What does it take to make a life-changing decision to improve one’s health? For some people its illness, a near death experience or the loss of a loved one. For many, it may simply be the unpleasant realization that their unhealthy lifestyle will eventually one day catch up to them. For some its vanity, and that is alright too. At least, initially. Whatever gets you moving in the direction of health is a good thing.
However, when vanity is the sole reason and the trend is more “spa, restrictive diet, botox, plastic surgery and quest for airbrushed perfection”, it can often just be a cover up for an unhealthy lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against any of those things. A good spa day can do wonders for the soul and if botox is your thing, so be it. (Just find a doctor who’s aesthetic can be summed up in one word: restraint).
A commitment to exercise and improved nutrition is better therapy than all of the above. Unfortunately, the multi-billion dollar beauty industry lures us into thinking that this cream, or that product or procedure will give us a youthful, dewy look. At 45 years old, I know I will not ever recapture the elasticity and youthful glow that I had when I was 30. I like to call myself a realistic optimist. But I do know that when I wake up every morning feeling refreshed, giving thanks for another day and having halfway decent looking skin, that the long-range things that I am doing to be healthy from the inside out, while not offering the instant gratification of the beauty industry, are really the best things for both my health and my looks.
Since beauty literally starts within, it’s the responsible day-to-day choices that translate outwardly. Some of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to revive appearance, physical health and mental acuity are:
1. Control Inflammation-one of the best ways to reclaim and maintain health and appearance is to control inflammation. Inflammation is heat, swelling or pain. When it is chronic, it can cause premature aging. Inflammation can take many forms. Some people have chronic inflammation that causes digestive disorders such as gas, bloating, heartburn and irritable bowel. Others exhibit inflammatory problems in the form of acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Sources of inflammation are stress, obesity, smoking, unneccessary drugs and sedentary lifestyles. One of the leading inflammatory triggers is unhealthful food, namely sugars, gluten, poor quality oils/fats, alcohol and artificial ingredients. Packaged and processed foods, especially since they are likely to be laden with many of the above ingredients plus hormones and preservatives, also contribute to inflammation. Combine inactivity plus poor diet and you have a recipe for poor overall health, poor skin health and wrinkles. The first step towards feeling and looking better is a diet that includes plenty of water, green vegetables, beans, other lean protein and raw foods. It is also important that inflammatory grains, such as wheat (think bread and pasta) be replaced with alternative grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice.
2. A Good Night’s Sleep- there is nothing more restorative to the body and skin than sleeping well at night.The priciest cream has nothing on a good night’s sleep. There are many things that can be done to improve sleep. One of the simplest, is sometimes one of the hardest to practice: turn your devices off. Step away from the computer. The blue light emitted from electronic screens has been shown to interfere with melatonin production and our brain-sleep signals. Not many people realize this, but eating too many refined carbohydrates during the day can actually trigger a low blood sugar response during your sleep and it’s attendant cortisol release, which can wake you up at night.
3. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices a Priority-don’t smoke, it reduces collagen formation. Get some exercise daily, even if it is a 10 minute walk. Reduce over the counter and prescription remedies when possible. There are other choices, but sometimes it takes a little digging. Consider this-Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years! We would do well to investigate some of the healing arts from other cultures. Find something you enjoy doing that brings you joy-whether it is volunteering, exercising, meaningful work, going to religious services, working towards a cause. The sense of satisfaction and meaning can greatly impact your health, happiness and we all know that when someone is wearing a smile, they look better!
Most health changes take place at home, without a tremendous amount of expertise or experience. All it takes is a firm commitment and a little expertise and sometimes some guidance.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments.