Editor's note: After graduating from medical school in his native South Africa, Dr. Frank Lipman began treating patients about two hours from Johannesburg. Despite poverty-stricken conditions, he noticed that his patients were free from insomnia, depression and anxiety, which had plagued his urban patients. They rarely complained of back pain or fatigue despite long days of hard labor.
People lived by the rhythms of nature. During that time, he realized how important natural rhythm was to humans' lives. He immigrated to the States and, after a residency in internal medicine, started studying Chinese medicine. He has spent decades developing methods to help people overcome exhaustion and regain their lives. He recently published SPENT: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Fireside/Simon & Schuster; January 2009) and took some time to answer our questions via email.
dailySpark: What foods should people eliminate from their diets straightaway to boost energy?
Dr. Lipman: Refined sugars and processed foods are major "Spent"-causing substances (I call them substances because they are not real food). Once you remove them from your diet, and get past the withdrawal symptoms, you will see a major boost in energy.
dailySpark: What should people do for a midday energy boost instead of reaching for coffee or other caffeinated beverages?
Dr. Lipman: When you have one of my smoothies for breakfast and a lunch with protein and vegetables, there is less chance of you needing that coffee midday. In addition, the adaptogen herbs I recommend also help this midday crash. But if you still do still feel like you need your coffee, I recommend instead going outside for a walk in the natural light and fresh air after sitting under artificial light all day. Also you can use tennis balls to release tension in your body and open up energy pathways which will energize you.
dailySpark: Why do you encourage drinking smoothies for breakfast?
Dr. Lipman: Smoothies are easy on your digestive system so it leaves more energy for other body processes. Also my recipes for smoothies contain protein and good fats and are loaded with phytonutrients, which will give you a boost in energy all day long.
dailySpark: What are some steps people can take to help them sleep better?
Dr. Lipman: There should be a transition period between wakefulness and sleep. Most of us move from high speed to vertical in bed in a matter of minutes and then wonder why our brains and bodies are vibrating and we can’t fall asleep when we are so tired. So create an electronic sundown, which helps prepare your body for sleep. That means switch off all your electronic equipment, including TV, BlackBerries and computers by 10 p.m. Also make sure that your bedroom is dark and if you cannot make it dark, use an eye mask.
dailySpark: In your book, you suggest that people limit the bedroom to sleeping. Does having a TV or computer in the bedroom really affect sleep habits that much?
Dr. Lipman: Absolutely! How you prepare for sleep is as important as how you exercise, eat and live during your waking and walking hours. Good sleep leads to a high functioning body that can focus, metabolize food well, and most importantly, feels good!
A day’s cycle of early morning light, daytime, dusk and nighttime supports your circadian rhythms or your body’s necessary and natural biological pace. In the morning, the light stimulates your metabolism and daytime hormonal functions and sundown triggers the key sleep hormones that help us to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Dimming the lights after 8 p.m. and shutting off all electronics and blinking lights after 10 p.m. will help reflect the natural progression of the day, and help you sleep better.
dailySpark: If there were only one change you could recommend for people to change their lives, what would it be?
Dr. Lipman: Read my book, as there is so much in it to help people change their lives. Everyone is different and has different issues that need to be addressed. The book gives people many different tips to choose from. There is no magic bullet solution when you are "Spent."
dailySpark: The "Spent" program, which I know you have been perfecting for 25 years, takes six weeks to implement. Is this a "diet" or a lifestyle change?
Dr. Lipman: This is not just a diet change but a multi-faceted lifestyle change to address the epidemic of exhaustion that so many of us are experiencing. People nowadays are feeling rundown, physically, mentally and spiritually, and no longer have the wherewithal to live their lives. A quick-fix won’t solve that—but making the modifications to your diet and exercise, learning relaxation techniques and implementing the extraordinary healing power of ordinary things that I recommend will give you energy and leave you feeling refreshed every day.
dailySpark: How do you keep your own energy levels high?
Dr. Lipman: I practice what I preach and basically live my life according to the program that I recommend. When I am feeling more "Spent," I will do more restorative yoga and take more supplements. But for the most part, what I recommend in the book, I do myself. And it seems to be working. I am 54 years old and look and feel 10-20 years younger.
dailySpark: These days, with the economy on everyone's minds, how do you encourage people to treat themselves well while living on a budget?
Dr. Lipman: Actually the whole book is full of cheap, simple, common-sense tips that you can easily incorporate into your life. For instance, get an eye mask to darken your room, take breathing breaks through out the day for relaxation and get outside and go for walks to get some natural light. Use music to entrain your body rhythms. For instance reggae can slow you down, but music with a faster beat will pump you up.
One major complaint of being "Spent" is an achy body, full of tension and pain. So instead of a pricey massage, I recommend using tennis balls to give yourself the ultimate foot or shoulder massage. Releasing the tension with simple exercises illustrated in the book can be done anytime, anywhere.
Also, rather than hiring a personal trainer, begin a restorative exercise program, which is a short burst of activity, followed by a period of rest. This can be as simple as alternating between running and walking for 30 minutes at a time.
dailySpark: What is the single biggest cause of exhaustion?
Dr. Lipman: The fact that we live our lives so out of sync with our natural body rhythms, so it feels like we are swimming upstream.
Dr. Frank Lipman is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, where his personal blend of Western and alternative medicine has helped thousands of people recover their energy and zest for life. For more information, visit www.franklipman.com and www.Spentmd.com.
Do you battle fatigue and exhaustion? Would you be willing to try some of Dr. Lipman's methods to gain energy?
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