Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laying the groundwork

Yours Truly at the conclusion of the Peachtree Road Race last year
The groundwork for all happiness is good health.
~Leigh Hunt

As Lindy pointed out yesterday, there is a plethora of information out there about health and well-being. Do I really have anything more to contribute to the conversation?

Well, I don't have credentials as a weight loss expert and I am certainly no fitness guru. But I AM an expert on my own experience as a human being struggling to live a reasonably healthy lifestyle in a world filled with junk food, tobacco advertisement, and mind-crushing stress. The fact is, every day I am faced with a series of choices. Do I eat the doughnut or the oatmeal for breakfast? Do I go to the gym or do I skip it, just this once? Do I stay up late watching Letterman even though I know the alarm will go off at 5:30 the next morning?

I believe the secret is tipping the scales in favor of choices that lead to overall health and fitness. Here are a few of the rules I strive to live by:

1. Eat healthy. For me, this means never skipping breakfast, limiting portion size, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoiding foods with ingredients whose names I can't pronounce. I do treat myself - at least once a day - but I have learned to be content for the most part with a Nonni biscotti (110 calories), a fat free fudgesicle (80 calories) or a small McDonald's pineapple mango smoothie (210 calories). I have struggled with my weight all my life; I weigh ten pounds more than I would like right now but I am good according to the charts, so I am trying to learn to love this post-menopausal body the way it is and not obsess about a number on the scale that I may never see again.

2. Exercise regularly. I try to hit the gym at least five days a week (Fitness 19, $14.95/month) where I do 35 minutes on the elliptical machine. I also have a body bar workout DVD that I like to do a couple of times a week, but that tends to fall by the wayside during the summer months. For the record, I do NOT love going to the gym, but I force myself to go anyway. It's kind of like brushing my teeth at night or washing my hands before eating; I don't really give myself a choice in the matter. And yes, I do miss a day now and then, but I try never to miss two days in a row.

3. Drink plenty of water. I start every morning by drinking a big glass of water with my thyroid medication - I have an mildly underactive thyroid - then I fill a 32-ounce container with water and try to finish it by the end of the day. I also take a bottle of water with me to the gym.

4. Get plenty of rest. I am an insomniac AND a morning person, meaning I often find myself burning my candle at both ends, a direct path to burnout and illness. But this summer I am making a sincere effort to get at least seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night; it will be harder after school starts again, but I am hoping by then this will be a fully formed habit. And I have eliminated caffeine after noon, which seems to be helping with the insomnia.

5. Wear sunscreen. I have never been a sun worshipper, but I do enjoy being out in the sun and I tan easily. But last year I had a "pre-cancerous" mole removed from my stomach, and my dermatologist warned me to be careful. "You have great olive skin," he said, "but you're not invincible." Point taken.

6. Practice preventive maintenance. I am always appalled when I find out that someone I know and love hasn't had a PAP smear in ten years, or had a mammogram EVER. Go to the doctor, people. Get those checkups. What you don't know can kill you.

7. Don't smoke (duh) and drink alcohol in moderation. Enough said.

8. Develop a spiritual practice. Whether it's going to church on Sunday and worshipping with a body of like-minded believers or sitting in the lotus position doing breath work and meditating on "OM," find a way to center yourself and explore your connectedness with the Universe, whatever you perceive it to be. This does all kinds of good things for your head.

9. Find work that you love. 
10. Purge toxic people from your life.
Both mind-numbing work and soul-crushing people make me want to eat potato chips and drink gallons of wine while staying up all night watching infomercials; in other words, they make me care less about myself and making positive choices. Do you hate your job? Then find your passion and make it happen. Is someone making you crazy - or worse, harming you or making you feel like you are stupid or worthless? Do yourself a favor. Say goodbye and don't look back.

It has taken me literally YEARS to figure some of this out, but what I know for sure as that the more positive, healthy choices I make each day, the better I feel, and the better I feel, the better I function. Each of us faces unique challenges as we travel our paths across this planet. What is your number one tip for good health? Leave a comment - we love chatting with our readers! And remember come back tomorrow and find out Megan's perspective on this week's topic. Three writers, three points of view - that's what Writers LiP.P. is all about!

Author: Pam Asberry


unstoppablestart said...

Whoo hoo! I love, love, love number 10! Girl, your post is fabulous and makes plenty of sense. Thanks for sharing! - Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

Yes, Lindy, #10 is all-important one. I just said goodbye to a crazy-maker in my life and it is amazing how many doors are opening to me now. You go, girl!

Marilyn Baron said...

Great advice. I love Nonni Biscotti, but hate exercise. Oh well.

Pam Asberry said...

Marilyn, going to the gym really helps me exercise self-control when it comes to food; knowing that it takes almost fifteen minutes on the elliptical machine to burn off one Nonno biscotti really helps remove the temptation to have a second one, LOL! :-)

Julee J. Adams said...

Exercise also helps you sleep, at least it does for me.

And I am so glad your self-esteem is in a great place so that you don't have to be in a toxic relationship to be "happy."

Congratulations on finding where you need to be! Keep up the good work.

Pam Asberry said...

That's a good point about exercise, Julee; the fact that I am back at the gym regularly might be part of the reason I am sleeping better. And the funny thing about toxic relationships is it's hard to realize how toxic they are while you are in the middle of them. It's like the old story about the frog in the pot. The flame gets higher, the water gets hotter, and you just adapt until the next thing you know you're boiled to death. Thank you for your support!