My Dad was always bigger than life. As a little girl I loved to put my little feet in his big shoes and walk around the house. I remember running to the door when he came home from work so I could dance on his feet. Or how he would lift me high onto his shoulders to watch the Thanksgiving parade. How his smile could light up a room— and his never ending repertoire of jokes. I was Daddy’s little girl. It seemed whatever I wished for— no matter how outrageous— he would make it happen.

Like the Pillsbury doughboy, I used to poke my finger in his big belly and tease him about his extra weight. His response was always the same: “There’s more of me to love!”

This year for me is “Father-less Day.” My Dad passed away two years ago after a long and difficult battle with heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other health issues. His struggles left him with only one foot of the two I used to dance on. He could only move one arm of the two that used to hold me on his shoulders. He spent his last months in a nursing home— a shadow of who he used to be. And the worst part is… it didn’t have to end like that.

Like so many men, when it came to living a healthy life, my Dad buried his head in the sand. Despite the severity of the disease, he was never proactive about his health. He never exercised. He didn’t watch his diet or his weight. If I could go back in time and give my Dad a new list of wishes— it would be so different. Here’s a good list to share with your Dad that I wish my Dad had followed before it was too late:

Get Moving: Staying active is so important if you want to maintain your overall health. Just going for a walk will improve your mood, muscle strength and promote a healthy weight.

Avoid White Foods and Trans Fats: Eat for health. Foods with white flour and white sugar and processed foods don’t have the vitamins, minerals or natural fiber your body needs. They drive up your blood sugar and lead to health struggles. Avoid the trans fats that raise your risk of heart disease. Stick with the healthful fats that protect your heart like olive oil and omega-3 oils you find in salmon and other cold-water fish. Eat nuts and avocados. Eat more fruit and vegetables.

Flex your Biceps: Make sure Dad is getting into the weight room. Lifting weights, even just once a week, can improve muscle strength.

Watch your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight helps you reduce your risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes etc. etc. Yes, it may mean there will be less of you to love— but you may be lovable a whole lot longer.
Relax: Get more sleep. Read a book. Try learning how to meditate. Stress is linked to so many diseases from heart disease to cancer. Learn to breathe. Try yoga. I wish my Dad had tried yoga even once.

I miss my dad so much and if I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would give him the above advice. We may have been able to celebrate another Father’s Day this year.

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