By Dr. Ara Suppiah, MD

araIf you’ve been cooped up eating comfort foods and binge watching TV for the last few months, chances are your body could use some TLC about now. Losing weight and getting back in shape can seem overwhelming. But emergency room and sports medicine physician Ara Suppiah reminds us, “The reason why people give up is because they focus on how far they have to go instead of how far they have come.” 

A map is useless without a starting point
In his book, “Lose Weight & Feel Great Forever, an insider’s prescription to turbocharge your life now,” Suppiah provides a self-assessment quiz to help set your personal health GPS on a path toward wellness. The questions cover everything from diet, sleep habits and stress levels to relationships, exercise habits and whether you suffer from such things as allergies, gastrointestinal problems or anxiety. 

Once you assess your starting  point, Suppiah’s prescription is simple: “Eat well, move daily, hydrate often, sleep lots, love your body. Repeat.” 

There’s no need to be embarrassed by where you are now. In his book, he recalls being at his own GPS starting point. “I thought of all the days I spent sitting in front of the TV with pizza, chicken wings and wine. Or the days when I was so busy in the ER, I literally went 14 hours without eating and then wolfed down my favorite Chinese takeout. But I was not informed.” 

Start your re-entry journey with the right fuel 
Suppiah reminds us that our bodies crave food to fill a nutritional void. If you consume foods that don’t have much in the way of nutrients, chances are good you’ll be hitting the drive-through or vending machine for an unhealthy snack. 

His staple superfoods to consider include:

  • Avocados. “Avocados contain vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin E, glutathione, monounsaturated fat and beta-sitosterol, which all help in maintaining a healthy heart and lowering blood cholesterol levels.”
  • Malaysian palm oil. “We want healthy fats such as butter, palm oil and olive oil. Palm  oil is cholesterol-neutral and is nature’s richest source of vitamin E tocotrienols, which help in maintaining brain and liver health. Malaysian palm oil is certified as sustainably produced. It can be found in specialty grocery stores and online.” 
  • Berries. “Berries are high in fiber, which is great for your digestive system and regulating blood sugar.”
  • Broccoli. “Full of fiber, low GI, important nutrients and tasty as well, broccoli is a wonderful food.” 
  • Eggs. “Recent data show that egg consumers who reported eating four or more eggs per week actually had significantly lower average cholesterol levels than those who reported eating zero to one egg per week.” 

Just move every morning, before your brain figures out what you’re doing! 
“I’m reminded on every ER shift how obesity leads to atrophy and declining health,” comments Suppiah. “Folks, as recent history has taught us, tomorrow is uncertain. Be grateful for what you have today and make the decision to move. That’s it. No fancy plans, no amazing secrets.” 

He adds, “One of the greatest ironies of medical school is that medical students spend years learning how to prescribe drugs, but never learn how to prescribe exercise. Exercise, which has been proven to be the best and most economical medicine of all, is simply not in the medical books.” 

Suppiah says 20 minutes at the start of each day should be enough. “Yes, you have a dozen tasks you need to do, but my best advice is to take 20 minutes for yourself first. Do this and you will be a better parent, spouse and employee. You set up your day to win. And you’ll lead by example. You owe that to yourself and your family.”

Lack of sleep wrinkles the soul 
“I’ll admit, for years, I took pride in functioning “perfectly well” on four hours of sleep. It was a right of passage as part of my critical care, emergency medicine and surgical training. You had to prove you could function through significant sleep deprivation. Why? I have no idea,” Suppiah comments. 

The effects of long-term sleep deprivation are severe. “Without enough sleep, the body’s immune system misfires, signs of aging appear rapidly and your body breaks down prematurely. You soon develop lines and wrinkles. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases your body fat.” 

He lists several recommendations in his book including avoiding coffee, eating and exercise within three hours before bed; keeping the room temperature cool; and keeping your phone, tablet or other electronic device out of the bedroom. 

Small changes + time = huge results 
Suppiah reminds you that, “The body achieves what the mind believes. Start today and never look back. Expect to fail sometimes but never give up.” 

Now, it feels as if the world has hit the ‘restart’ button. As you emerge from your stay-at-home routines, Suppiah suggests, “You cannot change your past but you can shape your future. Consciously focusing on a healthy body is the first step in your new life.” 

Dr. Ara Suppiah is a lifelong athlete, medical doctor and author of “Lose Weight and Feel Great now: The Insider’s Prescription to Turbocharging your Life!”