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Spring Clean Your Health with Interview Tips from Dr. Natalie Strand

Monday, April 07, 2014 Samantha Kirkpatrick

Spring-cleaning isn’t all about organizing the jumbled heap of towels and extraneous household items cluttering up our linen closet. With spring comes the notion of rejuvenation and rebirth— a fitting time to evaluate our health habits. So as the Earth rotates towards that sun we’ve been yearning for, lets revitalize our health and get to the closet later.

"I have to live with diabetes whether I'm sitting in my living room or swinging from a bungee cord. I might as well have a great story to tell one day."

You might remember the stunning Dr. Natalie Strand on CBS’s The Amazing Race. She gained national attention when she became part of the first women duo to win the T.V. game show while simultaneously battling Type 1 diabetes. Currently, she holds the title of Director of Integrative Medicine at Freedom Pain Hospital. As an advocate for holistic healthy living she has devoted much of her time to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The American Diabetes Association and dLife.

Her journey is a genuine source of motivation and with springtime emerging we jumped at the opportunity to speak with her.

Halfstack Magazine (HM): With spring and summer fast approaching, other than exercising what are some preventative steps people can take to get healthy?

Dr. Natalie Strand (DS): I think springtime is a wonderful time to take inventory of our health from A-Z and then schedule any upcoming appointments that we need over the next 12 months. For example, it's a great time of year to schedule dental appointments, physical exams, routine tests, and make sure that you have all age-appropriate checkups scheduled. Springtime is also a good time of year to make small changes that can have big impacts. Leave the major life changes for New Year's resolutions; spring-cleaning your health is for realistic and small changes that are sustainable. For example, using an oral care regimen like Colgate Total has been proven to improve mouth health in just two weeks and eliminate up to 15 times more bacteria. It's a small and easy change with a big impact.

HM: Some people think just maintaining a healthy diet on a consistent basis is nearly impossible. Yet you were transplanted from your routine to several continents with little knowledge about your future whereabouts, all while managing diabetes. Can you tell us what you did to prepare yourself for the inevitable challenges you would face on the Amazing Race, so that we may incorporate your techniques into our daily lives?

DS: The most important thing that I did to prepare for the amazing race was to make decisions about how I would behave and what I would do in advance. I wanted to make my decisions while I was in a good frame of mind, rested, and focused. The same goes for maintaining a healthy diet. If you make a decision while you are hungry, or tired, or stressed – guess what? Your decision-making will reflect that. If you make your decisions before you go to the party, before you get really hungry, before you go to the grocery store – you will set yourself up for success because the hard work has already been done. It sounds simple, but it really works.

HM: What gave you the courage to try the show knowing your diabetes might pose some challenges?

DS: This is a great question, because I always wanted to do the show. It looked like a great deal of fun, and I knew would be an experience of a lifetime. Diabetes is part of who I am, but does not define me. It never has. Diabetes presents challenges in my everyday life as well as on the amazing race. I have to live with diabetes whether I'm sitting in my living room or swinging from a bungee cord. I might as well have a great story to tell one day. On a serious note, I knew that the amazing race would be a great platform to reach people living with diabetes or any other chronic disease. I knew if I could make it through the amazing race, it would show people that diabetes is a challenge, but not a limitation. That was a message that was very important for me to contribute to.

HM: What tips do you have for anybody struggling to keep a healthy diet?
DS: My number one tip is to make it realistic. When we set big goals and don't meet them, it just undermines our confidence in our ability to be healthy. People need to remember that they can't change their entire life overnight. Take it one step at a time, and eventually people will be shocked about how many changes they're able to sustain. Choose things that are easy for you at first. If you love to cook, find a slightly healthier version of your favorite dish. If you love to go out for dinner, challenge yourself to find restaurants that have healthy menu items. When you make improvements, be sure to spend some time thinking about it and acknowledge your success. The more confident you are in your ability to sustain changes, the healthier you will be!

HM: Are there quick and healthy snacks we should be enjoying as we ease into spring and summer?

DS: I think this is a great time of year to start exploring your local farmers market! The farmers market will guarantee that what you take home will be both in season and local. Being in season will boost the nutrient density of your produce, making it extra healthy! Some of my favorites are bell peppers and fresh berries.

HM:What would you suggest for someone who says they don’t enjoy exercising? How do you make it fun?

DS: I would reassure that person that they have lots of company! Some people are lucky to love running, or love going to spin class. Yet there are many others who dread the idea. What's important is to get moving. So pick something that you like. Gardening can be exercise. Walking your dog or with friends can be exercise. Taking archery lessons can be exercise. As long as it gets you off the couch and moving for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, do it. It's exercise. If you can mask the exercise with a fun activity that you enjoy, and can do with friends, even better!

HM: Is there a type of exercise that’s beneficial to practice during warmer seasons?
DS: When the weather warms up, it's a great time to start exercising outside. For many people, the long winter months keep exercise inside and potentially monotonous. Springtime is a wonderful time to trade-in the gym for hiking trails, sunset walks, and morning jogs. The change of scenery is likely to be motivating!

HM: We often overlook the importance of mental health, what holistic approaches should we all try in order to relieve stress?

DS: Mental health is such a huge part of overall wellness. It is important for people to know that resting and relaxing is not the same thing. To really achieve stress relief, relaxing should be part of everybody's days. Two good techniques are guided meditation and progressive muscle relaxation. Both techniques can be easily learned with a quick Internet search, and can be done in 10 minutes or less.

Let her story be the motivation to change your perspective on tackling your health issues. Implementing just a few of these tips into your routine will get you a head start on your spring-cleaning.

- Samantha Kirkpatrick 
Lifestyle & Fitness Blogger

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