If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you know how important health and fitness are to me. If you're a recent subscriber, health and fitness are extremely important to me.
I spoke to a friend of mine recently, radio host Jane Wilkens Michael, about her new book, Long Live You! Your Step-by-Step Plan to Look and Feel Better Than Before, and the importance of how to stay focused on your health.
Brandon Steiner: Who is this book for? And, why did you write this book?
Jane Wilkens Michael: Long Live You! is for anyone who has reached a place in life where concerns and conflicts have placed hurdles – either high or low – in their path. It doesn’t just have to be serious illness, although I do address that. It can be everything from minor health issues to financial concerns and family troubles, as well as life-changing events such as marriage, divorce, a bad break-up, or a new career. Or, perhaps equally importantly, dealing better with the one that you already have! It can even be as simple as wanting to get in shape and lose the first ten pounds – or the last.
The book is a compilation of all the interviews and research I’ve done over the years, for my first book, which was on nutrition and sports, my beauty, health and fitness columns, my radio show, and now exclusively for Long Live You! And the advice from top doctors, psychologists, therapists, nutritionists, and fitness experts, to name a few, continues to be compelling: It is never too early – or too late – to get your life back on track to find balance and wellness and look and feel Better Than Before. Just remember: Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger!
BS: What are the nine rungs that can change your life?
JWM: My concept was to create a virtual ladder to enable readers to “climb” their way to a better quality of life. Each chapter is a rung, the idea being to take a suggestion from one or more of them every day, and slowly visualize yourself climbing out of your current rut or rising above your present challenges.
Why nine? I believe that it takes more than just thinking pleasant thoughts, exercising and eating kale to get you from where you are to where you want to be. So we need to embrace numerous lifestyle “disciplines” when we decide to change our lives around for the better. Even for those devoted to New Age and Alternative Therapies, modern allopathic (symptom-driven) medicine and medical research is essential. So the first rung is named Doctor’s Orders, followed by Emotional Well-Being, Nutrition, Fitness, Beauty, Natural Remedies, Spirituality, Support, and Giving Back.
BS: From a personal perspective, describe a moment where you felt you hit rock bottom and what you did to get back to peak condition physically and emotionally.
JWM: To be perfectly candid, I must admit that I am the world’s biggest hypochondriac, even though I’ve structured much of my career around working with doctors. I have what they call “white coat syndrome.” For me, anyone in a white coat, even a butcher --- or a vet --sends my blood pressure soaring. As a result, actually having to have major surgery was both a physical and emotional trauma.
A few years ago, I had to have total hip replacement. My hip joint was destroyed by osteoarthritis after a (not particularly impressive) sports injury years earlier. (I claimed, though, that it was from heli-skiing down Mt. Kilimanjaro!) Needless to say, I was terrified of the operation, even after the surgeon reassured me, in answer to my question, that No!,he never had a patient bleed out from his accidentally snipping a femoral artery. But since he also told me that I would never be able to walk again if I didn’t have the surgery, I had no other choice but to go through with it.
The recovery was a long haul; it was difficult and painful. But it definitely changed my life for the better. The message is clear: If there is something that truly compromises your health and wellness – and you can do something about it – just do it!
BS: It’s practically an epidemic when you think about how fitness is so routinely ignored in this country. Why is that? And, how do you prove to people that they need to work staying fit into their daily lives?
JWM: It never ceases to amaze me that in this country with all that is available to us, and all that we now know about nutrition and fitness, that there is so much illness and obesity. It’s everywhere and in every city. Yes, there are extremely fit people out there. But for every triathlete, professional or weekend warrior --- or fitness enthusiast who never misses a 6 a.m. spin class --- there are thousands of others who can’t even walk a block without gasping for air. I believe that the problem is that most people are looking for quick fixes and magic bullets. Well, you aren’t going to lose twenty pounds by dinner, and you’re not going to get in shape from one session at the gym, either. It’s a process. Think of the Japanese word “Kaizen.” It is actually made up of two words, “kai” meaning change, and ‘zen’ to make good or make better. Therefore, we should make an effort to continuously improve each day through small, incremental changes. Otherwise it becomes overwhelming and we end up doing nothing at all. Your mantra doesn’t have to be: Train insane or remain the same. (Unless that works for you!). And we all know folks who join a health club, go once, hurt themselves the first day because they worked out on every single piece of equipment, and never go back.
So simply said --- with this answer directed to those who need inspiration – make some form of exercise part of your daily to-do list. Even when it seems like there’s no time, you can easily incorporate a workout, for example, just by parking further away from where you are going. Know there are tremendous benefits to reap for cardiovascular, metabolic and even cognitive health by simply getting your body to move for as little as thirty minutes a day. Take a brisk walk. Or try something different like a yoga class. It might not seem like hard work but it can help you de-stress, tone, lengthen and improve your core strength. Remember, too, that exercise enhances feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. So it’s one of the best antidepressants out there. And get your family and friends involved in your exercise routine. Being healthy benefits everybody.
BS: There’s also a segment of people that exercise, but then have a terrible diet. They effectively cancel out their workout with no sense of nutrition. Why is that bad?
JWM: Exercise is an excellent start, but definitely not enough. As I mentioned earlier, achieving optimal health takes a multi-pronged approach. And nutrition is an essential element to this overall plan. Good health starts with what you put in your mouth! Period!
That being said, it wasn’t long ago that the only diseases associated with what we ate were gout and indigestion. Today the connection between diet and a host of major ailments is both universally accepted and much better understood. And at the forefront of this movement are the athletes themselves. Everyone has mornings when they are so tired that they don’t even want to get out of bed. Imagine, say, if you had to play four hours of championship tennis feeling this way. When I wrote my first book Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner of Champions, in which I interviewed top athletes in 10 major sports and discussed their nutritional needs and ideal regimens, the idea of a training table diet was a half a cow and a keg of beer. All that has dramatically changed. Food matters! You can’t be productive in whatever you do if you’re exhausted and lethargic all the time. And learn to read labels so you know what you are putting in your body. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it. (Except maybe for Quinoa!)
But again, take small steps. No single regimen works for everybody. (My husband would rather starve than eat kale.) Just try to eat a little healthier each day ---consistent, steady movements and improvements are what count nutrition-wise too.
BS: Where do you draw your inspiration and motivation from with regard to maintaining your overall well-being?
JWM: I learn something new all the time, so my Better Than Before arsenal is constantly growing. I was most moved by the cancer survivors I worked with over the years. Their courage and bravery, despite everything they had gone through, remains truly inspirational. They taught me to approach life with a positive, proactive attitude. Sometimes life throws us curveballs and then, when we least expect it, a high, hard one. But we have to do the best we can and move on. Don’t dwell. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. I also learned to practice gratitude----to be grateful what I already have. I have come to believe that if you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.
As far as motivation, I know that if I eat the wrong things, or don’t get enough sleep or some form of exercise, I feel awful and stressed out. And chronic stress, which raises your cortisol and other stress hormones, takes a physical and emotional toll. I want to feel good all the time. As one survivor once told me, I decided to make taking care of myself a priority because I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. My thoughts exactly!
BS: Time to play myth-buster: can you be healthy without taking a hit to your bank account?
JWM: Most certainly! You don’t have to buy out the entire stock at Whole Foods to be healthy. Nor do you have to join an expensive gym to be in good shape. Do whatever fits your budget. If buying organic is too expensive, just buy one of two items, like grass-fed beef and dairy products or berries. The best long-term health-giving exercises – walking and swimming ---don’t require any special equipment. And while you obviously can’t duplicate all of the benefits of going to a top-flight gym, or a premier facility like those of Life Time Fitness which has centers all around the country – or spas like Rancho La Puerto and the Canyon Ranch– you can still give yourself a great workout by just buying a few free weights, putting on a DVD and working out at home.
BS: After writing Long Live You!, what is the greatest thing you learned about yourself?
JWM: That while I may not be able to do anything about the weather or whether the Yankees win the pennant, I do have control over are both my thoughts and the way I act toward others. Yes, each and every one of us, myself included, needs help coping, whether our issues are large or small, life altering, or simply annoying. Each of our lives is an accumulation of the results of a series of choices – the way we think, what we do, and the way we react – to others and outside forces and events – that define our emotional, physical and spiritual health and well-being. So I now accept my shortcomings and focus on what I can do best. The important thing is to have a goal, a passion, in life — no matter how big or small — and then work toward achieving it.
Through her nationally syndicated radio show, lifestyle columns, and sports nutrition book, Jane Wilkens Michael has helped millions of readers and listeners live a longer, healthier, and happier life and look and feel Better Than Before. Long Live You! is designed to enlighten, empower, and improve your every day. It features nine simple lifestyle "Rungs," replete with beauty, health, and wellness advice, that work synergistically to relax, replenish, and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit.
Jane began her career creating the monthly "Beauty Talk" column for Town & Country magazine, and she has gone on to contribute her columns and articles to an extensive list of renowned publications, newspapers, and websites world-wide. Her weekly lifestyle radio program can be heard on iHeartMedia's iHeartRadio Talk. Her first book, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner of Champions originated as a feature in the New York Times.