New Year’s Resolutions

by | Jan 2, 2023 | Resilience

Image: Shutterstock

Health goals are often included in New Year’s resolutions. But there’s something missing from most lists that is essential to achieving these goals.

As we enter the New Year, many of us are setting health-related goals. Whether it’s weight management, getting more exercise, getting more sleep, or kicking unhealthy habits, we mostly do a pretty good job at deciding what our health goals should be.

Achieving those goals, however, is not so straightforward.

Take weight management. The research, and the experience of millions, tells us that most diets don’t work—either they don’t take weight off or the weight that is lost comes back. Even the very general dietary approach of “cutting calories” doesn’t work.

Exercise has many health benefits, but it doesn’t burn enough calories to make a difference in weight. And it’s now well known that there’s no such thing as “spot reducing”—exercise that supposedly targets the burning of fat in certain areas of the body.

Getting more sleep? The current popular strategy is to improve “sleep hygiene,” generally referring to one’s habits in the hour before and at bedtime. But the effectiveness of that strategy is unproven, whereas what we do know is that excess amounts of the hormone cortisol increase wakefulness during normal sleep periods.[1] Does your resolution to get more sleep include a strategy for improving regulation of that hormone?

Eating better? That depends on what you mean by better. The unhealthiest element of most Americans’ daily fare is almost ubiquitous in the packaged food on your grocery store shelves and in much restaurant food; it takes deliberate and constant vigilance to avoid it.

Unhealthy habits?  Of course it’s a good idea to stop smoking and be temperate in alcohol consumption. But there’s another habit that is associated with twice the risk of diabetes and increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease: sitting for more than 8 hours a day.[2]

In your search for strategies, you may turn to advice based on the studies touted in daily health headlines. But if you read beyond the headlines and study the studies, you’ll find that they seldom offer clear scientific proof of the benefits of such advice.

This New Year, we’d like to urge you to consider a different approach, one that’s based on something I learned recently regarding human beings’ most basic survival mechanism in the face of imminent threat. That’s the “fight-or-flight” response—biological reactions to the presence of danger that prepare your body to react more quickly by raising pulse rate and respiration and flooding your blood with fuel to energize your muscles.

What I learned is that the organ that fight-or-flight assigns top priority to is neither your heart, lungs nor muscles—it’s your brain, which must at all costs be provided with glucose to operate. Why? Because it doesn’t do you much good to run if you’re running in the wrong direction. It’s the decisions you make based on your knowledge and perceptions that are most crucial to surviving any threat.

Just as your body makes sure your brain is provided with fuel when faced with imminent threat, your best approach to protecting and improving your health in the face of the pervasive hazards of the 21st century lifestyle is to make sure that your mind is provided with complete and accurate knowledge.

Which is to say, you want to be at least as choosy about the information you consume as you are about the food and drink that you consume.

We’re here to help with that. Not just by providing trustworthy information but, more importantly, by offering effective education, to help you construct the personal understandings and certainties that are your best defense against fads and false information. The “diet” we recommend is an easy one to follow: take one eSavvyHealth article a week, which requires 5 to 10 minutes to read, and one eSavvyHealth course every few months, which takes 30-45 minutes.

The New Year’s health resolution people generally don’t think of is perhaps the most significant one—the resolution to better understand how human bodies actually work. We hope you will give it a try it this year.

Dave Hendry

Dave Hendry

Position

Dave Hendry is co-founder of The 5 Fundamentals of Health and Fundamentals of Health Alliance. He has an extensive CV in research, education and curriculum development.

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