If I want to be on top of my game, energetic, happy, nice, patient, healthy, and clear-headed, I need to EAT HEALTHY FOOD, GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP, AND EXERCISE. It's that simple.
I'm also a sucker for lists. So, when I came across these three "Rules Lists" I wanted to "capture them" for future reference.
- Food Rules: Your Dietary Do's and Don'ts, by Michael Pollan, New York Times Magazine Food Issue, October 11, 2009. Earlier in the year Michael posted a request for readers' rules on Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog. He received 2,500 responses, and offered his favorite 20 in this issue. Click here for Pollan's full list. He has recently published a short-useful-funny paperback--with 64 short simple rules--Food Rules. An Eater's Manual based on his now famous saying, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." For a short interview about the book, click here. I've provided a "mash-up" of my favorites. Some from NYT's readers and some from Michael's book.
- Sleep Tips: How to Sleep Better, Lose Weight, and Live Longer, by Mark Hyman, MD, practicing physician and pioneer in functional medicine. Huffington Post, Jan. 9, 2010. Click here for the full list.
- Realistic Resolutions From Dr. Oz, by Tara Parker-Pope, Well Blog, New York Times Dec. 29, 2009. Click here for the full list.
Eat. Michael Pollan's Food Rules
1. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human being would keep in the pantry.
2. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.
3. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Aim for a pound or more of fruits and vegetables a day.
4. Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food. And when & if you do--Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.
5. Eat your colors.
6. Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.
7. Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi. Many cultures swear by the health benefits of fermented foods: yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, natto, and tempeh.
8. Pay more, eat less.
9. Eat less. Eat slowly. Stop before you're full.
10. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods.
11. Try not to eat alone.
13. Don't leave the table until you've finished your fruit. "My parents are both from Italy & one of our family rules was that you could not leave the table until you had finished your fruit. 'Non si puo lasciare la tavolo fino che hai finito la frutta.' It was a great way to incorporate fruit into our diets and also helped satiate our sweet tooths, keeping us away from less healthful sweets." Marta C. Larusso
14. "Don't eat anything that took more energy to ship than to grow." Carrie Cizauskas
15. "Never eat anything that is pretending to be something else; e.g. 'textured vegetable protein' or veggie burgers (fake meat), no artificial sweeteners, no margarine (fake butter), no 'low fat' sour cream no turkey bacon, no 'chocolate-flavor sauce' that doesn't contain chocolate, no 'quorn'. If I want something that tastes like meat or butter, I would rather have the real thing than some chemical concoction pretending to be more healthful." Sonya Legg (I'm still sticking with my Field Roast sausages and Gardein. See rule #22)
16. "Make and take your own lunch to work. My father has always done this, and so have I. It saves money, and you know what you are eating." Hope Donovan Rider (love this one!)
17. "If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple then you are not hungry." Emma Fogt (needless to say--this one is my favorite!)
18. "The Chinese have a saying, 'Eat until you are seven-tenths full and save the other three-tenths for hunger'. That way, food always tastes good, and you don't eat too much." Nancy Ni
19. "One of my top rules for eating comes from economics. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility reminds me that each additional bite is generally less satisfying than the previous bite. This helps me slow down, savor the first bites, stop eating sooner." Laura Kelley
20. "No second helpings, no matter how scrumptious." Karen Harmin
21. "It's better to pay the grocer than the doctor' was the saying that my Italian grandmother would frequently use to remind us of the love and attention to detail that went into her cooking." John Forti.
22. Break the rules once in awhile!
Sleep. Dr. Mark Hyman's Sleep Rules
Dr. Hyman recommends these "rules" to get us back to our natural sleep rhythms. "It may take weeks or months, but using these tools in a coordinated way will eventually reset our biological rhythms." Hyman learned the hard way that even doctors can't compromise on sleep.
1. Prioritize sleep, or suffer the consequences.
2. Wind down, dim the lights, reduce mental stimuli, get off the computer two hours before sleep! Do something more mentally relaxing. Take a little "holiday" before getting to bed in order to get your system physically and psychologically ready for sleep. I've found this practice makes a major difference in my sleep quality.
3. Practice the regular rhythms of sleep--go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Every single time I have to change my regular wake-up schedule in order to start work at 7:00 am, I have a terrible night's sleep!
4. Use your bed for sleep and romance only--not reading or television.
5. Create total darkness and quiet--consider using eye shades, earplugs, or a white noise machine.
6. Avoid caffeine--it may seem to help you stay awake but it actually makes your sleep worse.
7. Avoid alcohol--it helps you get to sleep but causes interruptions in sleep and poor-quality sleep.
8. Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes daily--the light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood, and aging. Consider using a special light in the morning, like the Philips goLite BLU in the winter.
9. Eat no later than three hours before bed--eating a heavy meal prior to bed will lead to a bad night's sleep.
10. Don't exercise vigorously after dinner--it excites the body and makes it more difficult to get to sleep.
11. Write your worries down--one hour before bed, write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you might have to do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.
12. Take a hot salt/soda/aromatherapy bath--raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep. A hot bath also relaxes your muscles and reduces tension physically and psychologically. By adding one-and-a-half to one cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and one-and-a-half to one cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath, you will gain the benefits of magnesium absorbed through your skin and the alkaline-balancing effects of the baking soda, both of which help with sleep. This was something I remember both my parents used to do, and neither had sleeping problems.
13. Get a massage or stretch before bed--this helps relax the body making it easier to fall asleep.
14. Warm your middle--this raises your core temperature and helps trigger the proper chemistry for sleep. Either a hot water bottle, heating pad, or warm body can do the trick. My heated mattress pad works well for pre-heating my bed in the winter.
15. Avoid medications that interfere with sleep--these include sedatives (these are used to treat insomnia, but ultimately lead to dependence and disruption of normal sleep rhythms and architecture), antihistamines, stimulants, cold medication, steroids, and headache medication that contains caffeine (such as Fioricet).
16. Use herbal therapies--try passionflower, or 320 mg to 480 mg of valerian (valeriana officinalis) root extract standardized to 0.2 percent valerenic acid one hour before bed. On occasion I've tried the valerian/hops combo and lemon balm recommended by herbal expert Dr. Tieraona Low Dog and they worked well. Click here to read more.
17. Take 200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed--this relaxes the nervous system and muscles. If you already take a magnesium supplement, just take it before bed, instead of in the morning.
18. Other supplements and herbs can be helpful in getting some shuteye--try calcium, theanine (an amino acid from green tea), GABA, 5-HTP, and magnolia.
19. Try one to three mg of melatonin at night--melatonin helps stabilize your sleep rhythms. I've taken melatonin on occasion, and it definitely helped me.
20. Get a relaxation, meditation or guided imagery CD--any of these may help you get to sleep.
Exercise. (and Eat and Sleep) Realistic Rules From Dr. Oz
Dr. Oz needs no introduction This short list of 7 rules covers all the basics.
1. Commit to family night. Resolve to eat as a family at least once a week. My kids are all grown-up, but this rule still works for empty-nesters. For kids, its benefit is in healthier eating, home-cooking, and conversation. Research also shows it lowers the risk of behaviors like drug abuse and alcohol use. Oz recommends cooking with your kids. Works for empty-nesters, too--and when the "kids" are visiting!
2. Do seven minutes of yoga a day. We can all spare seven minutes a day. Dr. Timothy McCall, the medical editor of Yoga Journal, says 15 minutes of yoga done daily at home trumps going to one or less classes a week. Oz advises if you haven't tried yoga, try one class to understand what it's all about. "It centers me and allows me to loosen my limbs up so I don't have nagging small injuries." I think yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
3. Go to bed earlier. To figure out what time you need to go to bed--choose a wake-up time, and count back seven and a half hours. No compromises. Oz strongly advises turning off all electronics one half hour before bedtime. He never sacrifices this rule-ever.
4. Always keep nuts or a healthful snack in your purse or pocket. It's the key to prevent overeating.
5. Make a space in front of your television. Since very few of us are ready to give up TV, Oz recommends that we "use it" to improve our health. Do stretches, use your treadmill or exercise bike, lift weights or do core exercise while you watch TV. That's where I do my core exercises. It's where my husband lifts weights.
6. Floss. It reduces the risk for heart attack, inflammation, and periodontal disease. Just do it!
7. Give it two weeks.