It's a natural compulsion to make resolutions for change when entering a new year: it's a time of reflection and reassessing our goals and desires. As a doctor, I'm privy to all the health declarations " I'm going to lose 20 pounds this year!" , "I'm going to cut all the stress out of my life!", "I'm totally cutting out meat this time!"
While I totally support the desire to make healthy lifestyle changes, I find that it gets overwhelming if the changes are too many, or too ambitious. The good news is there ARE simple, easy changes we can all make this year that are proven to positively impact our health. Here are 4 small things that can have a huge impact- you can commit to all 4, or even just 1!
1. Eat 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruit a day:
Michael Pollan's quote "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" is definitely going to be a framed poster at my practice, as often as I quote it! There are innumerable health benefits associated with a plant-based diet. Now that doesn't mean you have to go all vegan. Simply aiming to incorporate more servings of plants in your diet automatically boosts the health profile of your diet. Quick tip: make 50% your plate vegetables and fruit at every meal as proposed by the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, and you're already halfway there.
2. Work on your sleep hygiene:
Lack of adequate is responsible for a range of health conditions you may not even be aware of: cognitive impairment, weight gain, hypertension, hormone imbalance just to name a few. Yet we live in a society that continues to not prioritize sleep because we're too busy, too stressed, too caffeinated! Developing a solid, consistent sleep routine. can help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve health parameters. If you're struggling with insomnia, see your doctor to discuss strategies.
3. Aim for intentional physical activity 30 minutes a day:
Exercise benefits are cumulative. Don't feel like you have to carve out an hour a day to hit the gym. Just aim for moderate intensity physical activity at least 30 minutes a day or 150 mins a week, which is the magic number shown to have a statistically significant health benefit. And remember, that 30 minutes doesn't have to be done all at once. Walking up flights of stairs, getting in a 15 minute walk...it all adds up to the goal.
4. Add self-care to the schedule:
Too often, we're worn thin taking care of everything and everyone else but ourselves. I find that when people don't make themselves a priority, self-care gets left by the wayside. This year, add an activity to your schedule to make sure it happens. Love to read? Anxiety eased when you find time to meditate? Soaking in the bath gives you life ? Put it on your schedule and make it a priority. Your health depends on it!
Here's wishing you a healthful 2023!
Kimberly Rogers, MD