Diet trends and exercise crazes come and go, and many of us know all too well that most are not easy to stick with in the long run anyway. We recently sat down with one medical professional who says making a solid lifestyle change to help balance your hormones is the best way to increase energy, benefit your overall health and age more gracefully. Yes, you read that right. All of the wrinkle cream in the world can’t do for you what healthier habits can for your looks and longevity. These seven simple changes will make a huge impact on how you feel on a daily basis and your overall lifespan, according to Tami Meraglia, M.D., author of the new book “The Hormone Secret.” Some of them may even shock you! Hint: You need to eat more. Read on for Dr. Tami's morning-to-night suggestions for feeling your best now -- at any age.
1. Upgrade Your Morning Coffee Ritual
Starting the day with coffee is an essential ritual for many of us, but it’s not the optimal way to wake our bodies up, Meraglia says. “Your adrenal glands have been quiet [as you sleep] and they just start revving around 3 or 4 o’clock to wake you up,” she explains. “When you hit them with caffeine on an empty stomach, that’s like slapping them across the face.” She’s not saying you have to give up coffee. (“I’m married to an Italian and live in Seattle, so I get the appeal,” she says.) But combining it with protein and good fat, like double-fisting a protein-rich smoothie and adding a dollop of coconut oil to your morning cup of java, can “buffer the affects of the caffeine and fulfill your body’s nutritional needs.”
2. Don’t Exercise on an Empty Stomach
A number of people work out first thing in the morning. In fact, diet and fitness experts often recommend hitting the gym -- or the pavement -- in the morning so that you’re more likely to get in your daily exercise. However, you want to nourish yourself beforehand with quality nutrients, such as a small protein smoothie filled with greens and antioxidant-rich berries. (Try pea protein powder, which doesn’t have the hormone side effects of soy or whey, Meraglia recommends.) “Exercise is wonderful, but if you’re going into it with an empty stomach, you’re going to have sort of the same experience as coffee. You’re going to be wired and running on nervous, superficial energy, which is short-lived,” she explains. Plus, she says studies show that people who consume protein within 30 minutes of waking up eat 200 to 300 fewer calories throughout the day.
3. Eat Well -- and Often
“Most of us need to eat more in order to weigh less,” Meraglia says, explaining that calorie restriction, not getting enough nutrients and no-fat diets can actually malnourish us, stressing out our bodies. According to her recommendations, you want every meal to include good fat (like olive oil, nuts or avocados), protein and greens, and you should eat throughout the day: breakfast, a midmorning snack, lunch (no later than 1:30 p.m., she advises), an afternoon snack, a pre-dinner snack (around 5 p.m.) and dinner by 6:30 p.m. By eating throughout the day, you avoid being ravenous at your next meal, which limits stress on your adrenal glands (this happens when you get too hungry) and helps you avoid overeating.
4. Make Wheat a Treat
Any food with wheat -- yes, including whole wheat bread -- will “turn to sugar and spike your insulin,” Meraglia says. Meaning that even seemingly benign, supposedly healthy foods can cause you to crash only hours later. (Fun fact: A doughnut has a glycemic index -- the measure how quickly foods are turned into sugar -- of 76. A bagel has a glycemic index of 72.) To keep satiated and awake, make wheat a treat instead of the bulk of any of your meals or snacks.
5. Stave off the 3 p.m. Slump
Rather than give in to your desire to grab a candy bar or muffin in the midafternoon, get in the habit of eating a preemptive snack to stop the slump before it starts. “We have a natural dip in our cortisol levels around 3 p.m., but many of us experience more of a dive,” Meraglia explains. “If you have a snack at 2 or 2:30 with natural sugar and good fat, your dive won’t be present and you’ll find that your energy in the afternoon is preserved.” She suggests noshing on hummus and vegetables or half an apple with Greek yogurt.
6. Watch How You Unwind
Chances are, when you come home from a long day at work, you relax by turning on the television or opening your laptop. And while zoning out to your favorite show might feel relaxing, it does little to actually rejuvenate us, Meraglia warns. “Relaxing requires more than just sitting passively in front of a screen,” she says. “You have to activate the relaxation response [which] slows down heart rate, lowers blood pressure and reduces oxygen consumption and cortisol levels.” What to do instead? Engage in belly breathing or meditation for 10 to 20 minutes before flopping down on the couch.
7. Create a Sleep Routine
According to the CDC, sleep problems affect 70 million Americans, and it’s not unlikely that you’ve experienced insomnia or restlessness at least once in your life. To help you get consistent shut-eye, Meraglia suggests starting a ritual around going to bed that will coax your body into relaxation. “Start getting ready for bed 20 to 30 minutes before you need to be asleep,” she advises. Put down your electronic devices (their lights can keep the brain awake), then put on your face moisturizer and maybe even spray your bed with lavender, which has been known to aid sleep. Doing the same thing every night will help your body get into a pattern of becoming groggy once the routine starts.
Original post: http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1011343-7-changes-make-now-live-longer-look-younger/#slide=1