Health & Wellness Guide

A simple and practical guide to eating, exercise and all things healthy

By Katrina Mailloux

Health & Wellness Guide

It seems like everywhere we turn we hear the message “get healthy.” Getting healthy can mean different things for different people, but overall, there are some basic guidelines to put you well on your way to feeling and living better.

So, where do you start? While diet and exercise are often deemed the most important pathways to health, regular medical screenings and other forms of preventive care cannot be overlooked. For those over 40, yearly diabetes, breast, hypertension and cholesterol screenings are recommended, as well as colorectal screenings for those age 50 and over. Individuals with a family history of illness should consult with their doctor as to the necessity and frequency of health screenings.

With regard to diet, other than it ranking way up there with the nastiest of four-letter words, my approach is fairly simple. Eat a balanced diet that is free of processed and packaged foods. In a nutshell, if it comes in a box or package, don’t eat it.

Health & Wellness Guide

Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and dairy products. While fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables are always better than canned, look at food labels and avoid products that contain added sugars and preservatives. Keep it simple and whole. Be wary of artificial sweeteners as recent studies indicate that they actually “trick” the brain and body into thinking that sugar is on its way and prepares for digestion. When the sugar doesn’t come, the brain sends a signal that it still needs energy for digestion, thus causing an increased consumption of calories. It’s a vicious cycle. The bottom line? Eat real food.

We have more options than ever to get our bodies moving. Whether you want to go it alone with online classes (check out Studio Sweat, The Daily Burn, Yogaglo), or love the camaraderie and support of a group fitness class, Huntington and its surrounding communities offer a variety of opportunities to exercise. My motto here is not unlike my diet mantra — keep it simple, but keep it interesting.

There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for an exercise regimen.  The most important thing is that you move your body daily. A simple way to make exercise more attractive is to set a goal, whether it’s walking a certain number of steps (10,000 steps a day is the recommendation for optimal health) or targeting a certain number of minutes for daily movement. There are a variety of fitness trackers and pedometers that can help you measure steps, and even ones that have built-in heart rate and caloric expenditure monitors. If you find yourself sitting for a good portion of the day, set a time to get up and walk for five minutes an hour. In an eight-hour day, that is equivalent to 40 minutes, or approximately three miles of walking.

Did you know that heavy gardening, like digging and raking, counts as vigorous exercise? And doing housework just a few times a week can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Standing more and sitting less is linked to a lower risk of cancer, diabetes and early death from any cause. Seems simple right? Just move your body. 

Health & Wellness Guide

If you have loftier goals, such as significantly increasing strength and endurance and prefer the group fitness atmosphere, check out all the opportunities in and around town. My studios Brown Dog Yoga and Tailwind Indoor Cycling offer a variety of classes for every body. We ascribe to the philosophy that it takes many approaches to keep you motivated and committed to your health. Whether it’s the calming yet invigorating effect of yoga, or powerful and sweat-inducing aspect of cycling or strength training, we offer over 50 classes a week to meet a variety of interests and needs.

If you feel like your workouts are the same every day, give CrossFit a try. CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movements, performed at a high intensity. In an article titled “Foundations” written by founder Greg Glassman, he explains: “CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.”

CrossFit is for any age and can be modified/scaled for each individual person. Most gyms, also known as boxes, offer beginner classes. Proper technique for the foundational movements are taught in these classes.

CrossFit is an hour-long class with a group of people run by a coach. A workout of the day, or “WOD,” is written down and every class does the same workout. A trainer or coach is in each class keeping everyone on schedule, watching technique and motivating each person. Some people enjoy friendly competition against others in the class or the box, but CrossFit is a race against yourself — making sure you are better than yesterday.

The word “community” is used a lot within Crossfit because every person is doing the same workout, cheering each other on, and a bond is formed. There are three local CrossFit affiliates around the Huntington area: CrossFit Thunder, CrossFit Huntington and CrossFit Barboursville.

Prefer the natural experience? Ritter and Barboursville Parks, Beech Fork Lake and the PATH (Paul Ambrose Trail for Health) trails not only provide beautiful scenery and wildlife, but many include outdoor gym experiences along the way. 

Health & Wellness Guide

As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Life is fast, and it just keeps getting faster and consequently, more stressful. In today’s times, balanced health and wellness is about more than just diet, exercise and regular check-ups. Managing the stress of everyday life requires managing the mind. Yoga is a great way to strengthen the body while also turning the mind inward. The good news is that you can meditate or practice mindfulness anywhere. While there are classes and workshops offered around the area (check out PeaceTree Center and Anderson Meditation), simply take a seat, close your eyes and count to the length of your breath. Exhale for a little longer than the inhale. Just tuning into the breath creates space and awareness, something a computer or phone screen cannot provide.

You may be saying to yourself, “Yes, it’s simple for you, but for me it’s not that easy.” While I have made fitness and health a way of life, I have had a lifelong love affair with food.

I recently completed the Whole30 program, which calls for no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no beans and no dairy for 30 days. The point of the Whole30 is to help you understand your emotional attachments to food and to rid you of foods that are not good for you. That is really hard for someone like me who loves donuts. So, I get it.

It’s hard to find motivation, let alone commitment to something for the long haul. I had to enlist the support of many friends along the way and talk myself out of quitting more times than I care to admit. At the end of the day, I decided that achieving a balanced and healthy diet was the greatest gift I could give myself, and that most things that require hard work and discipline are the ones that created the most positive change. Whether it’s the Whole30 or taking a few more steps a day, it starts with a choice. Choose YOU, because you are worth it.   

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