Improving overall health with nutrition and exercise
By Beverly Endslow, CDCA, NASM, Clinical Assistant, Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program
Ideal physical and mental wellness depends on three factors: a healthy diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise. When you put it that way, it seems like such an easy concept, but we all know that it can be challenging to achieve all of these goals. Lawyers, especially, are constantly on the go and work long hours so it can be difficult to find the time for physical and mental well-being. But, if you do not make time for your wellness now, you will be forced to make time for your illness later.
Eat your way to a healthier life
A person who eats mostly refined (processed) foods, ingests more than 45 teaspoons of sugar a day and eats more than 45% of calories from fat is more likely to suffer health problems than a person who eats mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and legumes. Health issues include a higher risk of heart attack, diabetes, arthritis, sleep disorder, depression, cancer, doctor visits, allergies, gout ... the list goes on. Those who choose to eat healthy have better confidence, live longer, have fewer accidents and a higher energy level. Which person would you rather be?
The focus of a healthy diet should be four key ingredients daily: protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates and water. Also, invest in a good multi-vitamin.
The best protein comes in the form of meat, seafood and legumes (beans/nuts). Proteins are important because they:
Make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
Build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
Reduce appetite and hunger levels.
Increase muscle mass and strength.
Maintain bone mass, lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Help reduce cravings and desire for late night snacking.
Boost metabolism and increase fat burning.
Lower blood pressure.
Help maintain weight loss.
Help your body repair itself after injury.
The body does not store protein, so it is important to eat it with every meal. The suggested amount of protein daily is three servings a day, with one serving being about the size of your palm.
The best types of fat come from olive oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, olives, pumpkin seeds, avocados and sunflower seeds.
Fats are important because they:
Reduce the risk of heart disease.
Reduce bad cholesterol (LDL).
Increase good cholesterol (HDL).
Lower blood pressure.
Reduce cancer risk.
Improve insulin sensitivity.
Be careful of the serving size when eating nuts, though. One handful is enough. Even though nuts are healthy, the calories will add up quickly.
Believe it or not, some carbohydrates are actually good for you. Complex carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and 100% whole grains. Other carbs, such as desserts, white bread, rice, pasta and snack foods like chips, crackers and pretzels, are not healthy because they provide little nutritional value. Complex carbohydrates are important because they:
Digest more slowly because they have a high fiber content
Guard against cardiovascular problems.
Help maintain healthy weight.
Help guard against type 2 diabetes.
An example of a serving of carbs is one slice of 100% whole wheat bread or half a cup of 100% whole wheat pasta. Also note that regular wheat bread is not whole wheat. It has to say 100% whole wheat for it to be a complex carbohydrate.
Water is essential in making your body function properly and helps your body absorb the important nutrients from your healthy food. An adequate supply of water depends on the person, but a general rule of thumb is to drink at least 64 ounces a day, and more if you exercise. Dehydration can cause impaired mood, lack of concentration and increased headaches. You will know if you are dehydrated if your urine is yellow. You may also think you’re hungry, when in reality, you may need water. Staying hydrated also helps with constipation, kidney stones, acne and decreases your risk of bladder and colorectal cancer.
Tips to incorporate healthy foods and water into your busy day
You may also want to invest in a quality, daily multi-vitamin that contains vitamins A, Bs, C, D, E, K, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium to supplement and fill in any gaps in diet.
Multiple studies have shown that people who exercise regularly (five times a week for at least 30 minutes) have:
Feel more relaxed.
Feel more positive.
Higher self-esteem and self-confidence.
An ideal week of adequate exercise is 3x cardiovascular for 45 minutes each session and weight training twice a week. Examples of cardio include walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling and hiking.
Can’t find time to exercise?
Break up your exercise throughout the day into smaller intervals to equal a total of 30 minutes, as long as your heart rate increases each time. Take the stairs, walk or go to the gym during your lunch break, park your car farther away from the entrance – these small steps can add up. Better yet, invite a colleague to join you on your fitness journey. Having a buddy can increase your chances of committing to exercise..
Adequate sleep is another important part of a healthy lifestyle. We all have days where we are sleepy, but beware of fatigue, a mental or physical state of extreme tiredness and lack of energy. Have you ever experienced times where you try desperately to stay awake, but you still find your head dropping and eyelids shutting with no control? You might nod off for a second or a minute, or just have an overall feeling of being tired. This is an example of fatigue. Symptoms of fatigue include trouble concentrating, making decisions, problem-solving, listening and relating to others, which are all requirements of being a good lawyer.
A lack of sleep can result in a greater chance of feeling burned out, an increased chance of heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.
The good news is that those who already incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into thier daily schedules tend to find that sleep comes easier for them.
To get at least eight hours of sleep, try to build a habit of going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day. This consistency stimulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you have trouble falling asleep, some supplements like over-the-counter melatonin have been shown to help (but always consult with your doctor first).
Your body (and your clients) will thank you
Achieving optimal wellness is definitely not easy, especially when dealing with a demanding schedule, but it is doable. We all have days where we eat or drink something that is not that great for us, we have one too many drinks at happy hour or we skip our workout. Remember: It is ok to “cheat” once in a while. A healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep are cumulative and what matters is general commitment over time. Make these goals part of your daily routine and keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Your body, mind and clients will thank you for it.
If you find yourself stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, seek help. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program helps lawyers, judges and law students manage life's stresses. OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org