There’s still time to make a New Year’s resolution for better health. This year, don’t just say you’ll lose weight or that you’ll eat better, advise Whatcom County health experts. Instead, make a resolution that will stick and bring about real change.
Their advice: Start with small changes to your daily habits, because small changes can snowball over time as you feel better and see the results.
It’s never too late to improve your health, no matter your age, including older adults who often struggle with obesity, arthritis or other chronic health problems.
The experts also say people need to hold themselves accountable, and that keeping a journal, or regular visits to a doctor or health coach, can help keep them on track. Here’s more specific advice on how to become healthier:
Tamar Lieb, naturopath and midwife at London Health Center, Ferndale
Get better sleep. Set a screen-time curfew for yourself and create a TV- and computer-free zone in your bedroom. Or, determine how much sleep you really need during a long weekend or vacation, and see how much you sleep. The first few days your body may be making up for a sleep deficit, but then your body’s natural need for sleep takes over.
Focus on antioxidants. Try to eat seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Antioxidants are natural substances in fruits and vegetables that help bodies repair cellular damage and regenerate tissue. Some theories suggest that the detrimental side effects of aging occur as a result of cumulative cellular damage.
Exercise more: Start a strength-training program. Stretch daily. Take a yoga class, do tai chi or go dancing. Exercise helps regain the muscle tone that people lose as they age.
Demetree Robinson, health coach and owner, NuHealth Holistic Wellness, Lynden
Drink lemon water each morning: First thing each morning, squeeze a half or full lemon into an eight-ounce glass of room-temperature water, and drink it at least 10 minutes before eating or drinking other food. Lemons contain citric acid, magnesium, bioflavonoids, vitamin C, pectin and calcium. It’s a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and immune booster as well as a digestive aid.
Add a supplement: Vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis and depression, and guards against some cancers. Vitamin C boosts your immune system. Omega 3 reduces inflammation and improves cardiovascular health. Probiotics improve your digestion and boost your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection.
Carol Simmer, registered dietician, Whatcom County Council on Aging
Eat less sugar. People with diabetes know they should limit their sugar intake, but many older adults can benefit as well. Eating less sugar will reduce your intake of empty calories and may reduce insulin resistance. Insulin resistance inhibits metabolism, which can lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight. Eat fewer and smaller portions of sweets, and choose foods with less “added” sugar.
Choose foods to improve brain health. Eating food with healthy fats and a variety of antioxidants can boost brain function. Good sources include fish, walnuts, seeds (flax, chia, hemp), olive and avocado oils, spices and herbs (sage, lemon balm, saffron, cinnamon, turmeric and others), leafy greens, whole grains, berries, green tea, and dark chocolate.
Avoid or reduce trans fats and processed meats with nitrates. Higher consumption of trans fats and nitrates are associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment. Read food labels carefully and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Mystique Grobe, naturopath, Bellingham
Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar increases inflammation in the body and speeds up degenerative conditions as well as the aging process. Avoiding sugar can improve digestive health, cognitive function, aging and arthritic pain, boost the immune system, and, of course, improve blood sugar levels.
Eat more veggies, especially the green kind. Vegetables increase fiber, which promotes regular bowel movements. They also add minerals that are essential for relaxation, sleep, and fewer muscle spasms.
Eat less processed food. Processed food often has nutrients processed out of the food. Whole foods – grains, fruits and vegetables that don’t come out of a box - adds nutrients to your diet and are better for your overall health.
Change step by step. Add one healthy thing to your diet or take away one unhealthy thing. As you feel better, it becomes easier to adopt another change. Before you begin, do a self-evaluation of symptoms or habits that bother you, and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. Reassess your symptoms every two weeks to monitor how things are improving. That can inspire you to continue the changes.