Take a Sofa Safari for Better Health and Less Stress

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
—Albert Einstein

Taking the time to put on our detective caps, to stop, and to really look and listen to what is going on in our bodies is crucial on our lifelong health journey. But most of us just don’t do it until we get sick or collapse, as I did. In my continued efforts to better understand my own body and behavior, I often turn to nature. I look for insight into our human drives, instincts, and habits, and then can better understand what the animal in me is supposed to be doing rather than what I have been told to do or learned to do in response to my busy, stressed, and food-obsessed surroundings.

Seeing how much we have in common with our animal cousins, it seemed only natural to me that I could find other ways to understand our human habits from observing more animals in nature. So I put on my detective cap and, right from my sofa, I investigated. Here are a few things that I have observed and applied to my health philosophy:

Giraffes Don’t Count Calories and Neither Should We

The whole concept of calorie counting will hopefully disappear soon. While I think it is very important to know what foods are calorie dense so that we can eat them in moderation, more and more studies are coming out showing just how ineffective, incorrect, and stressful calorie counting can be as a long-term strategy.

The times that I have counted calories in and out, I became a stressed-out lunatic and felt like I was starving all the time. Do we want to live our lives by putting so much effort into calculating every bite? NO WAY! The goal is to put food in its proper place and relax about it. When we at real food, found in nature, we can stop worrying about measurements and still manage our weight, all while still enjoying life.

Lions Do Interval Training and So Should We

Have you ever seen an animal in nature going out for a jog? Nope? Didn't think so. Animals run really fast or rest. If there is food, they run to it. If there is danger, they run from it. Finding shelter or attracting a mate might get some activity, too. This is a clue to me that our bodies were designed for interval training!

It's not complicated. Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with periods of rest or lighter activity, just like the lions. Walking with short bursts of speed. A spin class. A row class. Dancing. Just add bursts of intensity to any activity and follow it up with a period of rest and you are doing what nature intended.

Koala Bears Get Their Much-Needed Sleep

Of course we can't (and don't want to) sleep most of the day like koala bears who sleep more than they are awake, but my point is that we NEED sleep to function. Most of us need around seven or eight hours but rarely get it. Lack of sleep will show up in some area of your life, and it’s taking something away from you.

Gorillas Know the Importance of Groups

Gorillas hang with other gorillas and together they eat, drink, and nap. Social connections are critical for our health. When life gets busy with work, children, and an endless to-do list, sometimes friend time is the first thing to go. Reconnect with your gorilla gang and make sure you have something on the calendar to look forward to together. It’s good for your health!

Cheetahs Do Not Eat and Run at the Same Time

You may not eat while you are literally running. That’s hard to do, but you are probably eating while doing other stressful tasks. Are you eating in the car? Are you eating while doing work or in front of the TV? Are you eating so fast that you can barely taste your food? Sadly, when we’re eating while doing almost anything else, our bodies are in stress mode, just as if we were in danger. We need to slow down to eat properly and mindfully. When we rest, we can properly digest. Instead of eating at our desks or on the fly, we achieve much better results if we take a real 10-minute break and actually taste and enjoy our food.

Find out about Lisa Lewtan's program at Kripalu.

Excerpted with permission from Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed, © 2015, by Lisa Lewtan.

Lisa Lewtan is a health and lifestyle coach, founder of Healthy, Happy, and Hip, and award-winning author of Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed.

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