Start the New Year Right with Health Tips from Dr. Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil

 by Molly Cerreta Smith

Green Living had the opportunity to ask the esteemed Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, some questions about kickstarting a healthy living routine.

GL: What are some of the simplest ways to start a healthy eating program?

AW: Cook at home when you can. I grew up cooking with my grandmother and I find peace in the kitchen. Rather than being a chore, creating a delicious meal is a great way to relax after a long day. Make cooking fun by bringing family and friends into the kitchen to help.

Use the anti-inflammatory diet on my website as a guide and get creative. Preferred cooking methods include low-temperature options such as steaming, boiling or making stews. When eating out, choose a Mediterranean or Asian restaurant because they often have healthy options on the menu. Eat at regular times, and have a healthy snack midway through both the morning and afternoon such as an ounce or two of high-quality dark chocolate, a small handful of nuts or some dried fruit.

Bowl of VegetablesGL: Detoxing — Yay or nay?

AW: I have no problem with cleansing and detox regimens in general. They often make you feel good and offer a chance to reconsider what you put into your body. However, you need not purchase the plethora of supplements and other products marketed for the purpose of detoxification. Instead, drink pure water to increase urinary output, take occasional steam baths or saunas to generate a good sweat, eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains to ensure regular bowel movements and participate daily in aerobic exercise to stimulate breathing.Various Nuts

You might try a daylong “juice fast” by avoiding solid foods for the day and instead intermittently drinking some homemade organic juice, perhaps adding powdered psyllium seed husks to promote easy evacuation. A rational juice fast as described is considered safe, but I recommend consulting with your healthcare provider before engaging in the practice. Do not fast if you have diabetes or are pregnant or nursing, and only fast when you know you will not be engaged in strenuous activity.  Break the daylong fast gently with a light meal eaten slowly.

Dark chocolateGL: Are there any foods you recommend eliminating entirely?

AW: Yes — I recommend eliminating the many foods that promote inflammation, including highly processed manufactured foods made with wheat flour, sugar and salt (most packaged snack foods, cereals, breads and crackers); fried and fast food; products containing partially hydrogenated oils; and polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower, safflower, soy and corn oils.

GL: What natural supplements best aid a healthy eating program?

AW: Supplements serve as insurance against nutritional gaps in your diet. For most people, this might include 2,000 IU of vitamin D3; two to four grams of molecularly distilled fish oils containing both EPA and DHA; and a multivitamin or multi-mineral supplement. Of course, taking vitamins, minerals and other supplements won’t make up for a consistently unhealthy diet.Dried Fig

GL: What is the best way to create, and start, an effective fitness program?

AW: Engage a personal trainer to help you develop realistic fitness goals and create a safe, personalized program. If you can’t afford to work with a trainer on a consistent basis, schedule a few sessions just to get started and gently build off that experience. Aim to get at least 45 minutes of physical activity in every day, outdoors if possible, to get the added benefit of connecting with nature. Brisk walking is a great choice, and even better when fitness poles are used because they help reduce joint stress and increase the number of calories burned. The best time to exercise may be the middle of the day, in part because it can help prevent late afternoon fatigue. If you have a desk job, be sure to get up and walk frequently throughout the course of the day to refresh your mind and your body.


Dr. Weil photo courtesy of drweil.com
Vegetable photo courtesy of Mike 6544 via Flickr
Chocolate photo courtesy of Jules via Wikimedia

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