Kent Bradley, MD, Herbalife Nutrition Chief Health and Nutrition Officer
2020 was a year like no other. Driven by a global pandemic, many of us experienced more time at home sheltering with family. Baking became a hobby and working out at the gym was limited. Because of this, many of us gained weight and fell off our health goals as we shifted priorities and gave ourselves forgiveness in a challenging year. Good health is a combination of physical and mental health, which is greatly strengthened by nutrition and exercise, sleep, and connections with others. By making a few small adjustments to your life, you can be more vigorous in 2021 and ready for any future challenges.
Fuel with food
Most people know that healthy eating helps us maintain a healthy weight. But what Is often overlooked are the additional benefits of eating a well-balanced diet. A diet that provides good nutrition means getting the necessary nutrients, the vitamins and minerals along with the macronutrients, to help your body work its best. From improving your emotional wellbeing to maintaining the body’s systems to reducing food sources of heart-threatening bad cholesterol, the advantages of eating healthy are manifold. Most of us start the new year with goals, including eating better, but we often fall off our plans as the year progresses. As a health professional, I have found that many people benefit from eating healthy and losing weight when they are part of a community, all working, collaborating, and supporting one another. While many of these groups are unable to meet in person, they have blossomed online, and the camaraderie has been shown to help healthy weight loss and meet nutritional goals.
Focus on overall wellbeing
Eating healthy is a must – but so is having a balanced lifestyle. To keep stress at bay, look at all aspects to improve your wellness. If you are not eating a nutrient rich diet, be sure to supplement – and remember that hydration is an important aspect of balanced nutrition. Exercise will also improve your overall health; and may improve your sleep quality.
Mental health also plays into our wellbeing – with stress being a contributing factor in conditions from heart disease to obesity. According to WebMD, 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. There are wonderful new apps like Headspace and Calm that can help you navigate several stress-inducing scenarios. Remember that if you are already suffering these or other medical conditions, reducing stress remains important, but you should seek medical treatment.
For overall wellbeing set a daily routine that includes nutrition, exercise, sleep and mental breaks.
One of the insights that 2020 taught us was how much we crave connection. Isolation has led to higher rates of depression. Multiple studies have shown that social connection “can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems.” While the beginning of 2021 will still have its challenges in this department, try picking up the phone more often, try write good old-fashioned letters and cards, and plan for late-year meetups and vacations. There is light at the end of the isolation tunnel.
Reinvest time in things you enjoy – or find new things
Participating in activities we enjoy gives our brain a boost – and learning new things impacts our overall brain health. It can be hard to find time to do something we want, but it benefits us to prioritize it. So, get out and garden, volunteer for a meaningful cause, take a dance class this summer or learn a new language to prepare for a future trip you have always wanted to take. I have personally undertaken all of these in my own personal quest to tap into a source of joy of new experiences. Keeping your mind busy and finding hobbies may protect you from that dreaded stress.
While 2020 brought many challenges, there is hope as we take control of our choices and stay connected with a healthy supportive community. So, let us embrace the future and our opportunity to go into it strong and healthy. Here’s to a happier, healthier and better new year.