Redefining Fun—for Your Health

Redefining Fun—for Your Health

“What’s the fun in that?!” That’s what a woman recently asked when Dr. Mike suggested one way to improve her diabetes control was to give up pancakes and syrup for breakfast and instead opt for whole grains, berries and lean protein.

That got us thinking. We need to help her—and many of you—redefine fun.

Understanding the fun-damentals
What you may not realize is that taking care of yourself and being proud of your ability to do more activities, defy your age, banish stress, think more clearly and get your juices flowing—now that’s fun!

Why you opt for unhealthy habits: Destructive indulgences can take over when your joints and muscles ache, elevated blood glucose levels sour your mood and your brain is foggy. They make it easy to put up your feet, turn on the tube and feel better right now with a cola, some sweet treats or a few stiff drinks. Then, before you know it, you sink back into the same miseries you had before. No real fun there.

Enduring pleasure
By finding the fun in making healthful choices you’ll be rewarded with sustained improvement in your mood, better blood circulation (yes, you’ll feel it), improved respiration, and a younger RealAge.

1. Fun foods. Foods that improve and protect your health can give you short-term salivary rewards (that’s fun) if you give ‘em a chance.

Put your tongue through flavor school. Dive into the subtle, complex flavors of whole, unprocessed foods. You’ll discover flavors that you love in foods that love your body back! Buy salad greens such as arugula, baby beet leaves, frisee/endive, baby kale, bib lettuce, romaine. Place in a line on a platter. Taste each one. Then sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of EVOO and a squeeze of lime or lemon and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Taste again. Let each unique flavor bloom on your tongue. See if you can identify sweet, sour, bitter, salty and/or umami flavors in each bite.

You can repeat this tongue tutorial with steamed veggies (flavor with EVOO and citrus with a bit of pressed garlic).

Try food games. Do a blind taste test to see if you can tell what’s spinach, what’s kale, what’s arugula. Get your kids involved too.

Run cooking contests: Get family members to compete with one another making the best broiled fish entree; the best steamed veggie. One night you give the kids tuna to prepare while you take kale—cook both without added sweetness, frying or whole dairy.

The goal: Discover foods that love your body and also reward your pleasure centers. Then you’ll never feel as though you’re being deprived when you banish health-damaging simple carb pancakes and syrup from your plate.

2. Do a fun activity. If your idea of fun is to plop down in front of the tube, here’s some news: Physical activity is much more rewarding. It boosts mood-elevating brain chemicals, eases stress, lowers elevated blood glucose and takes pressure off your joints (really, when done right, exercise is great for sore joints).

Hello, body parts. You may need to get reacquainted with your body—how it can move, what makes it feel good, how you can extend its range of motion. And the best way to do that is slowly and steadily. Join a stretch, basic yoga, or water aerobics class. Get used to moving. It will automatically make you smile more.

Getting in touch. Treat yourself to a massage, or two or three. That also awakens your body awareness and eases stiffness.

Walk this way. Then start a walking routine with a buddy and a pedometer. Rather swim? Jog? Cycle? Go right ahead. The point is to discover what’s fun for you.

Redefine your fun so that it supports your good health, restores your control and elevates your mood. Start today one bite—and one step—at a time!

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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