Along with the merriment of holiday celebrations often comes an over-indulgence in food and drink. Many people seek wellness advice after the holidays, as the arrival of a new year can provide a great opportunity to establish better health habits.
The most common queries I receive after the holidays are for weight loss, cleansing and detoxification solutions, excessive calories, alcohol, junk food and desserts having left the body in need of a wellness reboot. I like to look at a broad approach to achieving these goals. According to the World Health Organization, we need a balance of physical, mental, and emotional health for optimum wellness.
For our physical health, the ultimate goal is to be able to perform easily the basic activities of daily living. We want to wake each morning with energy that lasts all day, to be free of illness and maintain a healthy body.
Many people cannot achieve their ideal weight through diet and exercise. Fasting for one or two non-consecutive days each week can make an incredible difference for weight management and overall health, with clinically proven benefits that include improving mental function and memory, controlling blood sugar and boosting growth hormone. To learn more, I recommend the books Fastdiet by Michael Mosley and The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore. I also recommend Moore’s Keto Clarity which details how the ketogenic diet can be miraculous for weight loss and improved health.
Natural supplements that can assist with weight loss include green tea extract and Meratrim, a combination of Indian sphaeranthus and mangosteen extract. One study found that those taking this extract lost five pounds and two inches in only two weeks, and after 12 weeks average weight loss was 12 pounds, with a five-inch waist reduction.
Avoid processed foods marketed as “low fat”. These foods usually replace satiating fat with sugar or starch. It is now clear that past recommendations to avoid fats have contributed to today’s epidemic of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia. New research has exonerated fats, and many well-known health professionals now recommend increasing healthy fat consumption, and encourage reducing carbohydrate intake for weight loss, improved brain function and energy. I recommend the book Eat Fat Get Thin by Mark Hyman, which as Dr. Hyman says, “separates fat from fiction.”
I generally do not advocate cleansing or detoxification supplements. Our body has the innate ability to eliminate toxins, but unless our diet and lifestyle choice supports these natural processes, our toxicity levels can increase, potentially contributing various health concerns.
Some people seek out colon cleansing products, looking to mediate or “undo” the consumption of toxic or unhealthy foods, or provide quick relief from constipation. Laxatives and cleansing supplements haven’t been shown to be effective. Some detox methods can increase the risk of liver damage, harm the gastrointestinal tract, and even bring on symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Poor bowel function can lead to toxins accumulating in the body, resulting in a range of health conditions. I believe we should detoxify daily through our lifestyle, with exercise and dietary choices including foods and supplements that improve liver function.
Exercise also plays a critical role in achieving optimal mental health. Different types of exercise can have specific mental health benefits. In older adults, aerobic exercise performed three times a week for a year have resulted in improved memory tests. Lifting weights helped improve problem-solving and multitasking. Combined, the exercises have improved executive function and associative memory.
Learning how to calmly deal with the stresses of daily life, controlling our temper when upset and striving to be in a good mood at all times may be even more important than achieving optimum physical and mental health.
Taking up yoga, learning to meditate, mindfulness, and controlled deep breathing techniques can all help us improve emotional health and, when done daily, help us to more effectively handle stress and naturally lower cortisol levels. I highly recommend the book Emotional Rescue by Dzogchen Ponlop, which offers guidance in transforming negative emotions into energy and power. Based on Buddhist psychology, the methods can help anyone deal with anger, aggression and desire.
Herbs called adaptogens can help the brain and body deal with stress and restore adrenal function, resulting in increased energy. Some of the most popular and effective adaptogens include rhodiola and ashwaghanda.
In addition, try to make some small changes to your daily routine that together can make a big difference. I recommend eating less, avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates, sitting less, standing more, moving more, and getting more sleep. Take opportunities to volunteer or share your knowledge. Reconnect with family and friends. Spend time daily being thankful for the beauty in your life, and the friends you have.
By making healthy choices and incorporating some manageable lifestyle changes into our routine, we can make improvements in our physical, mental and emotional health that will last all year long.
Nathan Zassman is the owner and president of Aviva Natural Health Solutions. To see this article and for more visit avivahealth.ca/articles.asp