Here are the four pillars of healthy living to consider:
With a medical assessment, you ensure that you are physically capable of accomplishing your set goals. You also allow any physical or biochemical maladies to be identified and corrected. We suggest a thorough historical evaluation, physical assessment and extensive blood work be done to obtain baseline information. We feel it is important to go beyond just saying that you are not ill, but to look for hidden risks for future ailments, such as signs of prediabetes. This would include a low HDL cholesterol (less than 50 for women and less than 40 for men), elevated triglycerides (more than 150) and an elevated fasting blood sugar (between 100 and 130). We would also look for borderline endocrine disorders like low thyroid disease that would keep us from reaching our peak if not corrected.
It's common knowledge that looking closely at your diet is imperative to making physical changes. Portion sizes, eating at certain times of the day, getting the appropriate servings of fruits and vegetables, etc.—this is information that's not new. But if peak performance is your goal, some of these standby rules need to be altered. For example, it is important to eat in a leveled eating pattern throughout the day to maintain energy level. And supplements, such as B vitamins, can also have a big impact on energy level, which in turn will have an effect on how much physical or mental activity you can manage. Remember, food is fuel for your mind and body, and if you want to push your abilities to their limits, you need to be making conscious decisions about what you're putting in your body.
More than just a means to controlling weight, exercise has also been shown to decrease the risk for future disease. And it gives us endurance and strength to accomplish our goals. With peak performance, you're not exercising simply to prevent diseases, you're exercising to improve your overall fitness, to be "well" in every sense of the word.
Haven't you heard the saying, whatever you do is 10 percent physical, 90 percent mental? Well, it's true—how we mentally approach our goals, motivation and attitudes toward our goals (and ourselves) gives us the confidence and clarity to reach our summit. Make sure the goal you set is a personal aspiration that you want to achieve, not something that you are doing for someone else. Check your motivation and see if it is driven by fear or desire. (The latter tends to be better and longer lasting.) Solicit the support you need to reach your goal. Like-minded people making similar changes are a great place to start. Be realistic about your goals and reward incremental changes. Use mental techniques to reinforce your newer healthier behaviors. Working on just one or two of these areas and leaving out the others is like trying to drive a car with one or two flat tires. It can be done, but it is much harder on the car, and eventually other parts will start to decline as well.
So, what are you waiting for? Decide what it is you want to enhance or improve and start the ascent to your Everest today!
Stephen C. Brewer, M.D., is the Medical Director and Peggy Wagner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.) of the world-renowned Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson, Arizona. Through writing The Everest Principle: How to Achieve the Summit of Your Life, Dr. Brewer and his coauthor, Peggy Wagner, have developed a Peak Performance program whose purpose is to help individuals excel in their health and their goals, both personally and professionally.
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