Some of you may remember the post I did in 2012, where I talked about the changes I made for my health. (Read more about that here.) I got off gluten, dairy, and soy, and I had already stopped consuming sugar, alcohol, coffee, and red meat before then. I’m running once a week and doing three yoga sessions a week. (I experienced adrenal exhaustion in 2012, so I can’t go too crazy on cardio, but I find my yoga helps me stay balanced and toned.)
More recently, though, I decided to address a couple other health habits that weren’t really working for me. I started with my sleep habits. Talk about awful! I was getting to bed at 12 a.m. and getting up at six or seven in the morning feeling hung over, groggy, and irritable. I could tell it wasn’t good for me. (Read more about that below.)
The longer I live the more I realize that health is a process, not a destination. We find some things that work, then realize we still need to make changes. Sometimes, changes in our bodies simply demand changes in our habits.
Last October, I was ready for another level of health, so I committed to the seven new habits listed below. Turns out the fall season was one of the busiest travel times for me, so I had to stay very conscious of managing my energy. I knew the craziness wouldn’t last forever, but even with the extra stress, time changes, travel stresses, and disruptions to my usual routines, I did my best to stay true to the commitments I made to myself.
I invite you to see if any of these changes might work for you-and to remember that if something doesn’t feel right, it’s time to change it!
How Lack of Sleep Affects Hormones
I recently learned that when you don’t get enough sleep, or when you consistently change your sleep habits, you affect your body’s hormone production. A 1999 study found that chronic sleep loss reduces the capacity to perform basic metabolic functions, including processing and storing carbohydrates and regulating hormone secretion.
In fact, cutting back from eight to four hours of sleep each night produced striking changes in glucose tolerance and endocrine function-changes that resembled the effects of advanced age or the early stages of diabetes-after less than one week.
“A profound and generalized impact of sleep loss on the endocrine system should therefore be expected,” write researchers in Medscape Neurology. They added that changes in hormones caused by lack of sleep can affect insulin resistance, obesity, thyroid function, and glucose tolerance.
My 7 New Health Habits
Below are the seven new habits I’ve incorporated since last October:
- Tech Off at 9:00: This was a difficult change for me. I’m usually always on my phone, computer, or catching up on my favorite shows at night. My change: I turn all technological gadgets off at 9:00 p.m. I drink tea, enjoy a hot bath, catch up on calls with my friends, and read. I have to say it’s much more peaceful. I’m not over stimulated, and I enjoy the time for myself and for connecting with those I care about. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not doing it perfectly yet, but I’m working on self parenting and gently holding my hand and taking myself away from my busy living room or my desk. But once I am out, I don’t look back! (I might think about it, but I don’t do it! LOL)
- Lights Out at 10:00. Because of the invention of electricity, we no longer gauge our waking and sleeping times by daylight. But our bodies are still affected by the sun. Our hormones are tuned into light-whether from the sun or technology. We all have our own natural body rhythms, but I could tell that waiting until midnight to go to bed just wasn’t working for me. My change: I now turn off the lights at 10:00, telling my body it’s time to slow down and get ready for rest. This one is hard, but if I follow the routine of tea, bath, and reading, it’s easier. I avoid reading material or talking to anyone that is too intense-or having any business conversation. I like to catch up on reading that I enjoy and that has nothing to do with work as I lay in bed. A supplement that has really helped me to sleep is called “Sleep Well” by Dr. Frank Lipman. I also use the Essence of Vali sleep drops on my pillow every night.
- Eat Breakfast Immediately: After about eight hours of fasting, the body needs to refuel. You wake up with low blood sugar levels, and your liver glycogen is depleted. If you wait too long to eat breakfast, your metabolism will slow down-which can lead to weight gain and blood sugar spikes later on. My change: I now eat within 30 minutes of waking up. My favorite breakfast is a veggie-packed smoothie-see the recipe on habit #4.
- Less Processed, More Real Food: We all know now that processed foods are difficult for the body to absorb, and usually come with unhealthy sugars, fats, preservatives, and other toxic chemicals. The key is to eat real, whole foods as often as possible. My change: I started taking fewer supplements and adding more whole super foods to day. I stopped eating anything in a wrapper, and started adding super foods to enjoy more energy. I am addicted! Here’s my recipe for my morning smoothie: 4 ice cubes, water or almond milk, 1 cup organic strawberries, a handful of raw organic kale or spinach, raw cacao, 2 tablespoons of E3Live (you have to read about this amazing blue algae-it’s said to have the same substance found in chocolate that helps release feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain), 1 teaspoon if pomegranate powder (for the antioxidant content and to help with my skin), 1 teaspoon Acai powder, and I teaspoon gelatinized maca powder (great adaptogen that helps with energy, vitality, and to balance hormones), and then 1 scoop of Vega plant-based protein sweetened with Stevia. I love the French vanilla flavor. I always feel satisfied and so amazing after this smoothie. If made with water, it’s about 230 calories. Not bad for all this goodness!
- Tongue Scraping: I recently learned that we have a lot of icky stuff on our tongues. We regularly brush our teeth and gums, but we have a lot of bacteria that builds up on the tongue, as well, and we don’t often get it off. Worse, these bugs tend to multiply overnight as the digestive system works to detoxify itself. Ayurvedic health experts talk about “ama” toxins, which are believed to be the result of undigested matter that gets lodged in the body-and on the tongue. If left alone, it can build up on the teeth, causing plaque, and can also interfere with digesting the next meal. My change: I’ve never done this before, but now I’m scraping my tongue every morning as part of my oral cleansing routine. I can say that my mouth feels much fresher and cleaner.
- pH Balance: The body has a natural pH balance that works best for health. Without going into too much detail (that would take an entire post by itself!), let’s just say that our current Western diet often results in a body that is too acidic, which can cause health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. My change: I now measure my pH every morning, just to see how I’m doing. It’s easy-you can get the strips from your pharmacy, and you just use them like a pregnancy test (pee on the strip!) first thing in the morning. The results will show you if your urine is acidic or alkaline or right in the middle. Though your urine may have a different pH than your blood, your urine pH can tell you how acidic or alkaline your diet is, which can give you clues as to how what you eat may be affecting your health.
- Detox Baths: I talked about dry brushing in a former post. I own a dry brush, but I haven’t been committed to using it, or to taking daily baths. My change: Now, as part of my “getting to bed early practice,” I dry brush my body and take a nice, warm, relaxing detox bath. This has become invaluable to help me detox and sleep better. The dry brushing helps slough off dead skin cells, stimulate circulation, and open up the pathways of toxin release. Warm baths then help wash away all those released skin cells and toxins, and help me relax. I like to use Dr. Singah’s Mustard Bath for its cleansing and rejuvenating qualities.
Have you made changes in your daily habits for your health? Please share your thoughts.
Picture courtesy via freedigitalphotos.net.
University Of Chicago Medical Center (1999, October 25). Lack Of Sleep Alters Hormones, Metabolism, Simulates Effects Of Aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/1999/10/991025075844.htm.
Eve Van Cauter, et al., “The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism,” Medscape Neurology, 2005; 7(1), http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825.