April 19, 2010

From Start to Finish

Allow me to describe a scene we all know too well.  You wake up after a 6-hour night's sleep to a blaring alarm at an ungodly hour of morning to rouse yourself for work or your daily activities.  You shuffle over to a coffeemaker and brew up a quick pot to get you through the morning commute.  You arrive at work hungry and grab a sugar-laden breakfast (or worse, nothing at all) and power through until lunch, at which point you're starving.  You eat a carbohydrate-heavy lunch and are all but napping at your desk by 3pm, at which point you reach for the coffee yet again.  You eye the clock and wonder how you're ever going to muster up the energy for your post-work exercise session, which at this point sounds absolutely dreadful, and decide to hit up the happy hour instead.

Now consider a few revisions.  You wake up after 8 hours to either natural light (leave those dark-shield curtains for the weekend) or a peaceful-sounding alarm.  Because you set your coffeemaker the night before to brew only one cup, you switch it on and enjoy the awakening smell without the extra servings.  You heat up a bowl of instant oatmeal with fresh fruit in one minute - no sugar required! - and are off to work.  You make it, satiated, to lunch and enjoy a few servings of vegetables and protein tossed into a light salad.  Refreshed, you work straight through the next few hours with a piece of fruit, some raw nuts, and a cup of hot green tea.  Suddenly, the clock hits 5pm and you, ever-prepared with your gym bag packed in the back or your car or stashed under your desk, head out energetically for a strong workout to end your healthy day.

Notice that each of these stories contains the same three variables: sleep, nutrition, and exercise.  The difference in the outcomes is simply in the amount, and form, that each variable takes in the course of a day.  Adequate (7-8 hours) sleep staves off fatigue and helps keep the appetite in check, avoiding the high-low sugar spikes that do no one's body good.  A diet high in vegetables, fruit, and lean protein and low in sugars, sodium, and saturated fats provides a natural energy source more powerful than any additive or pill.  Keeping foreign substances, such as caffeine or alcohol, to a minimum allows you to rediscover the power of your own focus and mental processes without intervention.  Regular exercise decreases stress, boosts metabolism, and promotes muscle development to support strong bones and joints, even as we age.

The bene-fit lifestyle is a wellness lifestyle - we believe that every part of the body and mind must be working in sync to truly find health in the long term.  Try and think about your day not as one amalgamate blob (good/bad, for example, or happy/sad), but rather as a linked chain of small choices and interconnected actions that stack up to your whole self.  You can turn a bad night's sleep into an opportunity for a hot bath and an early night the next day.  You can think about the doughnut you had for breakfast as a small treat for the healthy eating you will pursue the rest of the day.

Try to start and finish each day on a healthy note - eating breakfast and getting a good night's sleep, for example - and watch how easily the middle starts to fall into place.  Stay focused to truly find your bene-fit

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