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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Health and Wellness - Taking Care of Your Physical Well-Being

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they are sticking to their diets.

If we are to function as happy, productive individuals we must take very seriously the well-known saying "You are what you eat." In 1988 the U.S. surgeon general's Report on Nutrition and Health claimed that more than two-thirds of deaths in North America are nutrition-related. Bad nutrition causes degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis), diabetes, and more. The good news is that these diseases are generally preventable if we take seriously what goes into our bodies.

  1. Improve your physical well-being by exercising. Physical exercise will reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, colon cancer, hypertension, and stroke. Regular exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and reduces mental fatigue. It also contributes to improved self-esteem, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight. General guidelines for fitness are as follows:

    • Exercise three to five times a week for twenty to sixty minutes at a time.

    • Variety is best for the body and good for the mind. So walk one day, hike another, and go dancing the next!

    • Include some weight-bearing exercises in your program. This builds bone mass and prevents deteriorating muscles associated with ageing.

    • For effective weight loss, exercise at lower intensity for longer periods of time.

    • Stretch the entire body before and after exercising. Stretching before will prevent muscle pulls; stretching after will prevent stiffness. Hold each position for at least thirty seconds.

  2. Follow these guidelines for an improved diet:

    • Change your drinking habits. Reduce your intake of artificial liquids such as coffee, tea, and pop. Increase your consumption of water. Drink up to eight glasses a day. Water improves our digestion, cools us down, circulates nutrients around the body, and promotes the excretion of wastes from the body. It also dilutes and flushes out toxins from our systems.

    • Choose water that has been filtered. Acquire a filtering system from a reputable professional who has no allegiance to any one system. City water may contain as many as 500 different disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Our drinking water is often drawn from polluted sources and is purified by chlorination, fluoridation, and sometimes ammonia.

    • Relax while you are eating. Reading or watching TV is not necessarily relaxing, as these diversions do not allow the parasympathetic system to operate optimally and digest our food. When we eat on the run, we are using the sympathetic system, which merely deposits undigested food into the stomach before it gets passed out.

    • Chew your food extensively - experts say about thirty-five times. This promotes better digestion because our saliva has enzymes that initiate breakdown while the food is still in the mouth.

    • Eat more whole-grain products. Regular white flour, white pasta, and white rice add less to our diet than do their brown counterparts. Look for ancient grains such as kamut, spelt, and quinoa in your supermarket.

    • Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables - five to ten servings per day are recommended. Choose vegetables that have a rich green, red, or yellow colour, as they contain antioxidants that help prevent degenerative diseases such as cancer.

    • Buy less shiny or waxy fruits and vegetables, as these coatings may trap pesticides and other toxins.

    • Wash fruit and vegetables with vinegar, lemon juice, and water to remove surface pesticides.

    • Eat two to four servings of calcium-containing products such as broccoli. If you can't get sufficient amounts, consider a supplement such as calcium citrate (never carbonate), with magnesium and vitamin D.

    • Eat two to three servings of protein products daily. Switch from red meat to soy products (tofu), beans, seeds, and eggs.

    • Eat more fish, especially salmon, sardines, and other deep-sea fish that contain the "good" fats.

    • Choose leaner cuts and skin-free poultry if your eating habits demand meat.

    • Don't avoid all fats and oils. Olive oil is best. Other nutritious oils include flax, hemp, and evening primrose. These make great salad dressings and popcorn toppings. Commercially prepared oils contain virtually no nutrients.

    • Reduce your intake of saturated fats commonly found in butter. Hydrogenated oils such as margarine are not recommended either.

    • Avoid heating oils, as they produce free radicals that can cause degenerative diseases over time. "Stable" saturated oils such as butter and coconut oil are preferable, particularly if used in moderation.

  3. Other eating tips are:

    • Use frozen vegetables over canned vegetables, but fresh is best.

    • Read labels. Avoid processed foods that have many ingredients that preserve shelf-life.

    • Don't be fooled by no-fat labels, since unused sugars (carbohydrates) are converted into fats.

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