Whether or not your New Year’s resolution was about slimming down, we can all take the opportunity for a fresh start when it comes to our approach to health.
Here are a few easy changes you can make, from our new book, “The New Health Rules.”
1. Make over your grocery list.
Cross off bread and pasta, and each week buy: dark leafy greens, which are more nutritious, calorie for calorie, than any other food; cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, which lower the risk of cancer; avocados because they help protect your body from heart disease, cancer, and certain degenerative diseases; blueberries, which help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure—and satisfy a sweet tooth; organic free-range eggs, which are full of protein and good fats; and walnuts, packed with omega-3s that help protect your heart.
For breakfast, skip fruits and grains—you don’t need sugar and gluten in the morning (or anytime, really). Instead, start your day with a dose of healthy fats: boiled or poached eggs with greens, sardines on gluten-free crispbreads, or half an avocado—score it, spritz with lemon or olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cumin, and eat it like a grapefruit.
2. Move every day.
It doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym. Just exercise like kids play: run to the corner, jump on a trampoline, dance around the kitchen. And even for more serious workouts, adjust your understanding of what your body needs: The long-held belief that it’s necessary to elevate the heart rate with 30 minutes of sustained activity is being bumped out, thanks to the effectiveness of interval training. Our bodies are not built to run long distances for no reason at all. We’re built to chase down prey and then stop. To run from danger and then stop.
That’s what feels best and works best to keep us in shape— short bursts of intense exertion interspersed with periods of leisurely movement. You don’t need a specially designed workout or a personal trainer to apply this. When you’re running, sprint for a minute, then walk or trot for five. In the pool, swim one fast lap, then do three at a leisurely pace. This system is organic to many yoga classes (you practice kicking up into handstand for two minutes, then you follow up with a restorative child’s pose). But with some workouts it’s up to you to adjust. Worried you won’t burn enough calories? With interval training, you’ll actually burn more.
3. Give yourself the day off.
Sometimes the organ that needs the most care and restoration is the brain. If you’re a very driven person who has no patience for an unproductive day, what you might really need is . . . an unproductive day. No to-do list. No phone. No computer. It’s akin to giving your muscles a rest from weight training so that they can rebuild and come back stronger.
If a whole day seems nuts, make it a couple of hours and do something that seems like a complete waste of time. Take an easy walk on flat ground, sit on the lawn with a book, or people watch in a café. Restoring and refreshing is just as important to your health as moving and eating right.
Frank Lipman, M.D. and Danielle Claro are the authors of The New Health Rules, now available wherever books are sold. Dr. Lipman, founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, is a pioneer and internationally recognized expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine. Danielle Claro is a writer, editor, and longtime yogi who was editor-in-chief of Breathe and special projects director at Condé Nast’s Domino and is currently deputy editor of Real Simple.