Statistics don’t lie: Americans are fatter and sicker than ever. Our fast-food, sedentary lifestyle has given rise to “Generation S” — what Dr. Arthur Agatston refers to in his book The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call as the sickest generation — made up of young adults in their 30s and 40s whose unhealthy habits are already trumping advancements in medical science when it comes to heart disease and other chronic conditions. This is a generation of individuals who are likely to die at a younger age than their parents if they don’t change their unhealthy ways. What’s worse is that many adults in Generation S now have children who are already heading down the same road. To reverse this troubling trend, we must improve our eating, exercise, and sleep habits.
Does your lifestyle need improvement? Consider the following:
You regularly eat fast food. Fast food is the worst kind of food you can eat if you’re trying to improve your health. Routinely eating sugary, starchy, fat-laden fast food will likely lead to weight gain, which puts you at risk for a host of obesity-related health problems, including prediabetes and diabetes. And when you eat fast food on a regular basis, you’re filling up on empty calories, which don’t provide the substantial vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients required for good health. Cooking most meals at home with the guidance of the South Beach Diet ensures that you’re eating right and getting enough nutrients daily. Always incorporate a variety of healthy foods into your meals, including nutrient-dense high-fiber carbohydrates (vegetables and legumes, and fruits and whole grains, on Phase 2), lean protein (seafood, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and soy foods), low-fat dairy, and healthy fats (such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, and nuts).
You’re screen-obsessed. We’ve come a long way with technology, so much so that today it’s possible to manage our entire lives — working, playing, shopping, and socializing — on a screen without having to get up from our chairs. Instead of letting technology work against you, make it work for you. Use the South Beach Diet online to manage your meals, find new recipes, and connect with others for support. There are other ways technology can guide you: Carve out at least 20 minutes on most days of the week for fitness by scheduling a regular exercise date with yourself or a friend with a reminder in your computer, smartphone, iPad, or datebook so you don’t miss it. Download songs into your smartphone to keep you motivated during your workout.
You rarely get exercise, much less move. There is only one solution to ending a sedentary lifestyle and that’s to get off the couch or away from that computer and get moving. Make movement a must. Dr. Agatston recommends getting in at least 20 minutes of either cardio or core-strengthening exercise daily. And you don’t need a gym membership to do it. For an outdoor workout, do interval walking or biking (in which you alternate short bursts of intense exercise with easier recovery periods) around your neighborhood. If the weather doesn’t permit, put some music on and march in place, jump rope, or do jumping jacks in your living room. You can also purchase fitness DVDs, an exercise mat, and a pair of free weights to use at home. At the office, you can squeeze in fitness by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for walks at lunchtime, getting up to talk to colleagues instead of using the computer or phone, or even standing with your abs pulled in tight while you take calls. Follow your progress with a fitness tracker that tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and even your sleep.
You’re sleep-deprived. If you’re like most Americans, you’re not getting enough sleep at night. Being sleep-deprived puts you at risk for myriad health conditions, like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, and a weakened immune system. Start sleeping better by removing computers, tablets, and other electronics and distractions from your bedroom. Make sure your bed is comfortable (and not covered with papers or laundry!), set the thermostat so the room’s temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, and organize your life so you can get a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night.