This may seem oxymoronic on what is traditionally a heavy drinking day but one of the best ways to ring in a happy and healthy new year is to stop drinking alcohol, or certainly to drink less. Personally, I find it easier to not drink at all than to stop at one. So, to use an apt holiday metaphor, I advocate quitting cold turkey* with Dry January.
We are most successful at making change where we can objectively measure improvement. Declaring “I will drink less this year” will, in all likelihood, achieve nothing. But if you give yourself an explicit goal and commit to tracking your alcohol consumption to see how you stack up, you will vastly improve your odds of success. This is where Dry January comes in.
I’ve been feeling rather slow these days. It seems to happen every year around this time. I generally dismiss it as a mild case of the “winter blues”, as I’m more of a summer person. But I’ve noticed my energy level is not as high as usual and I’ve been feeling hungrier than I normally do.
Rather than trying to fight it and plod on, however, I’ve decided to “go with the slow”. Because that is exactly what we are intended to do as we transition through fall and winter. And it has to do with our circadian and seasonal rhythms.
Are you sliding down a sugary, slippery slope? You know the one I mean. The one that begins innocently enough in the fall with a slice (or two) of Thanksgiving pecan or pumpkin pie and then a wee bit of Hallowe’en candy a few weeks later. You gain momentum with heaping helpings of holiday treats followed by boxes of Valentine’s chocolate. Before you know it, you’re gathering and gobbling the Easter bunny’s chocolate eggs (not to mention, if you love them as much as I do, hot cross buns). Suddenly, you find yourself awash in sugar. You have more of a sweet tooth than you used to and sugary treats have become a daily ritual, not just a holiday indulgence.
Does this sound familiar? If so, you’ve just slid down a sugary, slippery slope. I know I have. Read on for more about how easy it is to do this and why you really, really want to climb back up.
And I hope you’ll join me for my I’m Sweet Enough 7-day No Sugar Added Challenge (more on this at the end of this post).
In last week’s post, Don’t Snooze, You Lose. Sleep to Your Health!, I discussed the health implications of insufficient sleep. This week, I cover how you know if you are getting enough sleep and provide some tips for satisfying slumber to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Before we dive in, I’d like to offer one last tidbit of food for thought on how important sleep must be for us as a species. Did you know that when you are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep all the voluntary muscles in your body are completely paralyzed? Think for a moment about how vulnerable this makes us during sleep. We require 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. So for 20% to 25% of that time (approximately 1.5 to 2 hours) we are completely vulnerable to attack by predators. This would make no sense from an evolutionary perspective unless sleep conveyed some very important advantages. Something to sleep on!
So how do you know if you are having truly satisfying slumber?
Diet, exercise and sleep are often grouped together as a sort of “holy trinity” of wellness. Being a nutritionist, I focus largely on diet but, as a holistic nutritionist, I also counsel my clients on how important quality sleep, stress reduction (be the stress physical, mental or environmental) and appropriate exercise is for health.
To me, however, sleep is more than just one third of the trinity. Sleep is the absolute foundation of wellness. A chronically under-slept person is unlikely to have the time or energy to make sound nutritional choices or exercise. And, as you will see, poor sleep leads to a cascade of physiological effects that significantly impair health.
As a result, it is one of the first things I discuss with my clients. “Sleep to your health”, I say (in place of the old adage “drink to your health”)!
So often, being told to do something (like eat more vegetables) because “it’s good for you” is not enough. Sometimes you need scare tactics to drive the point home. I didn’t religiously wear my night guard to protect my teeth until my dentist casually mentioned my molars might crumble. Now that had impact! So, in that spirit, I lay out the myriad reasons why, if you don’t snooze, you lose.