Category Archives: Guidelines

Guideline #10: Drink Water

Standard

The human body is primarily composed of water.  We lose water constantly through sweating, breathing, and urinating, and we lose lots of water when we exercise.  Water helps flush out toxins in our system, so it’s a good idea to follow Guideline #10:  Drink Lots of Water.

But how much?  The Institute of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic agree that men should drink approximately 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day, and women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) per day.  You’ve likely heard the adage to drink 8 8-ounce cups of water per day.  The Mayo Clinic is inclined to agree, as you get some of that remaining water from other beverages and foods.  However, you’ve gotta bump that up if you’re engaging in intense exercise, you’re ill or pregnant, or you’re in a hot or humid environment.

Personally, I like to use a 32-ounce bottle with a built-in straw to get my daily water.  Remember how, in college, everybody said you could get drunk faster with a straw?  Yeah, well, it works with water, too.  I like to throw in a few slices of lime or lemon to lightly flavor the water.  I usually zip through 64 ounces in any given work day although I admit I’m not so good about drinking that much water on the weekends.  I still enjoy coffee and tea on a daily basis, but I haven’t had soda in months.

How do you get your daily water intake?  What keeps you thirsting for more instead of tossing it aside in favor of sodas, coffee, or other drinks?

Guideline #9: Unplug an Hour Before Bed

Standard

Just a few months ago, I couldn’t sleep.  It took me a couple of hours to fall asleep only to toss and turn all night while having bad dreams.  Then, I woke up early–sometimes as much as 3 hours early!  I was not a happy camper.

I hoped that exercise and a healthy diet would help my sleep patterns, but I also knew I had to try Guideline #9:  Unplug an hour before bed.  About 30 to 60 minutes before I turn in for the night, I turn off the TV and the computer, and I relax in bed with a book.  Sometimes I take a cup of hot tea with me.  I keep the lights as low as possible (without straining my eyes), and occasionally I’ll listen to soothing sounds such as classical guitar music or nature sounds.  (There’s a great app called Relaxing Sounds of Nature where you can actually mix a soundboard of different relaxing sounds.)  Once in a while, I’ll light a scented candle.

Thanks to this new habit, I’ve been sleeping so much better lately.  How do you prepare for bed?  What helps you sleep?

Guideline #8: Don’t Let the Scales Unbalance You

Standard

I know, I know.  It seems like I’m the last person to talk about the bathroom scale, given my love/hate relationship with it.  (And the fact that I have, once or twice, flipped it the bird as I kicked it across the room.)  But I try to live by my guidelines, and Guideline #8 is:  Don’t let the scales unbalance you.

Leann Rimes

It is too easy to believe that our weight determines our worth.  As a woman, I am constantly bombarded with images of ridiculously skinny women (particularly celebrities) and articles about weight loss.  Lately I’ve been looking at the health and fitness magazines on store racks, and I’m very disappointed to see that a lot of these “fitness” magazines are merely advertising get-skinny-fast articles.  I believe fitness is a lot more than “losing 5 pounds in a week” or having a “beach ready body.”  Fitness isn’t just what your body lookslike, but also what you feel like.  You may be as skinny as Leann Rimes, but what is that worth if you’re miserable with yourself?  Fitness is also a lasting, lifelong condition.  Are you truly fit if you suddenly and drastically drop 20 pounds?  Or put half of that back on?

So, I try to achieve balance.  I still weigh myself because, for better or for worse, it is still an indicator of my fitness and health, but I constantly remind myself that it’s not the only indicator.  I balance my weight with my diet, exercise, and–most importantly–my emotions.  If I’m eating well, getting regular exercise, and feel even-keeled emotionally, then I know I’m doing well or, at least, doing the best I can.  As long as I stay balanced and keep trying, I will reach a healthy weight (not a skinny weight!) and I’ll be okay–even if my bathroom scale gets a little dented along the way.

Guideline #7: Get Your A** Off The Sofa

Standard

Wouldn’t it be great if you could lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and increase your muscle tone by laying on the sofa all day?  Sure it would, but it ain’t gonna happen.  You’ve heard it before and I’m saying it again:  You can only get healthy by eating healthy and getting your a** off the sofa.

The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) and the Mayo Clinic recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity every week, plus some muscle-strengthening activity on 2 or more days of the week.  We’re not talking about running a marathon–more like brisk walking, riding a bike on flat terrain, or mowing the lawn (yes, that counts!).  And we’re not talking about working out several hours a day–150 minutes per week breaks down to less than 22 minutes per day!  Even a couch potato like me can handle huffing and puffing less than 22 minutes a day.

What does it take to get you off the sofa?  What kind of activity piqued your interest in exercise after a long absence?

Guideline #6: Make Every Day A Spa Day

Standard

Life is short, so why not enjoy it more?  One of my top ways for relieving stress and enjoying the little things in life is Guideline #6:  Make every day a spa day.

Break out those hotel shampoos and fancy guest soaps you’ve been saving and use them for yourself.  Splurge on a couple of high-end bath products, like a new body scrub, or a luxurious new bathrobe or pajamas.  (Or go the cheap route like me–I found some nice products at my local Marshall’s.)  Light some candles, set your waterproof iPod speaker or shower radio to some soothing music, and take a bubble bath.  Vow to make the bathroom your private space–no interruptions, no rush, no thoughts about work or other stressors.  When you start thinking about a problem or stressor, remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do about it right that moment while you’re in the loo–few problems can be instantly solved while nekkid!–but some peace and quiet each day can help you focus later when you really need it.

Just my two cents.  How do you relax?  What little ways do you pamper yourself?

Guideline #5: Flower Power

Standard

Sometimes it’s difficult to stop, look, and appreciate what’s around you.  Sometimes what’s around you is a dreary cubicle.  Your space will feel so much more alive–and then you’ll feel more alive–if you just add a plant or two.

I recently started keeping fresh flowers in my home.  It seems like such a small change, but just two or three stems of flowers make a big difference.  I particularly like to place a small vase of flowers near my bed.  Seeing the flowers first thing in the morning and last thing at night really helps to calm me.

It’s a relatively cheap quick fix to spruce up your home.  (My local grocery store usually offers 3 bunches of flowers for $10.)  Plus, according to all the home decor magazines, it’s what all the cool kids are doing.  Seriously, have you ever noticed that every room in a home decor magazine has flowers in it?  There’s a reason.  Not only does it add color and texture, but it makes a mere space feel like a real place.

Guideline #4: Clean Your House Once, Then Never Again

Standard

If you’re like I was, you get so busy with life (or tired) that you let the housework go until it builds up to an overwhelming mess.  You have aspirations of a sparkly, organized house that never quite come true, and the intense Martha-Stewart-like cleaning you strive for seems impossible.

Well, duh, it is.  You don’t live in a sanitized laboratory and, really, would you want to?

However, a neat house helps you have a neat soul and reduces stress.  So ya gotta find a balance between the anxiety-producing clutter and the anxiety-producing desire to be the second incarnation of Martha.

I’ve found that doing one super-duper scrub-down, followed by daily super-light maintenance, fits the bill.  My hubby and I spent a Saturday cleaning and scouring our house from top to bottom.  We got rid of the clutter, put everything in its place, dusted, cleaned the floors, and even cleaned out the basement!

From then on, it was easy-peasy.  I got into the habit of picking up after myself.  (My mother would be so proud–it only took 30 years.)  I abide by the “two minute guideline” for every room.  Whenever I’m in a room, I spend no more than two minutes straightening up and cleaning.  For example, in the morning I make the bed and toss the dirty clothes in the hamper.  After a shower, I may straighten the bath linens, clean the vanity mirror, or empty the wastebasket.  While I’m cooking a meal or prepping a snack, I put away the clean dishes, load the dishwasher, or wipe down the counters.  I take a few minutes after a workout to load the dryer or fold a stack of clean laundry.  Notice I said “or”–doing everything in a room would defeat the two minute guideline!

This keeps the house neat during the weekdays and leaves me time to focus on exercise or relaxation during those precious after-work hours.  On the weekends, I have more time to do chores, but I still don’t slave away for hours and hours at a time (like I used to) just to clean the house.  By spending a few minutes on spot cleaning Monday through Friday, I find that I really only need about five minutes per room on the weekend to do the things I didn’t get to during the week (usually just cleaning the floors, scrubbing the tub, or vacuuming hard-to-reach places).

It feels so nice and calming to walk into a neat room, and even better knowing I don’t have to carve out a four-hour block of time from my day to clean the whole house.

Guideline #3: Relax Your Mouth

Standard

Don’t shut up–shut down.  Let your jaw hang down.  Separate your teeth.  Take a few seconds throughout the day to relax your face and your mouth.  You might be surprised how often you’re clenching your teeth.  I’ve discovered that sometimes I tense up and clench doing the most mundane things, like making a pot of coffee.  It seems like such a small, insignificant thing, but relaxing one part of your body can really help to, eventually, relax your whole body and mind.

Guideline #2: Make Healthier Choices

Standard

Probably the key to achieving balance in life is Guideline #2:  Make Healthier Choices.  Notice I said healthier.  It’s all about making an effort, making conscious decisions, and making those decisions yourself rather than decisions being forced upon you.  

On the roller coaster of my life, I always put too much pressure on myself, and I let others put too much pressure on me, too.  I used SparkPeople.com on several occasions to try to increase my fitness and manage my weight.  SparkPeople was great–for a while.  Their program is designed to help you develop healthy habits over the course of a few months, which is great.  The downside (for me, anyway) was the intense focus on counting every calorie eaten and every calorie burned, down to estimating how many calories you burn each day just by breathing.  I was always gung ho about it for about a month, but then the calorie-counting became a chore that I avoided at all costs.  Pretty soon, I relapsed to couch-surfing and milk chocolate bars.  I simply could not live my life by counting every calorie consumed or spent during every minute of every day.

So, now I’m on the path to physical and emotional balance again, but this time I’m going a little easier on myself.  I’ve vowed to make healthier choices, but not get anal-retentive about it.  I’m trying to eat more fruits and vegetables for every meal and snack, but I’m not going to beat myself up if one snack is a granola bar instead of an apple.  I’m more physically active with yoga and jogging, but I don’t get depressed if my workout only lasts 20 minutes instead of an hour.  I’ll still eat dessert, just not every day and not a whole lot of it.  (Strong words coming from a girl who used to finish off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in a day–or less.)  I’ll still go out to eat at restaurants, but I’ll order fish instead of giant cheeseburgers with bacon.

For me, I’ve still gotta enjoy life, and that means eating dessert, going out for dinner, having bread or pasta once in a while, and having time to relax.  The hardcore “no carb,” “no gluten,” “no whatever” diets are too much, and they can’t be good for you over time.  Neither is worshipping at the gym every day, all day.  After all, the human body is an incredible organism when it’s balanced and when it has a little bit of everything but not too much of any one thing.

Strive to make healthier choices, and remember:  Nobody’s perfect.  What kind of healthier choices are you making?

Guideline #1: Want To Change

Standard

I’ve always been a list-maker.  I was probably making lists in my crib, trying to devise a multitude of ways of prioritizing eating, sleeping, and pooping.

Flash forward thirty-some years, and guess what:  I’m making a list about eating, sleeping, and pooping.  When I hit my breaking point recently, I knew I needed to make some big changes, but I also knew that I couldn’t totally ignore who I am.  I had to make a “to do” list to get healthy and achieve balance in life.  I needed some guidance, even if it was self-created.

So, I started making mental guidelines.  They’re called guidelines because they’re flexible and because, frankly, I didn’t need any more “rules” to stress me out.  I’m sharing them with you as I go along and as I develop them.  Perhaps you’ll find my guidelines helpful, or maybe you’ll suggest a few I should add.

So, guideline #1:  Want to change.  No, I mean really want to change.  Real change isn’t going to happen on a whim.  Thinking “gee, it’d be nice to lose a few pounds” isn’t going to turn into a lifestyle change.  That kind of wishy-washy thinking will result in you sweating and depriving yourself for a few weeks until you get fed up and go back to the Hershey bars.

Trust me, I’ve been there.  Over the years, I’ve sporadically made half-hearted efforts to change, to de-stress, and to get healthy.  I told myself I had a bunch of reasons why I should do it.  “I should lose weight so I’m less likely to develop the cancers that run in my family.”  “I should learn to meditate so I don’t feel depressed every day.”  “I should put down the egg and pick up the apple because I have really high cholesterol.”  All true and all valid reasons, but (there’s always a but) not enough to get me to commit to true, lasting change.

What did it take?  Well, my mind and body hit skid row at the same time, and I really started to feel like there was no hope in life.  Everybody has their own breaking point when they’re ready to make a change–mine happened when living no longer seemed as appealing as the alternative.  And that’s no way to live.

Your desire to change has to come from deep inside you.  Don’t listen to the media, your friends, your boss, whoever tell you what you should want.  Only you can know when you’re ready to change and work towards balance.  What was your breaking point?