Wake Up to Better Health

“If we’re going to turn our nation’s epidemics of obesity, prediabetes, and diabetes around, Americans need to wake up and make some positive lifestyle changes now,” says Dr. Arthur Agatston, preventive cardiologist and creator of the South Beach Diet. Otherwise, he warns, the human costs and the financial costs of sustaining any health-care system we adopt could become insurmountable. In his book, The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call, Dr. Agatston explains why America is still getting fatter and sicker and introduces the South Beach Diet Wake-Up Program — seven simple strategies for better health that will help you de-clutter your life, shop, cook, eat, dine out, and exercise better, and get a good night’s sleep. By adopting this program and making it a way of life, not only will you look and feel better, you’ll age more slowly and likely live longer. Adapted from the book, here are some tips that can help you begin to turn your life around:

  • Get organized. You can’t adopt a healthy lifestyle if you’re suffocating under the debris of the toxic old one. Disorganization leads to stress and poor planning, both of which can interfere with achieving your goals. It can also lead to emotional eating, skipping workouts, and getting poor-quality sleep. By cleaning and organizing your home, you’ll also clear your mind and improve your mental and physical well-being. Get the whole family involved in helping to attack the mess in every room (and in the basement and backyard too!). Then strive to maintain the healthy, uncluttered environment you’ve created.

     

  • Shop healthy. If you don’t shop healthy, you can’t eat healthy. Many people believe that buying healthy food is expensive, but the reality is, when you stop buying junk and purchase mainly nutritious, high-quality foods, your grocery dollars will go a lot further (and you’ll save on those doctor bills too). Cut costs by planning ahead and creating a weekly meal plan and a weekly shopping list to match.

     

  • Cook at home, and in advance. You may think you’re too busy to cook at home, but knowing that there is already something available that you can simply reheat will make it a lot easier. Whenever possible, cook a few meals ahead of time and store them in the fridge or freezer to serve midweek or later. Soups, casseroles, and stews are just a few examples of dishes that can be made ahead and frozen.

     

  • Sit down to meals. When it comes to influencing our nation’s health and well-being, the power of the dining table should not be underestimated. Every meal that is eaten on the run, in your car, or gulped down staring at a screen is a missed opportunity, whether you are dining solo, with your spouse or friends, or with your children. By design, mealtime should provide a break in your hectic schedule, a few moments of calm when you can catch your breath or catch up on what is happening in the lives of your loved ones or friends. It is a time to enjoy and appreciate your home-cooked meal. There is plenty of evidence that nutritious meals, eaten at home, are good not only for our physical health but also for our mental health, and that goes for both adults and children.

     

  • Eat healthy on the go. There’s no doubt that sticking to a healthy diet can be tricky when you’re running around. But with some preplanning and prep and a healthy assortment of snacks with you at all times (including when you travel), you’ll be able to avoid the mid-morning and mid-afternoon munchies. Invest in an inexpensive, lightweight reusable lunch bag that you can stock with small bags of mixed nuts, part-skim mozzarella sticks, cut-up raw vegetables, lean deli meats like turkey slices, some air-popped popcorn, or mini “sandwiches” of whole-grain crackers with a nut butter. Strategic snacking on healthy foods helps prevent the swings in blood sugar that can cause cravings.

     

  • Make movement a must. Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise actually deconditions your body and alters the way it metabolizes fat. It can lead to excess belly fat, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and ultimately prediabetes, diabetes, and heart disease. While Dr. Agatston recommends getting at least 20 minutes of either cardio conditioning or core-strengthening exercise most days of the week, this may not always be possible. If you can’t work in a full workout, aim to move more every day.

     

  • Get more quality sleep. Even if you eat well and exercise regularly, you can never be truly healthy when you don’t get enough quality sleep. A sleep deficiency can alter your metabolism, making you prone to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. To help you get the eight hours of sleep you need each night, keep a sleep log to help you track your sleep habits and also take our sleep quiz to help you figure out what aspects of your lifestyle may be getting between you and a good night’s rest.


For more information on how to improve the quality of your life and health, check out Dr. Agatston’s book The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call.

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