|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Tips and Tools for Managing Your Health in the New Year
By Courtney Reyers, NAMI Publications Manager
Every January, people join gyms and vow to stick to new-year diets. While a big change is hard to stick with, some health management tips can be easily woven in to your life in 2012.
Being mindful of your physical health is especially important for people living with mental illness—particularly for individuals who take certain medications. Weight gain, Type II Diabetes and smoking are also major health concerns for people in recovery.
People who flocked to the gym in January often drop out by February, according to health experts Tom and Dian Griesel, Ph.D., authors of the book TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust.
Dian, a nutritionist, says it’s misguided to think of eating healthy as a “resolution,” because, like many resolutions, it can wind up broken. Instead, it is vital to incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle—habits that can be maintained over a long period, no matter what month the calendar currently reads.
The Griesels share seven simple steps from their book that dieters can easily incorporate into their busy schedules:
- Set a goal for fat loss, not a reduction in scale weight. Most dieting efforts, which focus on a drop in scale weight, result in the loss of lean body mass (LBM) along with fat. This loss of LBM can be significant and will reduce your base metabolic rate (BMR).
- Drink more water. Most people are chronically dehydrated, particularly first thing in the morning. We often mistake thirst as hunger, and eat when we should be drinking. Always drink a large glass of water as soon as you wake up, and whenever you feel hungry—you may find you really weren’t hungry after all!
- Focus on being more active. Never sit for more than an hour at a time, and always look for ways to increase your daily activity. Walking is great, but everything counts. Just be up on your feet and moving as much and as often as possible. Get out and go to the park, zoo or museums. Find an outdoor activity that you enjoy.
- Build and strengthen your muscles. It is your muscles that drive your metabolism 24/7/365. Increasing your muscle mass will increase your BMR. You do not need to join a gym or buy a set of weights. Simple body-weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and squats done three times per day for as little as one minute will do the trick, especially if you have been inactive and sitting around too much. Do what you can now and build from there. Consistency is the key.
- Start improving your diet. Replacing the refined, processed, packaged and fast foods in your current diet with fresh natural foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish and meat will dramatically increase your health and improve your body composition without dieting or counting calories. Have fruit for breakfast, start packing your lunch and concentrate on making simple meals at home with fresh natural foods. Drink more water instead of soda or sports drinks.
- Get a good night’s sleep. We need deep, quality sleep to be optimally healthy. Set regular sleep hours and keep them whenever possible. Avoid caffeine, alcohol or stimulating TV or activities before your scheduled sleep time. Keep your room dark, cool and quiet.
- Practice regular stress reduction techniques. In today’s world, we experience chronic stress that was unknown to our ancestors. Meditation can be very helpful. However, consistently practicing short relaxation exercises during your day is often even better, because they provide regular feedback and can help you to recognize and break stress patterns. These mini-relaxation sessions will reset your nervous system and do wonders for your health and feelings of well-being.
In addition to the tips above, be sure to visit NAMI’s Hearts & Minds program, where you will find plenty of useful tools to help you manage your health, including food and exercise logs, videos on meditation and guided imagery and healthful shopping lists.
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