There continues to be a steady increase in adult obesity across the United States. According to The State of Obesity, in 2016 Texas ranked number eight overall, making it in the top 10 among the states with the highest rate of obesity. It seems contradictory that while we are in the most advanced technological era and we should have the resources and means to not only lead more informed lives but also healthier ones, health continues to deteriorate as illness and mental health conditions increase. What are we doing wrong?
Nothing. That is, we are literally doing almost nothing. Sedentary lifestyles seem to dominate our fast-paced, career-driven, mortgage-dependent lives. We are so connected to technology and so disconnected from ourselves that we miss the subtle messages our bodies send and only when they are screaming (for example, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure), we act by silencing them with medications so we can continue to focus on the external priorities while maintaining a false state of health.
Pause. Take a deep breath right here. Really pause and breathe in for eight seconds, and breathe out for the same length of time. And if you were to do this about 10 more times, you would lower your blood pressure and stress level, send some feel-good chemicals through your bloodstream, and maybe even raise an involuntary smile.
They are called “lifestyle diseases” for a reason. Besides the ones mentioned above, other effects of a sedentary lifestyle include weight gain, low energy, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, an increased risk for cancer, and cardiovascular disease, to name a few. If these conditions are preventable but our jobs require us to sit all day, what can we do to improve our health?
The single most important change you can implement right now is through the food you eat. Nutrition plays a fundamental role in our overall wellness. It may be easier to get a quick bite at a fast food restaurant on your way home, but stop for a minute and think about what buying that means: high carbs, sodium, fat, and probably sugar, artificial ingredients and other by-products that disrupt our gut microbiome and cause hormonal imbalances. After eating such a meal, you most likely feel guilty and stressed. Perhaps you will even throw out that plan to go for a quick run because you already made a poor choice today; maybe you should just leave it for tomorrow.
As Jack Kornfield says, “The trouble is, you think you have time.” Leaving important things for another day is a hard habit to break. For our physical and mental wellbeing, it is important that we do.
“Risk for causes of mortality is increased when activity is decreased,” said Raul Montenegro, coach and owner of Charlie Mike Crossfit. “Little changes throughout your day can go a long way. Packing your own lunch is by far the best thing you can do to make sure you are eating as healthy as you can.”
Montenegro emphasized that nutrition is the foundation for health. When you switch out fast and processed food for wholesome, nutrient-dense foods, your body, energy, and self-esteem improve instantly. Social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest offer easy recipe inspiration when you search the right keywords.
Incorporating small changes into your everyday living significantly add up. Park a little farther from the entrance so you walk a few extra steps. Take that call from your hands-free device and walk around the office — or better yet, outside. Find a meaningful activity and stick to it: yoga, CrossFit, running, Pilates, lifting weights, spinning, tai chi, cycling, martial arts, boxing. We are fortunate to have so many options in our area. Montenegro also reminds us that a little activity is better than no activity at all, so even those changes that feel tiny go a long way in improving your health. Maybe your backyard has all the answers to wind down, disconnect from work, and connect to joy and movement when you go outside and let your kids take you to their world of play and imagination.
Wherever you may be in your journey to improving health, every small change and step counts. Even if today was not such a great day and you made some poor choices already, let it go. Forgive yourself and start over this very moment. The weather is already welcoming you to join nature, and more and more health-conscious restaurants and stores are opening up. Thank yourself for reading this and seeking to improve; you are already moving in a positive direction!