As the song goes, if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere, but I would say that if you can learn how to be healthy in NYC, you can learn how to be healthy anywhere. Being a native New Yorker, I still believe this city is a special place and I get chills when I drive in and see that iconic skyline. I can also tell you that if optimal health and longevity is your goal, you will need to work extra hard to achieve that here, on many levels. When I talk to someone about health and nutrition I often look to establish a timeline. When did you start gaining weight, when did those skin problems start, when did you notice a change in energy, when did your digestion problems start? In many cases, moving to NYC is the trigger. For some, these negative changes occur within a few months, for others it takes a few years. Often, the changes are gradual and then there is a major stressor in your life which pushes you overboard—a job loss, a break-up, a death in the family, etc. So what can you do if NYC is where you choose to call home, but you still want to be healthy? Below are eight areas to consider.
ONE | AIR QUALITY
The human body has some simple requirements, one of them is clean air. The lungs are one of the bodies chief forms of detoxification, whereby each inhalation serves to pull in oxygen and each exhalation expels carbon dioxide and other airborne toxins that have accumulated in your body. Someone once told me living in NYC was like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and while that might be a bit extreme, there is something to it—as the air in NYC forces your lungs to work extra hard. When you go away on a vacation do your sinus problems go away? Look at most longevity studies and the people living the longest are living in locations where the air is very clean and often at a high altitude. So what can you do? Practice deep breathing or work with a breathing coach and get a HEPA air filter for your home. Additionally get out of the city when you can.
TWO | AVAILABILITY OF FOOD
NYC has some of the greatest food choices in the world. Anything you want, at any time. Unfortunately, this encourages people to order or eat out more than they should. While there are more local, organic, seasonal, farm-to-table type places popping up, this is still an issue. Low quality food is a major source of toxins; your body has enough of those to deal with while breathing the air in NYC. Cooking more, eating out less and sourcing high quality food should be at the top of your priority list.
THREE | COMPETITION
This probably goes for most places, but the way you look, where you vacation in the summer (and winter), who you work for and for how much money you have is a top priority here and it is constantly in your face. What you have or the way you look may never seem good enough. The cycle that often follows puts you in a persistent state of stress ("fight or flight") and one that stimulates the part of our brain known as the reptilian brain (R-Complex). This part of your brain encourages you to do whatever it takes to survive (not as in stay alive, in this example, but to keep up with the Joneses). This involves working too much, exercising too much, not eating enough, not sleeping enough and making decisions based on emotions as opposed to your heart. To counteract this, take some time each day to engage in activities that nourish your soul and promote self-confidence.
FOUR | TAKING LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY
Most people in NYC lose that childlike view of life (partly because of point 3) and this is often coupled with a "just do it" mentality or a type A personality. All work, no play, no sleep, definitely does not keep the doctor away. Some people appear to handle this lifestyle "better" than others and don't notice any outward signs of ill health, but these people are often blindsided by debilitating health issues. Spend some time each day to engage in a playful activity, something where the outcome doesn't matter.
FIVE | LACK OF NATURE
Humans were designed to be outdoors during the daylight hours, this includes exposure to the sun and interaction with the earth. Working in offices, surrounded by buildings can make this a challenge. I would argue that spending time in nature is one of the most healing things you can do for your health. Just think about how good you feel (and sleep) after a day outdoors, whether it be a park, a beach, a hike, etc. Get out in nature every day. NYC has some great parks, visit those when you can, on weekends get out of the city and do something more adventurous. Instead of a vacation at a fancy hotel, get out in nature. If you can get your bare feet on the earth, "grounding" has numerous benefits.
SIX | ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE
Some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world are in NYC and they can do amazing things for acute illness, but when you have a cold or your blood pressure is a little off, or your cholesterol is just "out of range"and you are put on medications or antibiotics you are probably only patching the issue. The real problems will continue at a deeper level, only to manifest as something more serious later on. Often,these issues can be addressed with simple nutrition and lifestyle changes. Consider working with someone who takes a holistic approach to health, whether they be an M.D. a Chiropractor, a Naturpath, nutritionist or health coach.
There is a certain "energy" present in NYC. You can feel it upon entering. This energy is driven in part by the large number of people present here and is probably tied to the dominant thoughts and actions of those living here. This energy is positive in that it can motivate you and inspire you, but negative in that it can also serve as a stressor which can impact your health when not managed appropriately. Perform some of form of stress management daily and be sure to follow the suggestions in the above points.
EIGHT | TECHNOLOGY
While this issue is a national, or even global one, it seems an especially prescient topic in New York and other big cities. Technology has made some things easier—staying in touch with family/friends, running your business, etc. but it also encourages much of what is discussed in points 3 and point 4. Responding to an email the second you wake up, deriving self esteem by how many likes you get on social media, getting blasted with pictures of people who have what you want or look the way you want all negatively impact your health, whether you are cognizant of that or not. Further, the technology that enables all of this to work, electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and electromagnetic fields (EMF) that are emitted by cell phone towers, electrical transformers, wireless access points, high powered broadcasting towers, have been linked to health issues. Some of this you just can't escape, but what you can do is keep your phone away from your body when not using and out of your bedroom when sleeping (or on airplane mode). If possible, it can be very helpful to develop a routine with regard to when you check email and social media and remember that if your post has a positive impact on even one person, you have done something good.