Your Plan For a Balanced Life

Your Plan For a Balanced Life

by James Rippe


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Your Plan for a Balanced Life provides real-world strategies that equip you to start making choices to achieve the balanced life most of us only dream of.

Most people work too much, eat the wrong foods, sleep too little, and don't exercise. They are overweight, tired, and out of balance. Dr. Rippe understands the challenges of daily life and provides practical strategies in Your Plan for a Balanced Life that allow each person to start making simple, daily choices that will result in a life of healthy balance.

The groundbreaking program introduced in this book is based on the FDA's MyPyramid Program and a new Wellness Pyramid developed by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. Created by cardiologist and lifestyle medicine specialist James Rippe, MD, the Balanced Life Index is a scientifically proven test used to measure your success based on the three major components: Nutrition, Activity, and Wellness. It assesses where you are and shows where you can be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401603922
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/01/2008
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

James M. Rippe, M.D. is a best-selling author, a world-renowned cardiologist, and founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute which researches high performance health. Known as the "father of the modern American walking movement," he has authored 41 books, and continues writing, teaching, and developing fitness programs for corporations and professional athletes. He is married to a television news anchor, Stephanie Hart, and has four children.

Read an Excerpt

Your Plan for a Balanced Life

By James M. Rippe

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2008 James M. Rippe, M.D.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-6650-0


The Benefits of a Balanced Life

I remember the day Sharon plopped down on the seat beside me in my research lab. She was clutching a newspaper ad seeking participants for a new research trial that would study the results of a twelve-week program of low-fat nutrition, walking, and group support designed to help people lose weight while maintaining lean muscle mass and metabolism.

"I'm tired," she said. "Physically tired and emotionally tired. I'm tired of feeling out of control, I'm tired of being overweight, and I'm plain tired of being tired. I'd like to take more time with family and friends, but when I'm not working, I'm too tired."

Sharon was one of the best nurses in our coronary care unit, where we had collaborated caring for very ill patients for nearly a decade.

"I've tried every diet in the book," she said. "From grapefruit to no carb, from low-fat to high protein—I've tried it—and failed. You can spend just so long in food prison. And even though my job is very active with lots of walking, I just don't maintain the weight I want."

Sharon went on to tell me that in nursing school and just after, she had felt on top of things—fit and a healthy weight, eager to take on the world. But as she started her nursing career and married life, she slipped out of balance. She worked long hours at a stress-filled job, managed a new home, entertained, and ate dinner out with her husband three or four times a week. With each pregnancy, Sharon put on a reasonable amount of weight, but after each birth she lost only part of that weight. By age forty, she was thirty-five pounds overweight—not "a lot," but at 20 to 25 percent above her healthy weight range, it affected her energy and increased her health risks.

"I'm tired of it," Sharon said. "I want to get back in control."

In the random draw, Sharon was chosen for the trial. Her baseline health and fitness measures were no surprise. She was overweight, poorly conditioned, and anxious. Her BMI was 27.5 (which indicates an unhealthy weight); her body fat was 34 percent; her aerobic capacity was below average, and she was eating 2,570 calories a day, too much for her body size and activity level—with 42 percent of calories from fat (the recommended maximum is 30-35 percent). Psychological testing indicated that Sharon was anxious and mildly depressed and lacked confidence in her physical ability. She had average scores on her perceived quality of life, which matched her own perception. She was overweight, not fit or strong, and unhappy with her lifestyle.

But she knew that both her quality of life and her health and fitness would benefit if she could regain control and get many aspects of her lifestyle in balance.

Thousands of studies have confirmed and expanded our knowledge of the benefits every person can derive from achieving the balance that grows from the synergistic power of sound nutrition, activity, and well-being. Let's look at the benefits that awaited Sharon—and that await you as you begin to find balance in your life.

Why We Thrive on Balance

The living human body is an intricate and remarkable organism with many interdependent systems. When all the body's systems function as they were designed to do, we enjoy good health. Truly good health—the health you deserve—equips you to face the challenges and delights of your life with vigor and competence.

To function well and to maintain health, your body needs:

* balanced nutrients to support its varied systems, from your heart and blood vessels, lungs, and nerves to your muscles and bones, digestive tract, metabolic gland, and beyond

* physical activity to keep these systems fit and well-conditioned

* enough relaxation and activity to relieve stress and promote spiritual health

Just as we desire balance in our lives, our bodies are designed to respond or adapt to sustain a "state of balance," called homeostasis.

Positive Changes Work Together

Everything you do to improve your life will help, whether it's taking a few minutes a day to meditate, choosing fruit for dessert, or walking around the block every evening. But what you may not realize is that these steps are synergistic—their effect combined is greater than the sum of the impact of each separate step.

For instance, eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and fewer foods rich in saturated fat will lower your risks for many diseases. And if you increase your activity level to thirty total minutes a day of moderate to brisk activity, you will lower your risk factors for many diseases. But if you improve your eating habits and increase your activity levels, the benefits of the two changes will be far greater.

Now, throw in the added support of stress management and other well-being components and you can reach a whole new level of health and happiness.

How Small Changes Can Affect Your Life

You may think that little changes such as daily walking or eating a healthy breakfast don't do much—but besides improving your day-to-day health and energy levels, they can help you live longer. A 2004 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed approximately 2,300 European men and women from eleven countries, ages seventy to ninety, for more than ten years. The results were striking: Those who (1) ate a diet that emphasized fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil; (2) were physically active; (3) never smoked or had quit smoking at least fifteen years previously; and (4) used alcohol moderately had a 50 percent lower risk of death from disease and illness.

Another study involving healthy Americans ages seventy to eighty-two found that active energy expenditure was positively and progressively associated with a lower risk of death from disease and illness. Older adults who practice such well-being strategies as staying connected with others and sharing their talents with the community also may enjoy greater average longevity.

The Many Benefits of a Balanced Life

The benefits of a balanced life are too many to list, but here are a few:

Reduces disease risks. The strategies you'll find in this book can help lower your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers, and other chronic diseases—all are directly affected by lifestyle choices. Most major chronic diseases share many of the same risk factors, which may be triggered by poor eating habits, lack of activity, being overweight, and not handling life's stresses well.

Helps with day-to-day activities. Functional fitness is the ability to comfortably carry out all the activities of daily life. Strong muscles and good balance contribute to mobility; eating calcium-rich foods, and participating in weight-bearing activity all help build and maintain healthy bones; good food and staying active can improve joint health. The list goes on!

Controls stress. Something as simple as walking around the block every morning makes it easier to cope with stressors. Research suggests that physical activity actually protects cells from an inflammatory reaction triggered by your body's "stress system." Techniques that tap the mind-body connection, such as relaxation methods and anger and guilt management skills, can also help you handle stress positively. And eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, may help to protect against physical damage from stress.

Enhances mood and keeps you sharp. Regular activity helps to prevent depression and anxiety. And evidence is mounting that balanced nutrition and activity may also keep your mind sharp for those extra years of longevity. Activity, in particular, may help to preserve cognitive function and possibly prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

Supports healthy weight. A balanced approach to living lets you enjoy food while maintaining or reaching a healthy weight. This book will tell you how to satisfy hunger with nutrient-dense foods, and it will coach you into plans that will help maintain and build lean muscle mass. And we'll help you find well-being strategies to pamper or reward yourself—without eating!

Makes you look better, too. Healthy lifestyle choices and a sense of balance can make you feel and look better. Well-conditioned muscles, a spring in your step, and a spark of enthusiasm in your eye are attractive and winning at any age. Drinking plenty of water and eating a variety of nutritious foods helps keep your skin looking fresh and healthy.

The Choice Is Yours

These are some major benefits that await you! I have been privileged to observe and help thousands of people make changes in their lives to improve balance and health. By using this book to make a plan that fits your needs and realities, you can succeed, too. After all, these are not new strategies; they have been validated by time and success stories like Sharon's.

After her baseline evaluation, Sharon reviewed the nutrition and walking program and structured goals that had been created for her. She took fire. At the end of the twelve weeks, she had surpassed her goals. She had lost eighteen pounds, and her walking program had helped her build lean muscle mass. Her body fat had dropped to 25 percent and her aerobic capacity had expanded 20 percent. Her fat intake had dropped to 28 percent of total energy consumed, which is within the recommended range.

Most important to Sharon, she was no longer tired. "My energy and confidence are higher than they've ever been in my life," she exulted. Six months later, Sharon had reached her goal of a healthy weight for her size and kept on walking. "I couldn't live without it," she said. By achieving nutritional and activity balance in her life, Sharon had also tapped into a source of energy that helped her balance other areas of her life.

You can do it, too.


Getting off Track–and Back On

Judith and Richard never met each other. But they were sailing blithely along in the same boat, wondering whether they had enough gas to reach their destination—while unknown to them, their boat had sprung multiple leaks and was taking on water.

Both of them were at Rippe Health Assessment for a comprehensive health assessment, and both had a similar view of their health status: basically good but in need of some adjustments. In her early forties, Judith was a successful senior human resources executive for a large company and the mother of two teenagers. Although she judged that she was too sedentary and probably had put on too many pounds, she felt fine and energetic.

Making a contribution to his Fortune 500 company's bottom line absorbed Richard's focus and energy. He loved his work and spent long hours at his desk, in meetings, and on airplanes "getting the job done." That's all he had time for, in his view. Richard had no idea how risky his out-of-balance lifestyle was.

Judith had not really grasped her risks, either. As she had coasted into inactivity, Judith had gained a pound or two a year. She tried to eat "sensibly" but didn't look closely at nutritional balance. To her surprise, she found that her fasting blood sugar was high, placing her at risk for diabetes. Blood pressure readings of 140/88 placed her in borderline stage 1 high blood pressure. Her cardiovascular fitness, measured by a treadmill test, was below average, and her total cholesterol and triglycerides were both high—all risk factors for heart disease. A CT scan showed minor calcification in two of three coronary arteries, early indicators of heart disease.

Judith agreed whole-heartedly that it was time to make some changes.

I had a tougher sell convincing Richard that he must take steps to take control and balance his lifestyle. Richard's custom was to eat whatever he wanted whenever he had time to do it, except for planned business meals. Many of the latter were rich meals at fancy restaurants. The most activity he got was walking through airport concourses, where he took shuttle carts whenever possible. Richard believed that doing deals provided most of the pleasure he needed. His test results clearly showed the risks he was running. More than one hundred pounds above healthy weight, Richard had early diabetes and high blood pressure. Tests of his coronary arteries revealed significant narrowing caused by the fatty deposits of coronary heart disease. I warned Richard that unless he made some immediate changes, the probability of his being able—or even around—to do business in the future was shrinking steadily.

The good news—for both Judith and Richard and for you—is that it takes only modest, consistent effort to reclaim balance and health.

Being a Little out of Balance Can = Big Trouble

Like Judith and Richard, most of us drift slowly out of balance and into trouble. None of us makes a conscious decision to start taking those small steps that eventually risk our health. They just "happen" while we're busy with work and family and other interests. As a result, many of us have slipped into risky behaviors and may have developed risk factors for chronic disease.

Scary statistics are easy to find:

* Lifestyle practices contribute to at least seven of the ten leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, accidents, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.

* About three-fourths of Americans do not engage in enough activity to improve their health—and two in five get no regular activity at all.

* Only about one-third of U.S. adults eat two or more servings of fruit daily and even fewer eat three or more servings of vegetables, the minimum recommedations for good nutrition.

* Roughly two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese: 70.5 percent of men and 61.6 percent of women.

* More than half of us are concerned about how much stress we have in our everyday lives, and work significantly affects stress levels in 62 percent of Americans.

We're too sedentary, we don't eat well, we are stressed out—and all this is draining our energy and making us sick. You probably already know what many of us are doing wrong in our eating: eating too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; not getting enough calcium; and eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods—and more calories than we need!

Being sedentary contributes to fatigue and weight gain, can shrink and weaken your muscles, increases your risk for heart problems and other diseases, increases anxiety and stress, and even weakens your immune system.

Without enough time for relaxation or fun, built-up stress can cause fatigue, lack of energy, irritability, anger, or sleeplessness; contribute to high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression; weaken the immune system; and cause a host of other problems.

A balanced life is looking better and better, right? All of these things creeep up on us, little by little, and it requires a well-planned effort to make changes. In the chapters to come, we'll help you tackle all of these issues, and come up with a sustainable plan to make you happier and healthier—and keep you that way the rest of your life.

Reclaiming Balance

Some of us have given up trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We think to ourselves, Que sera, sera—whatever will be, will be.

But every risk factor, every potential danger mentioned in this chapter can be turned around by making the right choices for nutrition, activity, and well-being. Judith and Richard, with the help of our clinic's caring professionals, identified and acted on the right choices for them.

Judith realized that she had had the most difficulty with "mindless" food choices. She sat down with one of our nutritionists to make a food plan that would fit her needs and her schedule; she made follow-up appointments with the nutritionist for additional support and opportunities to fine-tune her nutrition goals and strategies. She began a regular walking program; the simple training calendar balanced her need to start slowly with her desire to see some benefit as quickly as possible. When I saw Judith a year later for her annual evaluation, I applauded. She looked a decade younger, and she'd hit her health goals. With the loss of about thirty pounds, her blood pressure had dropped. Her blood sugar had fallen into the normal range, as had her cholesterol and triglycerides. Judith was enthusiastic about her improved health and energy. With great pleasure, she announced that she'd dropped three dress sizes and would look terrific for her daughter's upcoming wedding.

With Richard, we took a different approach. Although he was finally convinced that for his health's sake he needed to make some immediate changes, Richard wasn't particularly optimistic about his ability to act on his good intentions when his business consumed his concentration and time. So for Richard we made a "business case" for change and helped him lay out a "business plan" to fit his strategic goals for health balance into his passion for business.


Excerpted from Your Plan for a Balanced Life by James M. Rippe. Copyright © 2008 James M. Rippe, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, vii,
A Question of Balance, xi,
Part 1 | The Benefits of a Balanced Life,
1 The Benefits of a Balanced Life, 1,
2 Getting off Track—and Back On, 9,
3 Ready to Succeed? Prepare Yourself for Change, 15,
Part 2 | Your Personalized Plan for a Balanced Life,
4 Assessing Your Status with the Balanced Life Index, 25,
5 Where Would You Like to Go? Goal Setting, 35,
6 Your Balanced Nutrition Plan, 43,
7 Your Balanced Activity Plan, 73,
8 Your Balanced Well-Being Plan, 111,
9 Activating Your Personal Plan to Achieve a Balanced Life, 137,
10 Getting on Track–and Staying There, 147,
A Planning Tools,
Balanced Life Index Record of My Scores, 158,
Goal-Setting Worksheet, 159,
Balanced Program Tracker and Calendar, 160,
Food Diary Checklist, 161,
MyPyramid Food Patterns, 162,
B Nutrition Tools,
Suggested Energy Intake (Calorie) Levels by Age, Gender, and Activity Level, 164,
Body Mass Index Table, 165,
Your Balanced Nutrition Plan: Two-Week Meal Plan, 166,
Balanced Meal Planner, 181,
Recipes, 183,
Nutrition Tips, 208,
Recommended Resources, 215,
Notes, 217,

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Your Plan for A Balanced Life 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many a self-help book, on a variety of subjects and this one tops them all. To the point, informative, up-to-date. Concisely explains the why and how to. Explains the benefits of a balanced life and real risks of an out-of-balance life. Helps you design your own personal plan for your well-being and quality of life. Improve your life, health, weight, relationships, no matter how much or how little out-of-control your life is now. Easy reading. Encouraging, you can do it, motivating.