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Make healthier choices with these suggestions from local experts.
We all want to lead healthy lives. And we try to. We really do. But sometimes we could do better. To that end, we asked local sources for some tips to help us along when it comes to eating, sleeping, sitting (are you sitting up straight?) and just living in general. Get ready to get healthier.
More and Better Zzzz's
STOP HITTING THE SNOOZE BUTTON FIVE TIMES OVER; GO TO BED EARLIER. According to board-certified neurologist and sleep specialist Lydia Wytrzes, M.D., if you just can’t get going in the morning, it means you are sleep deprived, which might not exactly be a news flash for you. It’s easy to rationalize that, between making dinner, taking care of the kids and preparing for the next day, you can’t get to sleep any earlier. But, says Wytrzes, director of the Sutter Sleep Disorders Centers in Sacramento and Roseville, “Realizing the importance of sleep on daytime functioning (memory, mood, focus) might help place sleep at a higher level of importance.” So try this: Start going to bed earlier by 10-minute increments every night.
FORGO THE NIGHTCAP; FOCUS ON DEEP BREATHING. “We drink alcohol because it is sedating and relaxes us,” says Wytrzes. “However, it results in more nighttime wake-ups along with excess calories at the wrong time of the day.” Instead, she suggests deep breathing or using relaxation techniques such as yoga, guided imagery and toe-tensing (lying on your back, trying to point your toes toward your face, counting to 10, then releasing the toes to a count of 10) as a pre-bedtime relaxing ritual.
NIX THE AFTERNOON NAP; GO FOR A WALK INSTEAD. “Daytime napping makes it harder to fall asleep that night, and sleep is lighter and more disturbed,” explains Wytrzes. So do the opposite— get moving. Put on your walking shoes and take a lap around your office building. If that’s not an option, a lap (or two or five) inside of the office will help, too. If you must nap, Wytrzes suggests limiting it to 20 minutes or less.
SHUT DOWN YOUR MONKEY MIND; POP IN A CD WITH “DELTA PULSE. “When we can’t sleep, it’s usually because we can’t stop the chatter in our heads. So we usually end up turning on the TV to drown out the sound of our thoughts by keeping our mind occupied with infomercials,” says Lisa Chapman-Sorci, meditation and Reiki teacher, and owner of Healing Alternatives Meditation Center in Carmichael. “Our brains have four main states of consciousness; I like to refer to them as our brain’s RPMs. When we are wide awake with ‘monkey mind,’ our RPMs are high (beta pulse).” When you listen to a CD that has a delta pulse, the slow RPM state associated with deep sleep, your brain matches it, explains Chapman-Sorci. “Sort of like when you are talking with your friend when a good song comes on and your foot naturally taps along with the beat. [Listening to a delta pulse CD] allows you to fall asleep naturally and deeply.” Chapman-Sorci recommends Sleepy Ocean & Rain: With Delta Brainwave Pulses by Jeffrey Thompson.
FORGET FAST FOOD FOR LUNCH; BROWN BAG IT INSTEAD. Sure, today’s eating establishments offer some healthful choices. But nothing beats a handpacked, nutritionally rich lunch from home. “By choosing a healthy lunch with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you will sustain your energy throughout the day with less calories,” says Tyler J. Stauffer, an American College of Sports Medicine certified health and fitness specialist at the Roseville Health & Wellness Center. “Fast food lunches tend to be higher in calories, lower in vitamins and minerals, and can make you feel sluggish and tired in the afternoon.”
BANISH THE BORING; MIX UP YOUR FRUIT CHOICES. If all you eat are bananas, oranges and apples, you’ll get bored really fast, says Rebecca Pellechi, M.S., a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. A bowlful of berries or a sweet, juicy mango can be an exciting and nutritious way to satiate your sweet tooth.
PUSH YOUR CART PAST THE PREPACKAGED SNACK AISLE; STOP AT THE BULK FOOD SECTION. Stocking up on dried fruits and nuts to make your own trail mix is a great alternative to prepackaged snacks, says Pellechi. With prepackaged snacks, you are not in control of the calories, the nutrition or what else is in there, she cautions. “If you make your own, you are able to balance out your calories, perhaps provide more variety.”
CANCEL THE COSMO; SIP WINE, BEER OR CLUB SODA WITH A TWIST. “Mixed drinks in general have way more calories than just a small glass of wine or a small beer,” says Pellechi. But while wine and beer have some nutritional value— antioxidants in wine, B vitamins in beer—Pellechi says club soda is the best choice. Why? “No calories, no alcohol, no sugar, and it will hydrate you.”
STOP WORKING THE TV REMOTE DURING COMMERCIALS; WORK OUT YOUR BODY. Lisa Marrero, general manager of Roseville Health & Wellness Center, suggests doing a couple sets of pushups during commercials. You make your body happy by getting it off the couch, you make the advertisers happy because you haven’t walked away during their commercials, and you make your spouse happy because you’re not flipping the channel. Win. Win. Win. Feeling really ambitious? Marrero suggests doing crunches, squats or tricep dips while watching your favorite show.
SKIP THE SPORTS DRINK; CHUG DOWN SOME CHOCOLATE MILK. Endurance athletes looking for a post-workout drink may want to try chocolate milk, according to dietitian Pellechi. “It has antioxidants, protein, chocolate, potassium and [can be] nonfat,” says Pellechi. Plain water is sufficient for workouts of an hour or less, she adds.
SWAP OUT ENERGY GELS; MAKE A DATE WITH DATES. Ultramarathoner Jennifer Music Quillici has a healthful swap for the sugary energy gels most endurance athletes consume to keep their energy levels high during workouts. She stuffs Medjool dates with one or two roasted, salted almonds. “I think my body processes the food better than the GUs and the Shot Bloks,” says Quillici, who eats two of the stuffed dates for every hour of training. “I have energy longer and I tend not to bonk.” Other whole foods Quillici, who regularly trains for 30- to 50-mile ultra-marathons, consumes are turkey and avocado roll-ups, and banana and avocado sandwiches.
DON’T TAILSPIN INTO A PITY PARTY; TAP ON YOUR MERIDIAN POINTS. Feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated? Clinical hypnotherapist DeAnna Torres suggests a dose of energy therapy utilizing meridian points, specific places on the body where “energy lines”—and the organs connected to them—can be accessed, she says. (Google EFT tapping points to find pictures and information on where to tap.) Choose a part of your body that often gets ignored, such as your gums, elbows, eyelashes or liver. “Focus on it by asking, ‘If I were to thank my (name of body part), I’d thank it for (list answers),’” says Torres, who practices at Healing Alternatives Meditation Center. Then, while tapping the meridian points, talk to that body part. “Let it know that you see and acknowledge how tirelessly that part works for you day in and day out and tell it how lucky you are that it continues to do its job so well. A couple of rounds of this and your whole body will be buzzing with gratitude and a sense of well-being.”
DON’T SUFFER THROUGH ANXIETY; TALK YOURSELF OUT OF IT. Find a quiet place where you can be uninterrupted, says Torres. Slow your breathing and focus on an image, sound or memory that makes you happy. Once that image is in place, reframe your thought from “I’m afraid and anxious” to “A part of me is afraid and anxious.” Ask yourself what age the anxious part is and talk to and comfort this younger, scared self as an adult would a child. “Connect with yourself in a loving way, without judgment or making that part wrong for feeling fearful or anxious,” says Torres. “Simply accept that part with love as the wise adult and let it know that you— the adult—are here to protect her and to help make sure that she is safe. Then, you’ll be able to act on whatever that inner child is telling you she needs from a place of maturity, rather than giving in to fear-driven habitual behaviors.”
SHED MONEY JITTERS CAUSED BY POOR FINANCIAL HABITS; GAIN PEACE OF MIND BY TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES. Ken Leonardini, CFP, a financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors in Sacramento, offers these tips: Instead of paying down your credit card with the highest balance, pick the card with the lowest balance and the highest interest rate—if possible—and pay the minimums on the rest of the cards. “Once you pay it off, you get that sense of accomplishment and then you can move on to the next one,” Leonardini says. Check the stock market only periodically. “My most content clients are the ones who look at their accounts every three months or so,” he says. Rather than putting all of your money toward paying off your credit cards, put some money into your 401(k), especially if your company offers a match. “Try to max out the match,” he advises, a wise move if you have lowinterest credit cards with low balances and are in a high tax bracket. Buy stocks when the market is low and sell when it is high. “Everyone goes crazy wanting something when it’s really high, but they don’t want it on the low end,” says Leonardini. ns
Sit Up Straight
Mama knew what she was talking about: Don’t slouch. Improper posture while driving or sitting at your desk can strain your shoulders, lower back and neck. “Sit actively with your core engaged,” says Roseville Health & Wellness Center’s Tyler J. Stauffer. “Your entire back should be supported at all times. Check the setting in your car to allow proper posture by keeping your knees at the same level or slightly higher than your hips.” And check your workstation. “Make sure the desk is at the height of your elbows and the center of your computer screen is six inches below your eye line to decrease any downward head tilt,” says Stauffer.
Got a Headache?
Smile, suggests Lisa Chapman-Sorci of Healing Alternatives Meditation Center in Carmichael. “Most headaches are caused by, or exacerbated by, tension,” she says. “When you smile, it releases tension in your facial muscles. Even if a smile is faked and forced initially, after a few minutes your body begins to release endorphins. These are your body’s natural painkillers.”
Trick Or Treat
Halloween is just around the corner. Looking for a nutritious alternative to candy for the trickor- treaters? Not so fast. “Once a year, let them have sweets,” says Rebecca Pellechi, M.S., a registered dietitian with Kaiser Permanente, who adds that candy bars with nuts and fruits are your best bet. If you are vehemently opposed to giving out candy, Pellechi suggests handing out small toys or pencils.