I see this scenario pretty frequently at this time of the year: A person decides it's time to get healthy. So they start reading about all of the foods they should and shouldn't eat, all of the habits they should and shouldn't have, and they are ready to completely change their life. There are so many different things they could focus on, so why choose just one? Right away they start drinking more water, eating lots of fruits and veggies, tracking how much fat they are consuming (and what kind it is), getting more sleep, burning exactly 325 calories per day through exercise, wearing sunscreen daily- whew! The list goes on and on….
A week later, they are totally stressed out and ready to throw in the towel because it's too many things to think about. Does this sound familiar? Have you ever fallen into the trap of feeling like you have to become perfectly healthy and do everything exactly the way the experts tell you to? With so much information out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed with what you should and shouldn't be doing when it comes to your health.
Now a new book called Live A Little! Breaking the Rules Won't Break Your Health explores the idea that most of us are living healthier lives than we think and that perfect health is really just a myth. It's written by Susan Love (a breast surgeon) and Alice Domar (a psychologist), who are advocates of eating healthy, getting good sleep and exercising regularly. But they also suggest that it's important to enjoy yourself and that there is a "middle ground" when it comes to being healthy.
For example, they think it's important to get enough sleep, but that doesn't mean you need 8 hours per night to be healthy. Some people need more, some need less, and that's okay. They suggest a diet that includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. But they also don't worry about exact portion sizes, overindulging on occasion, or the latest "superfoods" designed to help you live to be 100. We know that people who are obese or underweight have higher mortality rates. But those who are overweight have the same mortality rates as those of a normal weight (all other things being equal). So the book argues that it's more important to have a high quality of life and be healthy rather than be thin.
Some health experts warn that promoting this "relaxed" health message will give people an excuse not to engage in healthy behaviors, and eventually people will slide back into habits that negatively affect their health.
I have mixed opinions on the subject. On the one hand, doing some of what you're "supposed" to do is better than doing none. As a busy working mom, there are days when I don't get enough sleep or don't have time for a full workout. And often, I feel guilty. So it's nice to see a message of moderation, and then idea that you don't have to be perfect all the time in order to be generally healthy. On the other hand, I can see how this idea could become a "slippery slope" back into negative behaviors.
What do you think?
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