Whether you are resolving to lose weight, improve your diet, get more exercise or live a more fulfilled life, here are 5 easy ways to feel and look great in 2008. Developed from the revolutionary health system of the 19th century Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), these ideas are still revolutionary today. Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. has adapted Kneipp’s ideas for modern life in her book Health20. “Our times may be modern – but our bodies and souls are ancient,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “It is time to let Americans in on the health wisdom that Europeans have known for years,”
Here’s how to wrap up your New Year’s Resolutions in just minutes a day: Splash yourself with cold water. Keep moving. Eat fresh, whole food. Cook and heal with herbs. Balance your life in simple ways. Here’s to a healthy 2008!
1. Every day after your hot shower, turn the water to “cold” for a few seconds. Learn more about cold showers here.
2. Exercise for two minutes every day. No excuses. If you exercise more, fine, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the next day. Dust off that treadmill or rowing machine languishing unused in the basement, or climb stairs briskly holding a couple of heavy books. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no significant difference between people who exercised “vigorously” or “moderately” in weight loss and cardiovascular health. The key seems to be consistency.
Besides these two minutes, look for other ways to move. “Fill every day with some kind of movement,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “Do not sit still. Use house cleaning or office work for exercise: stretch to the highest shelf and bend down with vigor. Use small dumbbells in front of TV. Fidget often — wiggle your shoulders, neck and spine as you sit at your desk or at a red light in your car. Move your legs around. Stand up to stretch every half hour or so. Every little movement burns calories, releases joints and tendons, builds up muscles and produces endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones.”
3. Eat food that is simple, fresh and whole; varied and in season. “Why would you want to put something in your body that even mold won’t touch?” asks Dr. Fleckenstein. Here are some of her suggestions:
• Find a new vegetable to try every month. Vegetables are full of nutrition and excellent sources of fiber and calcium and can prevent some cancers. Every vegetable tastes good when cooked with olive oil and garlic — two good sources of heart health.
• Discover nuts. They are a storehouse of minerals, healthy fats and vitamins. Nuts and fresh fruit can be a portable meal. Eat them raw and unsalted, and store them in the freezer to prevent mold and rancidity. A word of caution: nut allergies are fairly common.
• Drink water instead of soft drinks, saving calories and money. Not using bottled beverages also helps the Earth.
• Avoid sugar, white starches and dairy. They are major causes of obesity, heart disease and diabetes – not to mention cancer.
• Go easy on all meats (including chicken). Prefer fish and occasionally vegetarian dishes. Restrict meat (including deli meat) to once or twice a week.
4. Use the “green power” of herbs — they are Nature’s pharmacy. “Why is it,” asks Dr. Fleckenstein, “that everybody adores the sight of a lush green landscape, a garden in bloom — even a painted picture of a natural scene? You could call this taste for green an acquired taste — acquired over the millions of years, as our bodies evolved alongside the herbs growing on our planet.”
Use green herbs, fresh or dried, deliberately in your cooking. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium for your bones. And you can choose to take medicinal herbs for various health problems. If you are taking medications, discuss the herb with your physician or pharmacist to make sure that there is no adverse interaction. If your physician does not know about herbs, ask him or her to do some research and report back to you.
5. Add balance and order to your life. Kneipp’s thinking was influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . The great German poet believed in “pantheism,” which means that God is found throughout Nature. Kneipp shared that belief and prescribed following as closely as possible the ordered rhythms of Nature: ebb and flow, day and night, the rhythms of the season, the rhythms of the phases of our lives. Dr. Fleckenstein agrees. “Getting into natural settings – a walk at the beach, sitting around the woodstove and staring into the fire, looking up at the stars — creating peaceful, loving relationships with others, filling our lives with meaningful work, music and art, science and spirituality — this still applies over changes in fashion and time.”
To begin creating order in your life, she recommends:
• Once a week, go to bed before nine o’clock. This lowers stress, helps restore your immune system and enhances beauty.
• Join a gentle yoga or a tai chi class to nourish body and soul.
• “De-clutter” your house by tidying up, ten minutes a day — every day.
• Visit or call at least one person a day whom you love or who needs your love.
• Do some quiet soul searching or meditation to discover your purpose in life.
• Do less, have less, be more.