaning that they may make you drowsy, but you don’t get a deep refreshing sleep. Alcohol use at night is also a sleep disruptor. These may also cause daytime drowsiness. Caffeine use also affects the quality of your sleep. In general, it should be avoided in the afternoon and evening. Some people find Melatonin to be helpful although effects may be temporary. Decaffeinated green tea or high-quality supplements that contain L-theanine are regarded as safe and effective sleep aids. L-theanine is an amino acid that is converted into neurotransmitters such as GABA ( gamma-aminobutyric acid ), serotonin, and dopamine, allowing us to get into a more relaxed and natural sleep state. It promotes relaxation without sedation (no morning grogginess).
If you are struggling with sleep, consult with a physician such as myself to determine which product and dosage are best for you.
EXERCISEExercise uplifts our mood, increases our energy levels, and improves the quality of our sleep, and is a critical factor in our overall health. Say thank you to your body and make sure you fit in even a small amount of exercise each day. If time is running tight, don’t skip the workout; just make it shorter and more intense. Research has shown that short, intense intervals of exercise are extremely beneficial and can even slow the aging process. You can get huge health benefits in only 5-8 minutes whether it is at the gym, outside, or at home. Some good examples of this would be Tabata-style sprints (uphill even better), rowing, biking, and inclined treadmill, so ramp it up. Weight lifting is key to maintaining muscle mass as we age. This helps burn fat and calories in addition to building strength. Just make sure that you are using proper form/technique or are being supervised by a trainer. Sometimes yoga, Tai Chi, or other meditative forms of physical movement are what you need. My recommendation would be to mix it up and do a little bit of everything for a nice balance.
Nutrition, Make sure you are putting nutritious, nutrient-dense foods into your body. While a treat every so often is okay, try not to compromise the quality of your meals to save time, just get clever. No time to chop veggies? Don’t buy fast food or highly processed food just to get something on the table. Buy the pre-cut ones at the store, do a quick stir-fry with a healthy oil (like olive oil), and add your protein of choice. If you eat eggs, meats, and fish shop for the “cleanest” versions possible. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can become very efficient in the kitchen and prepare balanced, nutritious meals in very little time.
Get the kids involved. Have them help prepare meals by assigning age-appropriate tasks. They will learn how to cook and may even eat a greater variety of foods if they play a role in making the meal. A wonderful strategy for being more efficient in the kitchen is outlined in the book by Liza Baker called “Flip Your Kitchen.”
When time gets tight, don’t skip a meal; just carry a few high-quality nutrition bars in your bag. Supplementation with top-notch bioavailable vitamins, minerals, and probiotics can help contribute to your to our overall health.
It is ideal to have local, seasonal fruits and vegetables in our diet whenever possible, but in the winter months, this can be challenging. Consult your physician to determine if supplementation makes sense for you. Be sure to find a product with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables in capsule or soft gummy forms that can bridge the gaps in your nutrition.
Now that you have given your body a great big thank you for all it has done for you this year. Go out and have an incredible holiday season.
Lisa Profera MD is the Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD
Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine. With over 25 years of medical experience, Dr. Lisa Profera offers a wealth of knowledge and perspective. She is passionate about helping people optimize beauty, health and wellness.
PROJUVU MD, Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine
Professional Rejuvenation Services Centered Around You
firstname.lastname@example.org • 844-PROJUVU