By Robert Israel, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Lifestyle choices are a high-stakes affair, yet we frequently treat them as much less. Too often, choices are made without any thought at all, almost reflexively and usually not to our benefit. These decisions we make add up, to the point they affect our life or hasten our death or lead to disease or dis-ease in our bodies.
Consider these: The stop for lunch at a fast-food place that provides nutritionally empty calories full of non-food substances. A week’s work of sugar mindlessly consumed while talking on the phone. Or that one-hour TV show that leads to a three-hour binge marathon of non-movement and a bag of chips.
Mindlessness is easy. But on the other hand, mindfulness can be life changing. Defined as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment, mindful choices have the power to save your life or at the very least reduce your occurrence of disease and illness.
Multiple studies back up the reality that too much sitting can lead to a host of diseases, among them heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more. Choosing too many food-like substances instead of real food can do the same.
How can you identify a food-like substance? It comes in a bag or a box and contains a lot of ingredients that you don’t recognize as food. High-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, many forms of sugar, saturated and unnatural fats (hydrogenated oils), coloring chemicals, artificial sweeteners, bulking agents, etc. The list goes on!
High-protein energy bars even sound great. Could they help bulk up your muscles while you watch the Super Bowl this weekend? Too good to be true, plus they are not real food and therefore not really good for you. In the end, they’re mostly sugar, and getting enough real protein in your diet and exercising is much more effective.
Take a moment to mindfully assess your response to various foods and exercise. If it makes you feel better, it’s probably good, and vice-versa. Ask yourself, “Does eating a food satiate, or does it increase hunger and intake? Does getting up and moving make you feel more or less fatigued or sluggish?”
Mindful assessment is key to making better nutrition and movement choices in the high-stakes game of your best health. Even if you start small with making better choices, keep building and, most importantly, keep going.