Saturday, February 11, 2012

Heart Challenge Can Improve Food Choices

The Healthy Heart Challenge starts in our community this coming week!

It’s not focused on weight loss, although that will most likely be a side benefit for a lot of participants. Rather, its focus is behavior change as the underpinnings of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

For six weeks, those who take part will tackle a different goal each week. They include drinking eight glasses of water a day; eating an apple a day; a 10-minute walk daily; getting at least seven hours of sleep a night; stopping to stretch once every work hour; and doing one act of kindness a day.

The idea is that after six weeks of making some small changes, there should be some noticeable improvements in overall health, along with enough incentive to continue in that direction.

The apple is the main food player featured in the challenge line-up, but if you’re eating an apple a day, all those wonderful nutrients that make up an apple are recalibrating your body chemistry. We’re not talking major upheaval, but just enough of a shift to alter your cravings for stuff that’s not so good for you.

Drinking water contributes to that, as well, because it’s helping to remove toxins from your system and keep you hydrated. (Many people mistake hunger cravings for dehydration; and most people are dehydrated! Drinking sodas doesn’t count because the caffeine in them actually acts as a diuretic.)

The stress-reducing aspects of stretching and walking also make a difference if you are an emotional eater. (That’s most of us, given the right circumstance!) Just backing off from whatever task you’re in a dead-heat to complete can totally reframe what your food choices might be. (If I’m relaxed, an apple will be a much more likely choice as a snack. If I’m not, then I’m more likely to search for salt and vinegar potato chips!)

Enough sleep figures in because those who tend to overeat often aren’t getting enough sleep. If you go to bed at a reasonable hour, then there’s less temptation to go to the refrigerator so you can snack as you watch TV.)

Finally, making it a point to do something kind for someone else expands the heart. We know that’s true in a spiritual sense, but research is showing that our hearts are more than just pumps. Our emotions literally make chemical deposits on a regular basis, and nothing affects our emotions more than our interactions with each other. Positive interactions make us feel more connected, and that craving is stronger than any food craving!

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