As medical health professionals, we all desire to be good examples for our patients. But the reality is, it’s hard! Our demanding at times inconsistent work schedule, studying and finishing notes after work hours, and balance home and personal responsibilities can make it easy to put our health on the back burner. But lets remember, as health professionals we are not exempt for the consequences of neglecting our health. So listen, I don’t want to make this stressful or overwhelming for you. Instead I want to give you simple, practical strategies that you can do right now, to improve your health.
- Eat more plants! The data is strong:the more plants you eat, the lower your risk of disease. If you’re a meat lover, I’m not suggesting that you become a vegetarian tomorrow. Instead, I am suggesting that you choose dishes that you love and add more vegetables to them. Last week I made spaghetti with mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and onions! It was so filling and heartythat no one noticed there wasn’t any meat in the dish. Challenge yourself with one meal a dayor one day a week to go without meat, and instead add morevegetables. I promise your body will thank you.
- Drink water. Simple right? Water should be your primary beverage. Say no to soda, juices, and sweet tea. If you want to have juice, make it yourself. Oranges are great for you, but orange juice purchased from your grocery store is full of added sugar;that’s why it tastes so different for just an orange. Don’t waste your calories on sugary beverages; instead drink water equivalentto half your weight in ounces. I used to end my evenings with a glass of wine(okay, maybe two glasses),and I felt like those calories were catching up with me. So now I have sparkling flavored water in the evenings. Wine is reserved for date nights with my husband.
- Avoid the processed food. I know, I know, but it’s just so convenient. The problem with processed food is all the things that are added to it. This is where the trans fat and excess sodium come in. When we speak of too much salt in food, it’s not coming from the food we prepare in our own kitchen, its coming from the fast food restaurants we stop at on our drive home.
- Cook more. For some this is a huge challenge. But I want to let you off the hook. Don’t think you have to make this glamorous three course meal. Cooking takes practice so if you burn a few things, it’s okay.I promise you’ll burn less with practice. If cooking an entire meal is overwhelming, start by just cooking sides and purchasing a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. A partly-cooked meal is better than an entirely bought meal. Cooking your meals is not just important for your own health, but it’s how our children will learn how to cook. If they don’t from us, we may be setting them up for a life of fast food and carry out.
- Meal prep. I make my worst nutritional decisions when I’m hungry, limited on time, and have to make a quick decision. And every single time, Iregret that decision twohours later. Preparing for your week is crucial. Think about it, we plan how we are going to spend our money, how we are going to spend our time off work, why wouldn’t play something as important as the food we put in our bodies. I plan my meals, even when that plan includes eating out. Without planning those splurge meals, I may over splurge without being consciously aware of it. Pack snacks, prepareyour lunch ahead of time, and plan your dinner. I divide my week in half since preparing for an entire week in one day is a bit overwhelming. On Sundays, I prep and plan the meals for Mondaythrough Wednesday, and then on Wednesdays I plan for the remainder of the week. Breaking the week in half makes it less overwhelming and allows me to accommodate when things come up in the week that may alter my schedule.
I hope you found these helpful. Remember being healthy is not about making big, monumental changes. True health and wellness is about small, sustainable changes. Afterall, we are not trying to make 30 days changes, we are trying to make entire lifestyle changes.
Dr. Lauren W. Powell, MD
The Culinary Doctor
Dr. Lauren W. Powell, MD, “The Culinary Doctor,” is a board-certified family medicine physician and culinary medicine specialist on a mission to end generational health issues in the African-American community. She makes healthy eating accessible through her debut book, “Food Essentials for the Busy Professional.” Dr. Lauren is also the co-founder of Young Lady Watching, a not-for-profit organization purposed to empower and encourage young minority females to pursue careers in healthcare.