Earlier this week, I hosted a wellness workshop for a roomful of women - most of whom are fellow homeschooling moms who wear a lot of hats and get very little downtime. We covered a lot of ground in 3 hours, and could easily have gone longer, but I wanted to take a minute here and summarize a few tips I shared with them, or would like to share with them and others in the future. I know these are relevant, because they affect me, too. I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone else.
SLOW DOWN - We are trying to do so much, and the frantic pace we have set for ourselves now seems so normal and socially acceptable that we don't even recognize the breakneck speed at which we transition from one obligation to the next. Personally, I have been forcing myself to back out of some commitments that are conveniently coming to a pause at the end of December. No one is forcing me to sign up again in January, and so I won't. I will say no and I will not feel guilty about having time to myself and with my family at home, rather than running around town like a Nervous Nelly trying to get to all the things on time. I've also said no to some things my kids would like to do, explaining that we need to value rest more than we do constant activity and entertainment.
FOCUS ON THE BASICS - It's funny to me that whenver I have conversations about health with various women, there is always at least one who clings onto the most obscure trends. What about intermittent fasting? What about green drinks? Do you have a weight loss supplement you recommend? I'd like to see what BCAAs do for me. Can you suggest a good protein powder? What do you think about acai bowls? Friends - these are all fine and good and perhaps have their place in your health journey, but let's keep the MAIN THING the main thing. Eat at home using real unprocessed food. Sleep at least 7 hours a night. Get outside. Move your body and stay active. Protect your most treasured relationships. Play. Create. Drink water. If you aren't doing those things consistently, the rest is just meaningless fluff and a distraction from what really matters.
EAT MORE ANIMAL PROTEIN - Protein has so many critical functions in the body! From hormone production to immune function to preservation and building of muscle, protein is absolutely essential to a healthy human body - at all ages. The general rule I try to follow is to eat 30 grams of protein per meal, at a bare minimum. For reference, a single egg has only 6 grams, so if you are scrambling two of those for breakfast and calling it good, you are nowhere near the optimal amount. If you aim for 100g per day, you're probably doing decently well, but more active women likely need more. Start experimenting and see how you feel, and see what happens to your cravings!
BUILD MUSCLE - With more protein in your system, you then have the raw materials to build more lean muscle, which happens to be a predictor of longevity. Muscles help protect joints, support proper alignment, enhance insulin sensitivity, and keep organs functioning optimally. Think of aging seniors who are quickly losing muscle mass, and then suffer a fall, break a hip, enter the hospital, and never leave again. Muscle is good! Strength is good! And protein is the basis of it all. Besides, we look and feel better when we are lean and strong. It builds confidence and sustains our independence as we age.
SLEEP MORE - I think 7 hours per night is barely enough. I feel best with 8 hours or more, and I've even starting taking advantage of napping opportunities on the weekends when I can feel my body and brain are worn out and need a boost. Turn off your screens, keep your bedroom cool and dark, develop a calming evening routine, and resist snacking after dinner.
EAT 3 SOLID MEALS A DAY - I think this is probably one of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of women making. They notice extra pounds around their middle and immediately start thinking that eating less and/or exercising more intensely is going to help their situation. IT DOESN'T HELP. It makes things worse. A woman's body is especially sensitive to caloric deprivation and nutrient scarcity, so instead of supporting a healthy weight, your poorly-guided fasting and exercising efforts are actually doing more damage to your metabolism and moving you farther away from your goals. This isn't to say that fasting and vigorous exercise are never appropriate. It just needs to be done at the right time and with the right motivation. First things first. Learn to eat well and nourish your body. Skip the constant junky snacking and build your meals with nutrient-packed whole foods.
TAKE A BREAK FROM ALCOHOL - I might be jaded and biased, but I believe alcohol is a total trap and is sending far too many women down a dark path of compromised health and addiction. I've never known alcohol to improve any situation, relationship, or health condition. Have you? Try 30 days totally dry...90 days would be better. See what changes. See how you cope. Isn't it worth the experiment?
ASK YOUR HUSBAND FOR HELP - Assuming you are in a loving and supportive relationship, ask your husband or significant other to rally behind your healthier living efforts. Be specific with your requests. Some examples:
GET OFF YOUR SCREENS AND GET OUTSIDE - Figure out ways to be less reliant on your cell phone so that you can disconnect and enjoy more downtime and mental relaxation. Delete some apps. Silence your notifications. If you can safely leave your phone at home or in your car while you walk, run, bike, or take a class at the gym, do so!
WRITE A NEW CHAPTER - "I'm a failure at marriage. I'm the daughter of an alcoholic. I'm an addict. I'm the chubby girl. I'm a victim. I will always have depression." If you find yourself stubbornly identifying with some event, decision, condition, or past mistake, realize that you don't have to keep being that person living that story. You can take your life in a new and different direction, and it happens one intentional decision at a time. You can start today, right now.
It's my hope that you and I will start off 2024 with fresh perspective and healthy goals that honor God's perfect design for each of our lives. If any of these tips spoke to you, I'd love to hear about it. And if the list has sparked another idea, tell me that, too! Here's to our good health and Good Life in the months to come. Godspeed!