As we close in on New Year's Eve I've been thinking about my resolution for 2012 and what I keep going back to is this—I hate New Year's resolutions. No matter how well-intended I am, no matter how precisely I articulate my goal, I never keep them. And then I feel like a failure.
Happy Freakin' New Year. You know what I mean?
So, this year I've decided to do something different. Instead of making a half-hearted attempt at some goal I really have no intention of keeping, I've decided to develop 10 commandments for a healthy life. Things that if I follow, will by default, keep me on the right path. So here goes.
Dianna's 10 Commandments for Healthy Living
Thursday, December 29
Wednesday, December 21
A couple of years ago I came down with the flu on Christmas Eve. Yup, Christmas Eve. I of course, didn’t get a flu shot that year because I arrogantly assumed, “I never get the flu.” Uh huh. Well, here’s my story, in poetic verse. It’s a cautionary tale that will hopefully inspire you to take care of yourself this holiday season so you don’t end up like me.
Twas the night before Christmas and I got the flu
With presents to wrap and folks to entertain, what was I to do?
The relatives arrived all merry and gay
I secretly wished they’d all go away
With sweat on my brow and aches in my body
I slapped on a smile and downed a hot toddy
Christmas Eve festivities droned on and on
I sat on the couch trying to stifle a yawn
Finally, our children were tucked in nice and tight
But Michael and I still had a long night
Up and down the stairs we did go
Delivering gifts to the Christmas tree below
Finally collapsing onto my warm, soft bed
My eyes shut for a moment before screams of, “Santa’s been here!” echoed in my head
Forcing a smile and nodding with feigned delight
I felt like a truck had run over me last night
Whispering to Michael, “I’m not sure I can make it. I feel like hell.”
His eyes sympathetic, he nodded, “Yeah, I can tell.”
Perplexed he asked, “What about the turkey and stuffing? What will you do?”
Christmas was here. It did not stop for the flu.
I rallied once more to cook for my crew
My face taking on a pasty white hue
The turkey was roasted and the potatoes mashed
I sat down for dinner on the verge of collapse
With glassy eyes and a fever of one hundred and three
I was tapped out. I hadn't an ounce of glee.
The feast was blessed and our crystal glasses clinked in the air
All the while I tried to steady myself in the chair
Waving to my family as they drove out of sight
“Thank God that’s over,” I said, “I thought they’d be here all night.”
Tissues and Nyquil in hand, I slogged off to bed
Visions of Cold-Eeze danced in my head
Enveloped in my cocoon of Kleenex and blankets
I sweated and tossed and turned for ages
Emerging three days later I’d found
My illness had made me lose seven pounds
“Hey, not bad,” I thought with a slow smile
Now maybe I won’t have to diet for a while
Yeah, nice thought, but that wasn’t the case
The pounds reappeared at an alarming pace
A week later I was back to feeling almost new
But I’d missed the joy of Christmas because of the flu
A Word about Flu Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get a yearly flu shot. It is especially important for those in high risk groups—young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
In addition to the flu shot, other preventative tips include:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your face. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday and best wishes for 2012!
Tuesday, December 13
Sitting in my home office, hurrying to check things off my to-do list before the kids scream in the door after school, the phone rang.
“Hi, this is Eric’s mom,” the cheery voice said on the other end of the line. “Eric was wondering if Grant would like to join his LEGO robotics team? They’ve discussed it in school and apparently Grant is really excited about it….”
“I’m sorry. What is this exactly?” I asked, completely confused. As usual, Grant hadn’t informed me about this new activity.
“The kids build robots together…we meet for an hour a week at my house…blah blah blah…,” she explained.
As she talked I thought about the logistics of adding this to my schedule. So, every Tuesday Grant will get home, quickly do homework, I’ll race him over to the robotics team thing, then we’ll race back home put on his soccer gear and drive over to indoor soccer training. I'll get home just after 5:00 pm, throw something on the table for dinner and race back to pick him up from soccer practice.
And that didn’t account for anything going on with my two daughters, myself or my husband. And that’s just Tuesday. The other six days of the week are equally ridiculous.
Shaking my head and in a voice more forceful than I meant it to be, I said, “No. I can’t do it. I can’t do one more thing.”
“Well, it wouldn’t take up a lot of time. It’s just an hour…” she continued.
“No,” I reiterated. “I’m sorry. I just can’t. My schedule is crazy. Grant's got winter soccer. Amanda's got field hockey. If I commit to one more thing I think I might have a breakdown.”
“Oh,” she said, pausing before adding. “Eric was really looking forward to having Grant on the team.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I just can’t.”
Hanging up the phone I placed my head in my hands and rested for a minute. To-do list items careened around my brain—social commitments, kid activities, work deadlines. I could feel my heart racing, my breathing becoming faster and more shallow.
Adding to my already elevated stress level is the holiday season. With shopping, shipping, wrapping and entertaining added to my already packed schedule, this girl is ready for the psych ward—for its soothing white décor, hushed voices, padded walls and the mildly restrictive white jacket. If I could request a straight jacket in black (black’s more slimming, you know) I think I’d admit myself.
Since I really don’t have time for a nervous breakdown, I did the next best thing.
Breathe. Just breathe.
One of the basic tenets of the In8 program is to incorporate meditation into your everyday life. While I struggle to find the time for a full 20-30 minute daily session, I have found that taking time to breathe deeply gives me a sense of calm.
I’ve posted about Dr. Andrew Weil’s relaxation breathing technique before, but I think it bears repeating. This takes five minutes. FIVE MINUTES! I do it in the car at a stop light, sitting at my desk, even waiting in line at the grocery store. It's fabulous.
Here it is:
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
Sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
· Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
· Hold your breath for a count of seven.
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
· This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
As you venture out to join the mall crowds or try to tackle that neverending to-do list, take a few minutes and just breathe. It’ll calm your nerves, lower your heart rate and help you accomplish those commitments in a calmer, more relaxed manner.
Friday, December 2
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you didn’t do so well with your healthy eating plan last week. Let’s say, for example, that you stood next to the spinach dip and devoured about a pound of it. With chips. Those really salty thin pretzel things. And—I’m just guessing here, throwing things out off the top of my head—let’s say you had one too many drinks. Like maybe a dozen. And to top things off you buried your face in your sister’s apple crisp, your mom’s sausage stuffing and took down the mountain of mashed potatoes all by yourself. You know, hypothetically. Let’s say that’s what your weekend looked like.
What do you do now?
To quote my wonderful New York friend and neighbor, “fahgettaboudit.”
It’s over. Banish the guilt. You can’t un-eat or un-drink anything so the best thing to do is just move on. It’s a new day. Time to get back on track.
Actually, getting back on track is one of the key skills nutritionists cite as being part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Everyone indulges on occasion, that's normal. What differentiates those that are successful at managing their weight from those that aren’t is the ability to get back to healthy habits immediately. The times you indulge should be the exception, not the rule.
So, what should you do now, exactly?
1) Stop freaking out. One (or two) days of overindulgence won’t ruin your hard work. The key is to make sure you don’t continue overindulging. That will definitely sabotage your healthy habits.
2) Drink plenty of water. That bloated feeling is probably not real weight, but extra water caused by the excess salt you ingested. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. That’ll help rid your body of the excess sodium and reduce the bloat.
3) Get moving. Jump back into your normal exercise routine. Exercise boosts your mood too so you’ll not only be doing something good for your body, but you’ll feel better too.
4) Eat five small meals a day. Resume your healthy eating habits. Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and two small snacks a day. For example:
- Breakfast: Low-fat yogurt and berries.
- Mid-morning snack: A piece of fruit and an ounce of low-fat cheese
- Lunch: A big salad with lean protein such as fish or chicken
- Afternoon snack: A handful of almonds
- Dinner: A piece of fish and plenty of vegetables
5) Restart your food journal. When I feel like I’m out of control I start writing everything down. There’s nothing like documenting everything I eat and drink to make me more mindful of my choices. MyPlate at Livestrong.com is a great tool for this.