Set goals to become healthy in 2015!

Many of you are regular readers of this column. You read all the articles and understand how to become healthy. Unfortunately, it stops there. Another year passes and you have not lost any weight, reduced your blood pressure, or reduced your blood sugar levels. Your medication list is getting longer. You know what needs to be done, but never take any action. (You know who you are – I have lectured you in the office!) Now is the time to take action and make this year different!

If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between there are some very well defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish. Here are 5 steps to help you out.

First of all, find a goal that motivates you. This is important. If you have little interest in the outcome, or your goals are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. What are your priorities? Do you want to lose weight, reduce your blood sugar levels, get off one of your medications, reduce your dress or pant size, or just look better? Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality.

The second step is to set SMART goals. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. First of all, your goals must be specific. Your goal must be clear and well defined. (For example, I want to lose 20lbs.) Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. (For example, I want to lose weight or I want to lower my blood sugar.) Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up. Examples include: I want to lower my hemoglobin A1c 1 point, or I want reduce my pant size 2 sizes, or I want to get off one of my diabetes medications. Second, your goals need to be measurable – include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To lose weight” how will you know when you have been successful? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something. Third, your goals need to be attainable. Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. (For example, I want to lose 100lbs.) Fourth, make sure your goal is relevant to your life. Your goals need to be about you, not your friends, family, or spouse. Finally, make sure your goals are time bound. Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

The third step is to write your goals down. This step is important. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.

The fourth step is to make a plan. This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. Plan what days and time you will exercise. Plan your grocery lists ahead of time. Plan your meals. What needs to be done to achieve your goals?

Finally, the fifth step is to stick to your goals. Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time available to review your goals. Think how you are going to feel when you have lost those extra 20lbs, when you are off your blood pressure medications, or when your have dropped 2 pant sizes. Visualize success.

Now is the time to take action to get healthier. This is the year you are finally going to make a change. Do not put this off any longer. Do not procrastinate any more. You are going to succeed. Get started now on some goals to improve your health and change your health forever.

Buy Foods With Less Than 5 Ingredients

Eating too many processed foods in the diet is one of the leading causes of death and disease in our society. Processed foods contain large amounts of added sugar, salt, and fats. These foods can lead to diseases such as coronary artery disease, strokes, diabetes mellitus, and cancer.Processed foods are usually an illusion, often appearing to be healthy (with claims like low fat, low carb, vitamin fortified, no trans fat, contains omega-3s, etc.) when these foods are in fact the very thing making a lot of Americans unhealthy, sick, and fat. In fact, it is usually best to avoid any food product that is making a health claim on its packaging.

It is critical to read the label of any food product you buy. The first thing to look at is the ingredient list. The best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying. In fact, the healthiest foods do not even contain an ingredient list. Your goal is too eat as much whole, unprocessed food every day as possible. It is always better to buy fresh foods. Eating fresh whole foods will not only make you healthier and prevent disease; it will also help you to lose those extra-unwanted pounds.

Happy New Year!

To all of our loyal drjeffgreenberg.com readers, I wish you a very Happy New Year! I hope 2014 is a good year for you, your family and your friends. I hope the universe makes many of your dreams come true this year, and that you’re successful in overcoming some of your own challenges. May this year be full of the things that bring you more happiness in your life. And finally, may 2014 be your healthiest year yet!

Remember, drjeffgreenberg.com is free for everyone. Please share this site with all your friends and family who may be interested in getting healthier this year. Anyone can sign up for free updates. Our goal is to improve the health of as many people as possible.

If you have any ideas for improving our site or ideas for new articles please send us a line. All suggestions and recommendations are welcome!

Have a terrific 2014!

Make Eating Healthy A Top Priority

Many people say that they want to eat healthier, but then use the excuse that it is too expensive. They feel that they just can’t afford it. Ultimately, this is usually a problem of priorities and not finances.

 

There’s no doubt about it: We live in a broken food culture where government subsidies support the production of cheap, low-quality, toxin-filled foods that make us sick, fat, and depressed. It is not always easy to walk into a supermarket and choose the fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the multiple isles of chemically-manufactured foods that are purposely designed to attract your attention and condition your taste buds to eat ever more sugar, fat, and salt.

 

But this does not mean you can’t make better food choices and eat healthy on a budget. It may mean changing your habits and priorities a bit, but the results will absolutely be worth it.

 

Here are six tips for eating healthy when you are on a tight budget or a fixed income. Follow them, and you’ll find eating well is cheaper, healthier, and more delicious than you ever imagined.

 

Tip #1: Make Eating Healthy a Top Priority

 

This is the most important tip.  The truth is that most people don’t make eating healthy a financial priority. I’m not going to tell you that you should give up all of your luxury purchases so you can buy healthier food. But I do think it’s worth it for you to take a look at how you’re spending your money and consider, “Am I really supporting my health and meeting my personal goals this way?”

 

Many people spend a fair amount of money on expensive coffee drinks, “nutrition bars”, candy, and snacks. Some people will spend over $15.00 a day on these things and then say they can’t afford to eat healthy. That’s just not true. They have the money to eat healthy, they simply choose not to.

 

How you spend your money is your business, and if that latte from Starbucks is a luxury you feel you can’t live without, so be it. But at least take a look at how you’re spending your hard-earned cash. I think you’ll find there’s more money in your budget for eating healthy that you initially realized.

 

Tip #2: Think Long Term

 

Think of the long-term savings by eating healthy.  Many people spend hundreds of dollars each month on medications and diet plans. This is money that could be better spent. Medications are expensive. How much money do you spend a month on prescriptions. It adds up quickly! This is money that could be better spent on healthy food.  Many people are able to stop some if not all of their medications by significantly improving their diets and losing weight.  In fact, losing weight is the number one way to lower blood pressure permanently and naturally. Remember though, do not stop your medication on your own – always discuss with your personal physician first! Also, remember – diets do not work long term. Most people will eventually gain back all the weight they lost after stopping the diet and resuming their old eating habits. Skip the expensive diet in the first place. Start eating less food and calories in general. Increase healthier and lower calorie food into your daily diet. Finally, start exercising – walking is free. Overall, a healthy lifestyle is the smartest way to go long term.

 

Tip #3: Be a Mindful Shopper

 

Many times people go shopping in autopilot. It’s the end of a long day, you just got off work and on the way home you have to stop by the grocery store for a few items. You are focused on what happened earlier in the day or what your plans are for the weekend. So you walk in, and zone out. You head to the middle aisles of the supermarket, and absent-mindedly scoop items into your cart. (How did those cup cakes get into my basket?!)

 

If you want to eat healthy on a budget, I recommend you become a mindful shopper.  (Just like being a mindful eater!) Bring a list with you to the supermarket. Become fully aware of the dazzling display of fresh foods around you. Realize that you are hunting and gathering the foods that are going to nourish the minds, bodies, and spirits of your entire family. Note which foods are good for you (the ones without labels) and which are built by food engineers and marketing experts to draw your attention away from your health goals. Choose accordingly. Shop the periphery of the store where all the natural healthy foods are. Keep your eyes peeled for healthy deals. For example, you can buy fresh foods that are on sale and freeze them. Seek out the bulk aisle of your supermarket or local health food store and see if you can get nuts, seeds, and specialty items like quinoa on the cheap.

 

Finally, check out the frozen section of your grocery store, especially if you live in an area where access to fresh vegetables is limited. While fresh produce is the best, frozen fruit and vegetables run a close second, and you can often purchase these items at discount prices. (Avoid canned items – frozen is healthier.)

 

Tip #4: Make Your Food Budget Go Farther

 

Join a local wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam’s club. Many of these mega-markets carry fresh, organic vegetables and pastured meats these days. Explore these clubs; you might be surprised what you find. If you can’t afford the membership yourself, split the price with a friend or family member (or several), so that you can take advantage of discount prices on healthy foods.

 

Tip #5: Grow Your Own Food

 

It doesn’t take much space, and it’s inexpensive. A few dollars on seeds and soil is all you need to get started growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The rewards are tremendous and go well beyond the free healthy food you get.

 

Tip #6: Shop Local

 

Find a local farmer’s market and talk to the farmers. Ask if they have special prices for buying seasonal vegetables in bulk. Getting local, organic, seasonal food is healthier. It helps you develop a closer connection to the foods you are consuming, and it’s often less expensive. You can freeze what you don’t eat, share it with another family, or learn how to preserve the food at home.

 

By following these six tips, you can eat healthy on a budget. And remember, when you shift away from highly processed carbohydrates and sugar-filled foods toward healing vegetables, fruits, and legumes your appetite will naturally diminish. You will not be as hungry if you eat healthier, which means you’ll eat less, save more money, and lose a few pounds in the process.

 

Paying attention to what you eat and how you spend your food dollars is worth it in every sense. You will have more energy and vitality, you’ll heal your body naturally with the multitude of phytochemicals, healthy fats and proteins in these foods, and you may see your mood, memory, and cognitive function improve as well.

 

Get More Sleep to Lose Weight

Sleep plays an important role in weight management. People who sleep enough have lower body mass indexes (BMI) than people who don’t. Recent research data suggests that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain. Women who got only 4 sleephours of sleep at night ate 329 additional calories the next day than they did after they slept nine hours. (Men ate 263 calories more.) In another study, 11 volunteers spent 14 days at a sleep center on two occasions. During one period, they slept 5.5 hours a night, and during the other, they slept 8.5 hours. When the subjects were sleep-deprived, they increased their nighttime snacking and were more likely to choose high-carbohydrate snacks.

The biggest revelation about the connection between sleep and weight loss, and the biggest challenge for you if you’re not getting at least seven solid hours of sleep each night, is that sleeping too little impacts your hormone levels in ways that can undermine the efforts of even the most determined dieter. There are several hormones that link sleep with weight loss. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that play an important role in stimulating and suppressing your appetite. Ghrelin’s job is to boost your appetite, increase fat production, and make your body grow, which are undesirable effects once you’ve passed your teenage years. It’s easy to figure out why this hormone is the last thing a dieter needs to have circulating in excess. On the other hand, leptin is responsible for suppressing hunger. Leptin is the hormone that says, “I’m full; put the fork down.” Lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin SleepBenefitsin your blood and heightens the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase of appetite. The reverse is also true: getting enough sleep decreases hunger and will therefore help you lose weight. So after even one night of too little sleep, leptin and ghrelin become dietary gremlins bent on diet-wrecking mischief. The lower leptin levels mean that you still feel hungry after you eat. And ghrelin, for its part, magnifies the problem by stimulating your appetite, setting the stage for a day of high simple carbohydrate, high-calorie feasting after a restless night. Another important hormone affected by sleep is growth hormone. During sleep, your pituitary gland secretes more growth hormone than during your waking hours. Growth hormones stimulate cell regeneration, reproduction and growth. These hormones are also known to aid you in building muscles. This is why higher levels of growth hormones results in a heightened metabolism. With a higher metabolism, you burn energy faster, which will lead to easier weight loss. Finally, cortisol is another important hormone affected by sleep. Getting eight hours of sleep at night helps you lower the cortisol levels in your blood, while lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol lead to a lower metabolism and cause you to crave simple carbs. High cortisol levels lead to elevated blood sugar levels, increased insulin levels, and finally obesity. (Stress also leads to increased cortisol levels.) If you are trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you have low cortisol levels in your blood. Low cortisol levels lead to lower insulin levels, which help you to lose weight. Getting enough sleep helps you do just that.  

Overall, sleep is a crucial factor in losing weight. Sleep suppresses your appetite and raises your metabolism, while allowing your body to rest and recover. So aside from eating a nutritious, high fiber diet and participating in regular aerobic exercise, you should also make sure that you get your full seven to eight hours of sleep every night to help you optimize your hormone levels and promote weight loss. Do not skimp. The next post will discuss several ways to help you sleep.

What is more valuable – A new Ferrari or your body?

ferrariLet’s say you just bought a brand new shiny red $250, 000 Ferrari. It is a beautiful, precisely functioning piece of machinery.  How would you treat your new car? Would you put sugar water in the gas tank or feed it premium gasoline? Would you just let it sit in the garage or would you take it out for a spin? Would you get it serviced regularly to make sure it is functioning optimally? Do you treat your body the same way?  Do you care about your appearance enough to keep it looking good?  Do you spend time, money, and effort to take preventive measures such as working out and eating nutritious foods to prevent health problems and the huge expenses that come with them, much like an oil change?  Think about it. You would spend the money to feed your sports car premium fuel. Why do you not do the same for your body? Your body thrives on nutritious, fresh food such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Why do you continue to feed it garbage like sugar, simple carbs, and excess fat? How would the Ferrari run on sugar water? Not well! Just like your body does not run well on junk food. You feel tired and sluggish after eating junk, the same way the car would run on inferior gasoline. How would the Ferrari engine run if it just sat in the garage and was never driven? Your body is exactly the same. You need to get out and move. Regular aerobic activity is critical to keep your body functioning well. Remember, prevention is proactive thinking. There is the initial investment of time, money, and effort to get your body running smooth as the Ferrari. However, it is far more expensive and dangerous to let your body go. The hard part of prevention is that there is not immediate gratification.  You are putting in effort now for future rewards and good health.   But, you sure would practice prevention with your new Ferrari.  You would spend the money and effort on an oil change that in no way changes the way the car runs and feels at the present moment.  You would do it to avoid problems in the long run.  Most people know that they have to get their oil changed or else suffer problems with their car later on.   We also know that we have to take care of our bodies or else we will suffer problems later on.  Disease such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are highly preventable. So why would we treat our car better than our bodies?  Do you do this?  How much is your body worth? Is your arm worth $250, 000? How much are your eyes worth? Most of us would say our bodies are priceless. So why would you not treat your body like the precious engine it truly is? Think about that. You only get one body and one life. Take the appropriate measures today with your physical and spiritual health: eat healthier foods, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Don’t be lazy. Be proactive. Start today!

Need Help Losing Weight or Getting Healthier? Read On…

I get asked all the time for specific recommendations for losing weight. I also get asked about dietary recommendations for naturally lowering cholesterol levels or naturally lowering blood pressure levels. One great way to achieve all these goals at once is to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Yes, you read that right… 9 servings! Every day! This should include at least 5 servings fruits and vegetablesof vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are low in calorie. This means you can eat a lot without getting many calories. In fact, you can gorge yourself and still lose weight. Have large salads with many different colored vegetables mixed in. (Avoid high calorie dressings!) You should have several servings of vegetables with each meal during the day. Eat both fruits and vegetables as snacks. Furthermore, the more fruits and vegetables you eat the less room you will have for eating other junk food. Besides being low in calories, fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber. Fiber fills you up with no calories. It also helps lower your cholesterol naturally and keeps you regular. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients, including protein. Many green vegetables have significant amounts of protein per serving. (How do you think giraffes and gorillas get so big?) Many fruits and vegetables have large amounts of potassium, which helps to naturally lower your blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with multiple vitamins including vitamin C, a critical vitavegetable basketmin our bodies constantly need to replenish. Finally, fruits and vegetables have many different kinds of phytonutrients and antioxidants. These are nature’s way of lowering your inflammation levels, fighting disease, and preventing cancer. The greater variety of colors you eat, the better. So make it a goal to eat at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. You will be amazed at how much better you feel, how much weight you can lose, and how healthy you can become, naturally.