To Your Health
May, 2012 (Vol. 06, Issue 05)
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4. Make your exercise effective and efficient.

I'll just come right out and say it: basic cardio is very nearly a waste of time, at least for people thinking it helps weight loss.

Spending an hour on the treadmill might help your circulation, and I'm a huge proponent of exercise for many reasons, but most people are not getting healthier because your body gets used to doing the same thing, day in day out. Yes, it's better than nothing, but what if you could spend less time at it and get better results? Research is showing that combining some cardio with intervals (short bursts of intensity) gets you much better cardiovascular results, speeds up your metabolism for hours, teaches your body to burn fat, and slows aging. Add in lifting some heavy things, like doing some weight training, and you will increase your muscle mass as you age, increase your bone density, and burn more calories at rest. If you want to know more, visit This kind of exercise can be incorporated regardless of age or prior experience. An 80-year old could do some walking, add in 4 reps of speed walking for 15 seconds apiece, do some lunges, and be home in 20 minutes. Yoga and Pilates are a wonderful addition to this.

5. Eat at home/learn how to cook.

This does not mean you need to go to culinary school, but trying one new recipe a week would be phenomenal. Obesity is linked to a frequency of eating out; cooking at home promotes better nutrition and better family dynamics. It's very easy to fall in the trap of "convenience" foods, but again and again, it's been shown that making your own food is key to losing weight and increasing nutrition, for yourself and your family. Maybe you begin with trying to bring your lunch to work twice a week and look up a couple of recipes to try for dinner. Just start somewhere.

6. Get some added nutrition.

This could be taking fish oil, vitamin D, or trace minerals. Lots of people hear this as "take a vitamin" but if you read my article on "The Dangerous Hype of Antioxidants," you'll know I'm convinced that again, messing with nature to make a synthetic vitamin (because for some reason we think we know better?) only causes problems, which is exactly what the research keeps showing. But I also think that, without added supplementation, it's very difficult to get enough nutrition into our systems as our foods nowadays are very deficient. Not having enough nutrition means we can't heal ourselves. I wrote about this in "Your Patients Are Malnourished…And So Are You." We only use food concentrates in our practice because we believe in food and not in sythetics. Email me if you want details.

7. Deal with your stress and get some balance.

According to the AMA, stress is the root cause of 85% of hospital admissions. According to Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, there are three areas to life — relationships, money, and health — and most people are only doing well in two of those areas. Imbalance causes stress, and however you deal with it — through counseling, meditation, acupuncture, paying off your debt, etc. — make sure you have enough time off, don't watch the news too often, and learn how to not overthink.

8. Don't go too long without eating or skip meals.

All the research shows that one of the things that people who live to 100 have in common is, they eat breakfast. Not eating, especially if you have blood sugar problems (and most people do) makes your brain function poorly and has you craving carbs and sugar. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, stresses your adrenals, and most people don't have good adrenal health. It doesn't have to be much — a boiled egg, a piece of cheese, a scoop of almond butter. Just eat something with a little protein and fat to take the stress of your body.

9. Get your sleep handled.

Sleep is when you body heals itself, and since you spend a third of your life sleeping, getting good sleep is vital. Is your mattress too old? Your pillow too hot? (get new ones). Night sweats? (Chinese herbs are great for that!) Your spouse snores? (Consider sleeping separately) You wake up? (often related to adrenals and blood sugar). You can't fall asleep? (try meditation before sleeping). It cannot be stressed enough that the TV does not belong in the bedroom, nor does reading something backlit that stimulates the eyes. Cover up other sources of light. Get a clock that doesn't show it's time when it's dark. Make sure you have basic good sleep habits and you might be surprised with what happens.

Being healthy is actually learning and knowing enough about specifics, like why processed oils are bad for us, but some of it is also bringing common sense back to our lives. A blunt look at some of our habits and lifestyle might help — maybe we can stop living in denial and start working on adding some of these health measures, if not for ourselves, than for our children. Where else will we, and they, learn to be healthy?

Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist and runs a wellness center in Austin, Texas. She specializes in Oriental medicine and nutritional protocols.