Stay on track for good health; 3 principles

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

August 2011

Barring unusual circumstances it's pretty hard for a railroad train to go anywhere but where the tracks lead. That analogy applies to staying healthy. By adhering firmly to only three lifestyle principles you can maintain vigor from youth through old age. It's possible to improve your health even if you are suffering from one of the major chronic diseases that afflict the vast majority of persons in developed countries. These three steps aren't the only ones but they include those that matter most.

Principle One. Control your food habits at the grocery store, not in the kitchen. You can't eat what you don't buy and by bringing home only healthy foods it's easier to serve healthy meals. Start with a grocery list and begin the shopping trip in the produce section. Fresh fruits and vegetables take up lots of room and a nearly full cart will make it easier to resist the temptation to drop in cookies, soda and whatever samples the little old lady is handing out today. Make a list before you go. It will keep you from spending more than you intended. Be sure to leave the kids at home. If you have to take the kids, feed them first. Never go shopping when you or they are hungry.

Principle Two. Rearrange your daily schedule to get in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise. It doesn't even have to be all at one time. Three brisk ten-minute walks may not be as good as one long one but the difference is so small that it hardly matters, and it's easier to get them done. If you miss one you will still have gotten in 20 minutes of healthy exercise.

Lift weights at least twice a week. One of those sessions can be on a weekend, when almost everyone can carve out half an hour. Resist the temptation to sleep in until 10. Make it a family affair and tell the kids to push you out the door. If the gym is only a mile or two away you can save on gas and get two more walks in.

Principle Three. Snack strategically. Start by having convenient snacks where the family spends most of their time: the TV room. That sounds like heresy but not if you make those snacks healthy ones like fresh fruit, mixed unsalted nuts and dried fruit.

And one more thing: don't smoke!

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at