American culture is obsessed with exercise and yet, we’re the third fattest country in the world (the pacific island nations of Micronesia and Tonga take the number one and two spots respectively). Maybe that’s because we’re also a nation preoccupied with food and more specifically, the next great diet as well.
A Culture of Extremes
We’re constantly bombarded with images of fast food and gourmet cooking shows while at the same time being sold fad diets, exercise oriented video games (Wii anyone?), and TV shows (like the Biggest Loser), not to mention the zillion different “perfect” ways to workout. Even one of the most popular fitness chains in America is aptly named 24 hour fitness, because well, you know – you can work out at 3am! Ours is a culture that encourages excess and extremes, and thrives on stress.
Unfortunately, as a human animal, this is pretty much the opposite of what we need. What we need is healthy, simple, home cooked meals. We need to breathe fresh air and move our bodies, and we need to SLEEP – first and foremost. Though this may seem oversimplified, you’d be surprised at how little importance the average person, in America, is putting on fulfilling these basic needs.
The Majority of Healthcare Issues Stem From:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of quality sleep
At Bloom, we often recommend the SEE method for real sustainable changes in our patients’ health, weight, and lifestyle. (SEE stands for Sleep. Eat. Exercise.)
Sleep: The Cornerstone of Wellness
As Naturopaths, we spend a lot of time helping people make lifestyle changes, the most important of which is making sure you’re well rested. In fact, a good night’s rest is so vital that according to the National Sleep Foundation, studies have linked a lack of sleep to the development of diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. It has also been shown that sleep helps maintain the immune system, and that chronic sleep loss can lead to immune system impairment.
In simple terms, you have to sleep well to have the energy to cook/eat and care for yourself well, and you need to sleep and eat well to have enough energy to exercise and manage your stress load. This is why sleep is your foundation for good health and must always come first.
Eating Healthy: Food as Medicine
Once an effective and consistent sleep routine has been established, your next step on the road to wellness is to implement a healthful diet. The most healthful of which is a whole foods diet, home cooked. As anyone who’s spent any time in the kitchen knows, cooking, especially using whole nutritious, colorful ingredients, takes some planning and energy. When you cook your foods at home, you control the ingredients like what kinds of food, the amounts, and the amount of salt and sugar that gets into your diet. But that’s not the only reason a full night’s sleep is needed before you begin eating right – your body requires the right amount of rest in order to properly digest the whole, healthful, fiber-rich foods you’ve added to your diet. (BTW – Don’t forget to drink plenty of fresh water! 8 to 10 glasses a day to help your body function optimally.)
Exercise For Health and Energy
Here’s the BIG news: exercising without eating and sleeping well, does more harm than good, causing a rise in cortisol that can actually PREVENT weight loss, lead to inflammation and make sleeping difficult. Now that’s a vicious cycle, counter to your good health goals.
So if you want to start an exercise routine or amp up your current one, focus first on sleep, next diet, and only then, on moving your body. Remember to start slow, trusting in the process, as this will in turn help you create a sustainable routine, ultimately leading to deep-rooted wellness.
Once you’ve mastered the tenets of SEE, it’s a good idea to think about stress management as the final leg of your table of well-being. The modalities we offer at Bloom like acupuncture, massage, meditation and exercise all help to reduce and help you to better process stress chemicals, minimizing their adverse affects on the body. But once again, we must come back to proper sleep, first.
A new study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, shows that severe sleep deprivation can jolt the immune system into action, mimicking the same type of response shown during exposure to stress. This means that in addition to your everyday stressors, by not getting enough sleep you’re actually compounding the problem.
Healers all around the world understand the deep importance of good quality sleep and now, hopefully you do too. If you’d like more information on how to SEE your way to better health, make an appointment today.