Nutrition for Life

Nutrition for Life - 2022

Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine

By Parul Kharod

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It is also in the middle of the holiday season. We just celebrated Diwali, and now are gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year parties.

What a dilemma. To eat or not to eat!

This year let’s be a little proactive and not wait until January 1 to make resolutions about our health. How about we start now, while we are in the middle of party season, and learn how to be mindful about our eating habits.

Mindful Eating refers to being aware and making intentional choices about what, when, and how much you eat while also enjoying the foods you eat. There is gratitude and pleasure without the guilt. Mindful eating allows you to make choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to the body without being judgmental.

It helps with improved overall health without the stress. Once you practice mindful eating, it does not matter what month or celebration it is. You can enjoy the festivities without feeling guilty or causing any disruption or harm to your health.

Now let’s talk about Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle medicine is a medical specialty that uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions to prevent and treat chronic conditions. It treats the underlying cause of disease rather than its symptoms. The goal is to apply evidence-based lifestyle changes to look at the whole person rather than treating a single disease. This is becoming increasingly popular due to the plethora of evidence for it. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) certifies physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and dietitians in this specialty.

According to lifestyle medicine, there are six pillars of health we should be focusing on:
• Nutrition
• Exercise
• Substance Abuse
• Stress
• Sleep
• Relationships


Nutrition is about eating foods that nourish the body and avoiding the foods that do harm. This principle helps with preventing and treating all chronic diseases. The largest amount of evidence for what type of foods we should be eating is for plants! ACLM advocates for primarily a plant-based diet.

We need to eat fiber rich complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds at regular intervals to help balance mood and stabilize blood sugars and hormones. We also need to limit/avoid saturated fats and trans-fats from dairy (especially paneer & cheese), animal proteins, and packaged processed foods. Plus, we need to eat mindfully!


We need to incorporate physical activity into each day. Stand, rather than sit; take the stairs; stretch; garden; go for a walk. Remember that any movement is better than no movement! Also remember that exercise does not offset a bad diet. So, eat smart and move more!

Substance Abuse

Wine was once lauded as a great prevention remedy for heart health. However, there is increasing evidence of how alcohol of any kind, increases risk of cancer. There are many studies showing correlation of alcohol and breast cancer, with even one glass of wine. The recommendation is to significantly reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking. Don’t rely on alcohol as a stress reducer.


Stress increases cortisol levels in the body which then travels to the gut and causes multiple issues. Be aware of the signs of too much stress and ask for help before you think you need it. Watch out for muscle tension, headaches, upset stomach or difficulty sleeping. Be compassionate with yourself as well as with others. Regularly practice deep breathing, yoga, meditation. Make a list of activities you like to do to help unwind.


Optimal sleep is extremely important for your weight, blood sugars, blood pressure, and hormones. Practice proper sleep hygiene. A regular bedtime and wake time that allows for 7 to 9 hours of sleep is optimal. Have a wind-down routine that includes limiting screen time and being in a dark, cool room.


Several neurological studies have shown that people who have social relationships are able to prevent or delay cognitive decline including memory loss and dementia. Social relationships were found to be more powerful for the brain than doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku! Reach out to friends, peers, older adults and family by phone, email, text, or social media platforms. Even brief virtual connections can improve your mood and immune response.

Hope you all start thinking about your lifestyle and how you are doing in these areas. Seek out professional help from dietitians, counselors, or any other health professionals if you feel you need help.

Parul Kharod is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian. She can be reached at