Trying to make positive lifestyle changes is like this:
Studies say one thing will increase health and another will say it’s bad. I get that things change as information and research increases understanding but it makes things damn difficult to figure out.
Also, my lifestyle and how busy things are (and how sideways things are going with a brand new wrinkle in elder care), I have backslid to not only some of my old bad habits but added a few more that aren’t helping.
So, let’s restart this.
I have managed to figure out:
- Naps are both good and bad. It depends on how long and when in the day. Consensus seems to agree that anything longer than 90min is an early sign of dementia, or in the least of something being drastically wrong with sleep at night as well as other health issues and can even cause more problems that it fixes. So, ideally, 30min. Honestly, I can’t see losing more than 30min a day in the middle of the day to sleeping and since the consensus is also that 20-30min a day in the afternoon can increase the good side effects rather than the bad, that appears to be the winner here. I will happily skip the hottest and least productive part of the day.
- Sleep at night: 7-8 hours, with an hour before as wind down where I should avoid blue light and electronic devices, as well as be in relax/wind down. K, fair enough. Physical book to read it is before bed.
- On snacks/drink before bed. Consensus is to avoid alchohol and sugary stuff. One part is that it doesn’t help with sleep (quite the opposite) and sugar on teeth at night are bad for teeth. Also, avoid caffeine after 2pm, depending on when you go to bed at night.
Okay, I’m a writer so the relationship between me and caffeine isn’t a healthy one. But let’s take a look at it.
- It’s not that great for you, but neither is it truly that bad. There is nothing wrong with 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning so long as you’re not depending on it to wake you up… honestly, if you’re that tired you need to go back to the drawing board over sleep.
- Even certain teas have caffiene, so my trick to switch to tea in the afternoon can blow up in my face if I pick the wrong tea. Considering I haven’t found a tea I don’t like yet, my afternoon tea switch can be anything here that naturally doesn’t have caffeine for that same feel, mood, taste… whatever.
Moving to drink, since it’s been mentioned…
- I need to drink more water as I am probably walking around in permanent dehydration. Not pop, not juice, not oodles of coffee and tea, but actual water. I can deal with this so long as I can add a bit of lemon or even mint to it, which apparently also improves water.
- When they say cups of coffee, they do not mean two refills of my oversized mug but 250ml… my oversized mug is closer to 400ml. Whelp.
- Hard alcohol can cause, and will cause, dementia and stroke later in life… and depending on how much and how often “later” can be sooner than thought. Like 60s instead of 80s. However, the occasional indulgence (like one on a weekend or every few weeks) won’t hurt or kill me. It’s not that I have a problem here as I could probably count how many times I’ve had something to drink on one hand since the start of 2022, but it’s worth mentioning if someone is wondering what that healthy and not healthy line is.
- Dropping the sugary ice tea, pop, etc. will stabilize my blood sugar levels and avoid diabetes which will also cause problems later in life. This also may help cut down on the hidden calories to help with dropping a few pounds.
Moving to food
- I am addicted to sugar and need to curb that because that’s doing me zero favours – for weight loss and my general health, and that can/will include avoiding dementia and stroke later not to mention will help me stop skirting the diabetes risk.
- … This also translates over to bread and anything with flour. While some carbs aren’t bad, refined ones will hit your blood sugar level with a hard spike and this is something the consensus appears to agree is not good. I seem to have a sensitivity to refined flour, and perhaps even gluten in general, so avoiding it isn’t going to be a heart breaker (although I like pasta).
- Consensus on diet is that the Mediterrean Diet is perhaps the healthiest on the planet, so borrowing a few principles from it would be healthy as well. It seems to lean on more healthy and fresh veggies and lean fats (not the pork rinds of the keto diet, but the healthy fats with omega-3) and carbs are more whole and multi-grain, althought not the main part of the meal they still exist. This tracks with the guide to the diabetic diet which leans on minimizing refined grains and flour based breads and pastas, etc, but preferring the whole grain.
- Another key part to this is how it’s cooked. Cooking to al dente rather than further than that because that also preserves, even in regular white pasta, a certain part of that same health benefit as whole grain without the downsides where overcooking it ruins it… the Italians know something about pasta so al dente it is). On how you cook it, this also applies to rice and the reason every Asian kitchen I know rinses the rice until the water is clear. I repeat, wash your damn rice… and then cook it.
- The occasional (rare) treat is fine, but it should be rare or it ruins the point of it being a treat, and will wreck the good you’re doing. Not total avoidance… just in moderation.
- Dark chocolate, again in moderation, is good for you.
- But what about fruit? That’s natural, right? Well, so is cane sugar but it still has a sugar problem. Sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from it will process and land in the bloodstream the same way. Fruit is, yes, because of the fiber and vitamins fruit generally has means it’s still far better than pop or soda, or candy, should still only enter the diet in moderation or even perhaps instead of cakes and other sweets or candy. It is more filling than sweets, so it’s less likely you’re going to end up binging on it like some can on candy so it’s a good way to wean yourself off candy if that’s a problem for you… like it is me.
- But what about pop? Well, honestly, it’s not the fizz that’s bad but the sugar. So, if you have a way to have the fizz without added or fake sugar (sugar is sugar, even low-cal), then use it. Again, it should be more of a treat.
- Home cooked vs. ordering in. Home cooked is still better than ordering in because you can control the hidden additives and portions, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it if life gets in the way. However, to save money and time, and regain a bit of that portion and ingredient control, I may head back to the meal kits where the meal planning, portioning and shopping is done for me.
Which moves us to exercise…
- Exercise is good and can prevent dementia (who knew?)
- Walk at least 5000 steps a day to start if going from the “couch”, but I’ve been walking so my daily aim is 10000 steps a day.
- Strength train at least twice a week
- Add stretches or yoga to increase mobility and flexibility.
… And mental strength
- Yoga actually serves two purposes. Not only is it increasing flexibility and mobility, but there is a meditative aspect to it that helps with mindfulness and destressing.
- Playing video games isn’t all that bad so long as they do the following -> Make you think and think on the fly, and perhaps even have a (non-toxic) social aspect to them. Playing video games that involve puzzles, thinking, memory, etc has been (not surprisingly) shown to help prevent dementia because it exercised your brain AND, depending on the game, help with hand-eye reflexes.
- The “boob tube” is very passive so TV isn’t great for you but, like all things, moderation isn’t bad. Finding a great show to watch for the story is almost as good as reading a book. It’s still better to read (particularly before bed because TV -> blue light) but enjoying a good show is like enjoying a good play.
Right now, other than the walking and slow change in diet, although I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, I have some lifestyle changes I need to make but to do them requires scheduling and making a schedule otherwise not only will I forget to do it. I tried to do things without something like Hello Fresh food wise and I’ve completely and utterly bombed so we’re headed back to the meal kit idea.
It looks like quite the list but it’s the baby steps that gets you there. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will improving my lifestyle be done in one day, or even one month. Despite that, I would like to make these changes and have them made into habit before 2023.
After that, we’ll look into getting back into the aim from a few years ago to run a marathon and start taking the steps to increase my walking from 10000 steps a day to adding a bit of running to it.