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A perspective on health and wellness: Making changes in diet and exercise

By Ilyse Garber L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. , Acupuncturist, Jim Thorpe Massage & Wellness Studio

There is a lot of information out there about achieving optimum health with articles, blogs, videos, etc., specifying the in’s and out’s of getting into better shape and eating right.  It seems like everyone has an opinion about how you should eat or what form of exercise you should be doing to get into better shape. With all this information, how do we choose what’s right for us?  And why should we bother? It all seems way too confusing and complicated. As someone who has spent most of her life trying to figure out what feels right when it comes to diet and exercise, I have come to a few conclusions that may be beneficial to those looking to make changes to their health and wellbeing.

What Is Your Why?
A good place to start your health journey is to simplify things a bit.  Ask yourself why you want to make changes to your health. Be honest with yourself.  Make sure that you are doing this because you want to and not because someone else wants you to or you think you should.  This is about you and what you need, so all your decisions going forward are going to have to sit well with you. Are you looking to lose weight?  Are you looking to change the way you eat in order to feel better? Would you like to be more active? Once you are confident that this is what you want, then you can move on to the next step.  

What Are You Looking to Do?
Now find out what kind of changes you wish to make?  Are you looking to change your eating habits? Do you need to start exercising?  Are you looking to reduce body fat and/or gain muscle mass? Do you have a visualization of how you wish to look and feel?  You do not have to know too many specifics right now and even if you do, you may feel the need to change them along the way.  These are just guidelines to get you started.  

Guidelines to Reach Your Goals: Your Diet
When it comes to making lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, it may benefit you to start with one or the other first.  If you choose to overhaul your diet and combine that with an exercise routine, try changing your diet for two weeks before starting your choice of exercise.  Even if the desire to change your body is strong and you want to go all out. Giving your body time to adjust to your new eating habits will increase your chances of sticking to your game plan.  Sometimes changing your diet may make you feel weak or tired and adding an exercise routine you are not used to will cause more strain on your body, increasing your chances of possible injury, making you want to quit.  

Changing your diet can be daunting but it is also very rewarding.  You may need to experiment before you find an eating lifestyle that fits.  I suggest you keep a food journal for a week. Write down everything you eat and drink (including things like gum).  This may seem like a pain, but it is not a waste of time. You may be surprised to realize how much you eat daily. You do not have to share your journal with anyone, it is only meant to bring your attention to the type of food and the amount you eat.  Also, make sure you are not judging yourself. Keeping yourself focused on your goals will help you stay positive. There are many ways you can change how you eat. You can start by adding healthy foods like green leafy vegetables and fruits to your diet if you are not already eating them.  Adding foods to your existing diet allows you to get used to different tastes that you may not be used to. For example, say you want to give up coffee and switch to green tea. Try adding green tea to your diet first before you give up coffee completely so your taste buds have a chance to adjust.  Also, if you plan on eliminating any thing from your diet it is a good idea to have a replacement. For instance, if you wish to get rid of sugar but you love sweets. There are sweet foods that are alternatives to sugar made from fruit that you can try. Before making any radical changes to your diet, check with your primary care physician, especially if you have any chronic health issues.      

Guidelines to Reach Your Goals: Exercise
Once you have gotten the hang of your diet you can start to experiment with an exercise regime.  Along with diet, there are many different forms of exercise to get the body in shape. There are some things to consider before starting an exercise routine.  You want to make sure that whatever exercise you choose to do, you are physically able to perform it. Make sure you check with your doctor, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions that may interfere with certain exercises.  Also, choose exercises that you will enjoy. Perhaps you like being outdoors. Running, jogging, walking or hiking may interest you. Choose something that fits your personality. Some people like being in public and prefer going to the gym while others like a more private work out environment.  Think about your fitness goals. The results you desire may help you decide. Do you want to increase your cardiac health? Do you want a more toned and defined body? Do you want to lower your body fat percentage? Do you want to increase your flexibility? Try to choose more than one type of exercise program.  You will want to have variety, so you stay interested and you keep seeing results. Working out should not feel like a chore. I will say that at first no matter what you choose, it may be tough in the beginning. If you have not exercised in a long time or are new to working out, starting again may feel like an unpleasant task, but once you establish a routine it gets easier.  Be patient with yourself. Big change will not happen overnight. You should also be enjoying yourself along the way and appreciating the journey. It is important to stay positive and focused on the results you want which brings me to the most important information I can give you. Be aware of your mindset.

Guidelines to Reach Your Goals: Your Mindset
Mindset is the most important factor in anything we wish to accomplish in our lives.  Mindset is everything. Before things manifest into reality they begin as thoughts. By keeping our mind focused on the things we wish to create (like a healthier body, mind, spirit), we raise our energy and feel better.  Thinking about the things that may stop us can drop our energy and our motivation disappears. Observe your thoughts. What things do you tell yourself? Are you kind to yourself? Do you believe in yourself? Any time a thought comes to mind that feels discouraging, acknowledge it and let it go.  Focus on the thoughts that make you feel good, like how good you will feel when you accomplish your goals. It takes a bit of practice. Keep it light.  

Guidelines to Reach Your Goals: Acupuncture
As you proceed through making changes in your eating habits and level of physical activity, one way to help you stay on your path is to receive regular acupuncture treatments.  Acupuncture is a natural healing and balancing medical system designed to activate the body, mind, and spirit’s innate healing abilities. Acupuncture can help reduce cravings (for food, tobacco, alcohol, etc.), balance hormone levels, boost your immune system, aid blood circulation, calm your mind by reducing stress and anxiety (as well as help you process emotions on a mind, body, spirit level), and help you to adjust to your new healthcare regime.  Adding regular acupuncture treatments to your life aids in the prevention of injury and disease as well. Today acupuncture is more readily accessible, and it fits easily into, and compliments, any health and wellness program beautifully.             

Every person is unique and so is their journey.  We each have the power to create everything we desire in this life, and a healthy body, mind, and spirit should be no exception.  Hold that vision of who and what you want to be, let positive feelings guide you, and be good to yourself.