Healthy Living: Your Road Map to Optimal Health

Healthy living. Isn’t that just what you are doing? Or at least hoping that’s what you are doing? What is healthy living exactly? It is not an easy question, yet the answer lies in one word: balance.

Stress and sleep | Digestion

Sonia Chartier

02 April 2014

Balance is key for your weight and fitness, your digestion, your sleep pattern, your stress level…and it’s not boring! You will find that by living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you will actually have more time for your favorite hobby or to spend with your family.

Healthy weight

Being overweight is not a cosmetic issue; it’s a health issue. Obesity is linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, and diabetes. Being overweight can aggravate other conditions such as varicose veins, constipation and joint pain.

Obesity, overweight, underweight, healthy weight, are terms actually defined by a scientific calculation, not just by the opinion you might have of yourself. That calculation is called BMI or Body Mass Index.

You can determine your BMI with this formula: weight (kg)/ height (m2).

Depending on your BMI result, you will be classified as:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5)
  • Healthy weight (BMIs 18.5 to 24.9)
  • Overweight (BMIs 25 to 29.9)
  • Obese (BMI 30 and over)

This does not apply to children, pregnant women or muscular athletes. Athletes or bodybuilders have a high BMI because they have an unusually large muscle mass. Most of us don’t have to worry about that.

Weight management

To manage your weight, you really need to balance two elements: your diet and your physical activity. One does not work without the other. There is a plethora of diets recommending all kinds of extreme measures such as cutting out all starch or eating proteins only. Yes, you might lose weight at first because your calorie intake will be smaller but you will be missing elements important to your body. There is also a gazillion miracle diet products on the market but they will not make a difference in the long term.

The answer: a balanced diet.

Your plate should be ½ vegetables and fruits, ¼ a whole grain, and ¼ healthy proteins. Variety is important, so avoid always eating the same grains and proteins. Avoid sweet drinks – even the diet ones because if they do not contain calories, the sweet taste still opens your appetite.

Physical activity

You can diet all you want but if you remain inactive, you are not using the calories that you intake, and you will gain weight. Being active does not mean that you have to become a marathon runner or spend all your money on a personal trainer or a membership at the gym. There is plenty that you can do outside or in your home but you need to get the cardio going. The best thing about exercise is that it makes you feel great.

Healthy Digestion

Digestion is not something you should feel! And too many of us feel it one way or another because of constipation, gas, heartburn, bloating and so on. A balanced diet should help your digestion, but there are other factors to consider such as stress, eating too fast, overloaded liver…

Digestion starts in the mouth. When you chew your food, saliva starts the digestive process of starches and fats. Taking the time to sit down and enjoy your meal is important not only for your spirits, but also for your digestive health.

One of the key factors of digestive health is the gut flora. Our body actually contains more bacteria than human cells!! They are vital to us, to our digestion and for the absorption of nutriment in the gut. That’s why we call them friendly. We also call them “probiotics”. If there are not enough good bacteria in your gut, or if bad bacteria are taking over, there is trouble (diarrhea, gas, Candida, etc).

Being active actually has a great impact on digestion. For example, walking or running activates bowel movement and therefore can help with constipation. Furthermore, when you exercise regularly, you feel more relaxed and digest better.

Healthy Sleep

Sleep is good. Even if you feel that you have just too much to do to waste time sleeping! Do take the time, sleep well and then you will function better and be more efficient. Your brain does not stop working while you sleep; it processes the information of the day and allows you to think more thoroughly after. The expression “sleep on it” has some value!

How much sleep is healthy? Well, according to the experts, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. It varies from person to person but it is considered adequate when you do not feel sleepy during the day nor suffer typical signs of sleep deprivation such as: irritability, lots of yawning, memory lapses and the inability to concentrate on one task.

Sleep happens in 5 stages, from falling asleep, to deep sleep. During the deep sleep phase, we go through the essential REM (rapid eye movement) stage, and that is when your brain organizes the information stored in your memory. You need this to work to handle the next day’s responsibilities.

Sleep problems

For some of us, sleeping is easier said than done. Sleep problems are varied and can be caused by stress, menopause, prostate enlargement, digestion trouble, travel, baby at home…you name it!

Sleeping problems vary from one person to the next. You might have trouble falling asleep while your partner wakes up every night around 4am and cannot fall back asleep. To enjoy a good night sleep, it is important to have a routine, so that your brain knows it’s time to be sleepy. Avoiding the TV, work or your tablet in the bedroom will help.

Enjoying a nice family dinner is good, but not just before bed! You need some digestion time. Same goes for your sport activities. Sports will help you sleep better but you cannot go from scoring a goal at soccer to falling asleep within the same hour…

Natural remedies for sleep

Now, if you still cannot sleep well after doing everything right, you might need help. Herbal sleep aids are a great solution because they do not cause addiction and you do not feel drowsy or hangover in the morning. There are many herbs that help sleeping issues.

A.Vogel Deep Sleep is one clinically tested product that will improve your deep sleep time (hence the name) by 25%. It works right away, the first night.

If you have a cat, watch out! Cats love the Valerian in Deep Sleep and tend to go berserk when you open the bottle!

The funny thing about Valerian is that it is calming for most but will have the opposite effect on a few people. If that is the case for you, you may want to try Passion Flower or Avena Sativa. Both have calming effect and can help with sleep problems. They also have the benefit of being suitable for children.

Stress Management

Did we mention stress already? It only affects your eating, your digestion, your sleep, your PMS and menopausal symptoms (if you do not have those symptoms yourself, your partner’s symptoms might affect you too!), and much much more.

Our North American lifestyle is driven by performance in all areas of our life. We expect ourselves to excel in our job and make a lot of money; to be the perfect mother, father, lover; to have a spotless house; taxi the kids to their ballet, hockey or soccer and be a coach for the team; cook gourmet meals; take 2 vacations per year and afford 2 cars, pets and private school and be in perfect physical shape. At least that is the model portrayed in the media. Reality check here! If you try to do all that, you will not have time to enjoy your life and your stress will catch up with you rather quickly.

Take a breath. Prioritize. Stress is the natural response of the body to an aggression. It is meant to save your life when facing danger. Not to make you sick over meeting a potential major client or to make you scream in anger over spilled milk. Next time your heart rate starts racing and you get butterflies in your stomach, take a step back and assess the situation. Is it a matter of life and death?

To manage your stress, it is always better to make lifestyle adjustments than to turn to remedies. You may need an hour of kickboxing to accept that it’s OK to have dust bunnies rolling under the couch once in a while. Physical activities will help you deal with stress. A lot. It is funny how 2 hours on the couch watching TV pass so quickly. Think about it: just take 1 of those 2 hours to exercise instead, and be much more relaxed.

There are periods in life when stress is just too overwhelming and you do need help. Many herbals have calming effects. You may want to try Passion Flower or Avena Sativa

Balancing act between work and leisure

If your lifestyle is not balanced and you put all your energy into work, work and work, then what ironically happens when you finally take that well deserved vacation is that you get sick! Sounds crazy? Not really; nearly 3% of the population suffers from this kind of illness every weekend and during vacations.

You can avoid or rather manage all the stress by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Or should we say by achieving a balancing act? Balance diet and exercise for better digestion, sleep and stress management. Take a breather and balance your life: set your priorities and don’t stress so much about the secondary. Can it wait for tomorrow? Most of the time, yes!

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