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Setting realistic health goals for the New Year (First of two parts)

January 16, 2020 - Thursday 4:01 AM by Grace Gaston Dousel

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After the holiday feasting, many are now making New Year’s resolutions for a healthier lifestyle. But many more are feeling that health goals are not as attainable so better leave that out of the list. Here are simple ways to set realistic health goals and achieve them before it’s time to make another list of New Year’s resolutions:
For better sleep
Sleep is essential to a healthier body. Our bodies need to have its well-deserved rest at the end of a workday. I used to have very poor sleeping habits that caused my body to be weak and my mind to be less alert. So I decided to do something about it. However, I knew it would be difficult for me to suddenly switch to a healthier wake up and sleep schedule. So I followed what I call “the 30-minute weekly adjustment pattern.” Every week, I adjusted my wake up and sleep time by 30 minutes until I reached my desired schedule. I used to sleep at one in the morning and wake up between 7 to 8 in the morning making me lethargic and less productive during the day. On the first week, I slept at 12:30 instead of one o’clock and woke up at 6:30 instead of 7:00am. On the second week I adjusted my schedule again by 30 minutes until I reached my desired healthy sleep schedule of 10:00pm and wake up time of 5:00am. In the middle of the day, I take a 30-minute power nap to recharge. I resolved to keep the schedule for the next 90 days to cement the habit into my system. My body clock has now adjusted to this schedule and I have gained extra time and energy in my days.
What if staying up late the night before couldn’t be avoided? Just aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep. Then return to the 30-minute weekly adjustment pattern until you get back to your healthy sleeping habit. It actually gets easier every week.
For better stamina
There’s no way around a stronger body than to be active. If you are not the athletic type, don’t fret. You need not be a triathlete to achieve a healthier physique. Small beginnings and baby steps are also acceptable if you aim for a lifestyle change. A writer like me does not get much physical activity during the day (except for when I clean the house and do the laundry). What I did was to start doing my exercise while on the bed at 5am as soon as my alarm clock rings! I looked for static stretching exercises on the internet. I chose simple routines that I could do while lying flat on my back. I chose stretching positions that would prepare my body for the day’s work and deal with my problematic areas (my thighs, abdomen, and back). I started doing a few repetitions that lasted only 10 minutes to begin with. Then I get out of bed and do some jumping jacks before I head for the shower. This pattern of activity is guaranteed to wake me up and jump start my day. Each week, I add a new stretching exercise and a new cardio activity extending my exercise by 10 minutes every week until I reached my desired daily exercise routine and duration of 30-45 minutes. I again did this consistently for a period of 90 days, making it a regular part of my healthy core habits. Now, my body craves this early morning stretch daily.
For better stomach satisfaction
During one of our conversations, a mentor of mine shared the difference between adults and children when it comes to eating. She said, “You know you have matured when you begin to eat what you know your body needs rather than what your taste buds want.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that! And that could be a guidepost in making food choices. Before eating something or getting food items from the grocery racks, you can ask yourself whether it is something that your body needs or simply what your taste buds want. It will be great if both your body and your taste buds agree! So, best is to do your research of what foods are good for your body and would be palatable as well! My doctor friend Joanne Baldonado-Aguila taught me to choose living foods over dead foods. Living foods are not processed, packaged or canned. Living foods are obviously the healthier choice because they have lesser salt and sugar content and they are not loaded with preservatives. Organic produce and products are also available. It is really just a matter of choice and research. My personal rule of thumb when eating is to avoid snacks (we don’t really need to eat more than three times a day) and to use the plate portion during meals: half of my plate should be for vegetables, a fourth of it would be for protein-rich foods, the remaining one fourth can be divided into carbohydrates and a small portion of dessert. Oh, don’t forget to eat your fruits before each meal to aid digestion.