When it comes to health many people think "exercise and nutrition", but there is SO much more to it than that. Here are some other factors to consider and implement into your life.
1. Sleep - How many hours a night do you get? According to the Gallup Poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night. Although close to the recommended 7-8 hours (sometimes more depending on activity level and age), this means majority of Americans are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can lead to many avoidable health problems including insulin resistance (hallmark sign of type II diabetes), infertility, and the decreased ability to recover after intense exercise.
Sleep is a vital time for hormone production, like progesterone, and without the proper ratio of estrogen to progesterone the body cannot complete the normal menstrual cycle and ovulation may be compromised. Insulin sensitivity is also compromised due to cortisol, the stress hormone, that is elevated during waking hours. Elevated cortisol levels reduces the ability of glucose to be taken up by your cells; therefore, blood sugar rises. You DO NOT want glucose to stay in your blood for an extended period of time - this leads to damaged nerves, blood vessels, and organs. It can also cause weight gain as the cells of the body that take up glucose, but aren't, are perceived as starving. So, you eat. And eat. And eat. Fatigue and irritability are also symptoms of chronically elevated cortisol levels.
The repair of muscle tissue after intense exercise is also a major process that occurs during sleep. Without the proper muscle repair process, the body will have a hard time functioning optimally and performing at it's highest ability level. This is an especially important factor for athletes to consider.
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2. Stress Management - I know, I know; easier said than done BUT uncontrolled stress also increases cortisol levels. Therefore, when combined with sleep deprivation, this can really heighten cortisol levels and make them even more pronounced and prolonged.
In the busy world we live in now, it's OK to slow down and make time for ourselves. Did you know that in other cultures the state of doing 'nothing' means you are successful, happy, and fulfilled? Doing nothing doesn't mean you are lazy (unless, of course, you do it 24 hours of the day), it means you are content fulfilling the needs of yourself (eating, sleeping, working, etc.) and minimizing the things that are unnecessary and making background noise (expensive car payments, screen time, toxic relationships/friendships, etc.). How we choose to preoccupy our time is up to ultimately up to us.
2. Being in Nature/Outdoors - is the sun our friend or is it a foe? With the rise in skin cancer, is it safe to be outside? The answer is yes, but in moderation and in amounts coinciding to your skin type. The rise in skin cancer is because of prolonged un-exposure to sudden prolonged exposure. Meaning, being mainly indoors to repeated bouts of outdoor activity that extend to longer than your skin is used to. Repeated exposure that produces burning is the problem. We do not allow our skin to work up to those prolonged amounts, and instead bask in it (but who can blame us northern hemisphere folks who don't get to see the sun that often). It takes diligence and discipline during those sunny, warm days, but it's definitely worth being intuitive about..
Vitamin D is produced when the body is exposed to the sun. There is some in foods, but not anything like the sun has to offer. Light, fare skinned individuals need just a minimum of 15-30 minutes (depending on if you reside in the northern or southern hemisphere) to get the required about of Vitamin D. The darker your skin is, the longer the recommended exposure time.
Cautionary Note: Because this is a fat soluble vitamin that can lead to toxicity when consumed in high amounts, please talk to your doctor before starting any dosage of Vitamin D.
Besides the sun, being outdoors has the potential to stimulate those feel good hormones and relax the mind. Studies done in workplaces with cubicles or enclosed office spaces indicate that moods are elevated and employees are more productive when there is just one window or plant in their working environment.
On a final note, I would like to add that weight is not always a factor in health. GET RID OF THE SCALE. There IS a "health at every size" and your weight doesn't determine that. A "skinnier" person than yourself does not mean they are healthier than you internally, and it definitely DOES NOT mean they are better than you. Curvy is sexy. A little fat around the edges is OK and probably more healthy than those bodies of Victoria's secret models that torture you on TV or in the shopping malls. For those of you who know me, I don't fit the curvy mold at all, but that's because I tortured my body into the skinny mold years ago. It's something I regret for sure, but it's not something I can't change. And for those of you who are naturally thin, who can't gain a pound even if they tried - that's okay too! If your health is present then there is no need to try to fit that curvy figure all these health advocates praise. Where ever you are comfortable in your kitchen, in your relationships, in your skin, is where you should stay.