Welcome back Pilgrims,
This week’s Self-care Sunday is about physical self-care. There are a million and one ways take care of your body. There are also a million and one articles to explore those ways, so go find those. This blog is about concepts and some areas of physical health to consider.
While we force children to eat their vegetables, have we stopped forcing them on ourselves? Diet is an important part of physical health. Living abroad has really highlighted the how bad American food is. I’m not talking about preparation (someone send me some grits, please!). I’m talking about quality.
In my time abroad I have gone to my local supermarket and picked some of the best produce I’ve ever seen in my life. Here I was at this regular-schmegular grocery store—yet I was picking over Whole Foods quality produce…at neighborhood prices! I decided my first week in Auckland that all the other countries have sent their worst produce to America. That’s got to be it. There’s no other reasoning for these awesome fruits and veggies from Argentina can get to New Zealand in such great condition, but not Florida (don’t get me started on Arizona).
It’s not just produce, either. Cage free eggs, grass fed beef, free range chicken are all staples at the grocery store. In the States, these varieties are priced at a premium (read: too rich for my blood) and there may be one or two product choices for each of them. The rest of the world is literally eating better than us. Not because it’s healthier preparations per se but because the quality is better.
I know that the FDA has it’s work cut out for it, but while we wait for the standards to be raised in America, here are some thoughts on ways to improve your access to better foods.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically better than fresh produce bought from store. The freezing is done so soon after being picked that the nutrients are retained at a higher rate. Canned foods often have the least nutritional value because they are often cooked and have added preservatives.
Freshly picked produce of course has the highest nutritional value so maybe you can start a garden in your yard or community area. You can start with the scraps from the produce that you have bought from the store.
We all know that exercise is important. There are a million and one different ways to exercise. I personally struggle to find the gym engaging. If you can’t tell by my proclivity to pick up and move to unknown (to me) places, I don’t like repetition. I also don’t understand those people who run when they aren’t being chased.
Luckily, there are several ways to be active. Doing so doesn’t have to be a big effort. It can come from changing little things, such as altering your means of commute, getting involved in a club sport, or going to the gym the choice is yours.
Consistency is key. It’s not how intensely you workout, but rather how frequently you do. Exercising 30 minutes a day/7 days a week will yield better results than going to the gym 1hr/ 3 days a week.
If you are interested in weight loss or burning calories, you might be surprised to know that being winded is a good indicator of fat being burned. 80% of fat burned is expelled through the lungs.
Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I need my eight hours. I am unabashed about my love of slumber. If I give up the opportunity to go to sleep for you… just know that is an act of love.
Sleep is magical. Sleep is when your mind converts short term memory to long term. While you sleep, your body is literally healing itself on a cellular level. Sleep reduces stress. Sleep gives your whole body a rest; your brain, your heart, your lungs. These organs never really get a break, but sleep is the closest thing to a break they are going to get. Getting enough sleep has even been linked to living a longer life.
Do you get why sleep is so important to me? It’s not personal, I just love sleep more than you.
If you haven’t got your own love affair with sleep, here are some things that may help
Naps are good for if you are feeling fatigued. I have plans to move to Spain and their whole siesta thing is a major selling point. I know for a long time Spain has caught a lot of flack from work-driven Americans, but they are actually on to something. Taking naps has even be found to increase productivity. Now, American companies like Google actually have installed nap pods in their corporate offices. I’ve worked in an office with an individual break room with a little sofa. Some days I would spend my one-hour lunch break taking a nap— those were the best days.
Do you find yourself tired or unrested in the morning? The grogginess that we experience in the morning has less to do with the amount of sleep we got, but rather where in the sleep cycle we are when the alarm sounds. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. As you leave the REM stage of the sleep cycle is the best time to rouse from sleep. There are even handy apps and calculators to help calculate when to best wake. I’ve used this for the last three years and I can tell you—It helps.
Last but not least
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
With the dismal state of the US medical system, I know many people avoid going to the doctor because of the cumbersome costs affiliated with it. By the time many people see a physician, it is often late in the game. I say that regular visits to the doctor are essential to good health and include checkups and screenings.
Get to know your family medical history. What ailments are you predisposed to? Many conditions are treatable if caught early enough, some are even preventable. Consulting a doctor can help with the three other topics I discussed above. You can make informed decisions about how to best take care of yourself. If there are changes to your diet, sleep, or exercise regimen a doctor can give you specific advice regarding which is best for you.
Okay pilgrims, that’s all I have at the moment. Best of luck on your journeys to physical self-care. I’m proud of you for taking the time to take care of yourself.
Until Next Time,
If you need more advice about sleep… I got you!