Quick Health Tips For Busy Women

Lola MagazineDr. Danielle B. Cooper, Health and Beauty, Lola Shreveport

A woman’s health affects society. Women are key in maintaining healthy families – that means caring for themselves and their children. The health of our children starts in utero. Women need to be healthy from the time prior to pregnancy, throughout pregnancy, post-partum and through the rest of their lives in order to successfully raise the children. So what does that mean? We have to be healthy all the time! So when should you start your path to wellness? Now – yesterday! Here are some quick tips to get you started.

First Things First
Embrace change. Change is hard. It usually means giving up something we don’t want to give up: smoking, alcohol, enjoying a delicious southern fried meal. Or it means doing something we don’t want to do: exercise, go to the doctor. Change is usually more successful if we can incorporate small doses of that change into our already busy lives, and then the change becomes a healthy habit. Find a doctor you trust. First, find a doctor you like and are willing to listen to – it can make all the difference if you respect their opinion. Many patients don’t want to go to the doctor because “They will just tell me to diet, exercise and stop smoking.” Well, yes, we probably will, but if you do those things, then we can lower your risk for many health problems, including the number one killer of women, heart disease, as well as the number one cancer killer of women, lung cancer. Finding a doctor you trust and getting annual checkups can help with preventative measures. With the most common female cancer, breast cancer, regular screenings can lead to early detection, when it is very treatable with a high survival rate. Find a doctor and seek their help in your wellness goals.

Cut It Out
Smoking cessation. Unfortunately there is no shortcut to quitting smoking and this is going to be a big change—but if you can quit, it may save your life. Ask your doctor for help with quitting smoking – there are medications that can be helpful, as well as support groups that can aid in your success. Cutting back on alcohol. Alcohol is full of empty calories. Limiting yourself to one glass of wine, one beer or one shot of liquor per day will decrease calories and lower your health risks associated with alcohol intake. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, then you should not drink any alcohol as it can compromise your baby. Substitute the sugar-filled drinks. Stop drinking sodas, juices, sweet tea and sugar-flavored coffee and replace these with water, no-calorie flavored waters, unsweet tea or black coffee. Sound awful? Do it for a week, consistently, no exceptions and you are likely to see a change in your habits. Maybe you stop being a coffee drinker because you don’t enjoy the taste of black coffee, but if you’ve replaced that with water or unsweet tea, then you’ve just successfully removed unwanted calories from your everyday. Count your calories – there’s an app for that! If weight loss is a goal for you, the best advice is to count your calories. There are several free apps available on smart phones to help you do this. But be honest in your tracking and include all your calories daily. After doing this for a week, you will become more aware of your eating habits and where you need to make changes. Even if you “eat healthy” but the pounds are not coming off, that means you’re consuming the calories somewhere. These apps can also help you set reasonable goals for weight loss. You may only lose 1-2 pounds in two weeks’ time, but that will start to add up extended over months. Dieting is difficult, but weight loss starts in the kitchen. Tracking your food can help.

On The Move
You’re a full-time mom, wife, employee, sister and/or friend, so you come home and drop onto the couch or bed until the next day starts. There is no time for exercise in your day. So I challenge you to find it in hidden places. Here are some quick tips to get you on the go. Take a break. If your job keeps you seated most of the day, stand up. Take a break. Take a walk. If you’re grabbing lunch, make it a moving lunch. Carry a sandwich with you while you stroll the block or circle your office building. You might find that the exercise makes you less hungry and potentially you start cutting back how much you are eating. I keep a pair of tennis shoes under my desk so I have no excuse if my heels are too high for a walk around the block. No one will care if your outfit looks funny – they will see you getting healthy and be inspired by your motivation. Add some extra steps. Park at the farthest parking spot outside your work or when you’re out shopping. This little step to force you to walk more can make a difference. Take the stairs, everywhere, every time. Work on the 30th floor? Take the stairs half way. Getting out with the kids. Still too busy because you are shuffling kids from one activity to another? Don’t sit and watch their practice – walk their practice. It’s always convenient if there is a track handy, but even if you are walking outside of the dance studio, at least you are taking advantage of the 30-minute practice until the next kid has to be dropped off. Spelling words can be called out with a walk around the neighborhood. Not only are you getting your much-needed exercise, but you’re also setting a great example for your child. You can’t tell your kids to exercise – they have to see you doing it to learn that it’s important and then they will mimic your activities. To nap or to watch TV … that is the question. Don’t turn on the TV unless you are willing to exercise while it’s on. You can run on a treadmill or do calisthenics in front of the tube, but make it a rule that you have to exercise while the TV is on. But you’re just too tired to exercise? Then take a nap and skip the TV. A 20-minute power nap will get you up and going after a long day’s work. This will energize the rest of your evening – hopefully into a walk around the neighborhood or a game of soccer with your kids in the yard.

Give Yourself A Break
There will never be a better time than right now to get healthy. The longer you wait, the harder it will become. You can continue to make excuses as to why you can’t. But if you’re done with the excuses, hopefully you will get creative with your day to make the changes necessary. No one is perfect all the time. Give yourself a break. If you fall off the wagon and only exercised twice last week because of the stress at work, home, etc. … don’t fret – just get back on the wagon.

written by
Dr. Danielle B. Cooper
Associate Professor of Clinical OB/GYN at LSU Health Shreveport