Instead of Resolutions, Try Improving Your Health Habits

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Instead of Resolutions, Try Improving Your Health Habits

Ginger VieiraContributor: Ginger Vieira
*Disclaimer: Ginger Vieira is a diabetes expert and author. While she is contributing to our Expert Physician column this month, she is not a medical doctor.*

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, this year, I challenge you to approach improving your health habits in a completely different way: you are the CEO, and your health is a very important business that you manage on a daily basis. As the CEO, it’s your job to ensure your business runs smoothly and successfully every single day - even if no business ever runs perfectly.

As a woman with three chronic illnesses (type 1 diabetes, celiac, and fibromyalgia) and two young children, my schedule and responsibilities don’t leave much time for frequently feeling lousy. Like many busy women, there simply isn’t room in my life for feeling regularly exhausted by fibromyalgia flare-ups, feeling drained by rollercoaster blood sugars and severe lows, or feeling “bleh” from eating greasy junk food and drinking too much alcohol.

While my health habits are certainly far from perfect, living with three chronic illnesses has forced me to truly examine what helps me feel best and prevents me from feeling terrible.

As the CEO of my health, I’ve spent the past few years gradually pinpointing what choices around food, exercise, alcohol, and sleep have positive and negative consequences. These become facts that help guide me every time I make decisions around these various factors. And I invite you, here, to pinpoint the same “decision & impact” facts around your health.

  • I feel best during the day when I eat _______________ for breakfast. Personally, eating oatmeal or other wholesome grains for breakfast makes me feel terrible for hours afterward. Lethargic and crabby, it feels as though my blood sugar is high for hours, even when it’s sitting at 100 mg/dL. For this reason, I avoid high-carb breakfasts, no matter how wholesome and healthy they may be. Instead, I know that I feel best when I eat some combination of fat, protein, and vegetable for breakfast. I cycle through various options, eventually getting bored of one and moving on to the next. A few of the breakfast options that keep me energized in the morning are flax-seed muffin in a mug with butter or peanut butter, sausage (in the air-fryer) and a frozen vegetable medley (in the microwave), or a green salad (with fat-based dressing of choice) and sausage.
  • I will most easily fit exercise into my day if I get it done before _______________ o’clock.Trying to exercise after my kids go to sleep at 7 p.m. doesn’t work for me too often. By the time 7 p.m. rolls around, I’m ready to relax and rest. Trying to ensure my blood sugar and onboard insulin are going to be set-up properly for exercise as soon as the kids go to bed is tricky for me, too. Instead, I know I need my 2.5-mile morning dog walk to get my blood bubbling, but that I should wait until mid-day to do my more rigorous cardio and weight-lifting. Doing rigorous workouts too early in the day leaves me unable to focus on work in the later morning hours.
  • Drinking alcohol more than ___________ days in a row triggers fatigue and overall lousiness. (And in general, drinking more than __________ servings of alcohol in one night leaves me dragging the next day.) As a person with fibromyalgia, I have a long list of things I avoid completely in an effort to avoiding triggering flare-ups of pain or exhaustion. Drinking even just two glasses of wine more than two nights in a row leaves me dragging. Instead, I know my body can handle alcohol no more than two nights in a row without seeing any significant effects on my health, energy, and overall ability to get my to-do lists done.

Other facts I know to be true when it comes to managing the business of my health include:

  • Using cereal to treat a low blood sugar almost always leads to a blood sugar roller coaster.
  • I feel most satisfied and stable when I eat a low-carb breakfast, a low-carb lunch, and one source of fruit with a fat/protein for a mid-afternoon snack.
  • I feel icky when I eat heavily processed “proteins bars” but I feel awesome when I eat my own homemade protein balls.
  • Eating dessert (ie: chocolate) in the middle of the day triggers my sweet-tooth for the rest of the day. Instead, I feel best when I wait until after dinner to eat something sweet.
  • Drinking more than 1 cup of coffee a day leaves me feeling jittery, nauseous, and battling high blood sugars the rest of the day.

What do YOU already know about your health? What helps your business run the most smoothly, and what choices sabotage its daily success?

Ginger Vieira has lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease since 1999 and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of several books, including: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, and Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for many websites, including: DiabetesMine, Diathrive, MySugr, Omnipod, and more. Her background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in professional writing, certifications in coaching, personal training, and yoga, and 14 records in drug-free powerlifting back in her youth! Find Ginger on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.