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Nutritionist Carlee Hayes’ canine cuddles
My Day | My Life
By PETER BOWES | SUNDAY MARCH 13, 2022
Carlee Hayes is the lead dietician at NutriSense, a metabolic health company that uses the latest technology to help people continuously track their glucose levels to live a healthier life.
Related: Carlee Hayes: Why continuously monitor our glucose? – LLAMA podcast interview, October 5, 2021
My Day | My Life explores the lives of people who have, in one way or another, mastered the art of aging. Whether it be through diet, exercise, mindfulness, spirituality, nutraceutical interventions, social connections, generosity or fulfilling careers, we discover the essential elements to living life with purpose, and perhaps, longevity.
Carlee Hayes: I am thirty one years old. I can’t believe that, but I am. And the first thing that I do in the morning when I wake up is get accustomed to the light in my room. One big change that I’ve made recently is I use Hue lights to simulate the sunrise so instead of a really loud, kind of abrupt sound from my alarm clock, I have this gradual increase in light, and I tend to wake up naturally. I still have my alarm on there, just in case that fails somehow. But I found that this has made a huge difference in my morning routine and how I wake up in the morning, how I feel.
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Once I’m out of bed, my husband’s great, and he usually makes me a homemade espresso with some ground cinnamon. And I tell you, this is my favorite part of my morning. I go into my office, I sip on that espresso and I take about three minutes to fill out my gratitude list and my self-care list. This was a really hard habit for me to include in my routine, but now that it’s part of it, I don’t miss it. One thing that I found is that starting my day, writing the things I’m gracious for, thankful for,helps me keep a better mindset. And this has been shown in research to write you you’re more positive. You’re more likely to look at the big picture, you have more satisfaction and that’s something that I’ve kind of noticed build as I’ve continued to build upon that habit. After a little bit of stretching, cuddling my German shepherd for a little bit. I start my day.
Cuddling your dog, although we do it kind of. And don’t think about it, there’s a lot of big benefits when you when you have that as part of your routine, especially your morning routine. So we know that a dog or just any affection from an animal can stimulate oxytocin so that love hormone that kind of travels all throughout my body and I can feel it. So every single morning, this is the only time that my dog is cuddly the other times of the day, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. He’ll follow me around, but he doesn’t want me to touch him. So he’ll cuddle me. And I just feel this overwhelming sense of happiness. And I think starting your day off with that oxytocin release and just that connection with another being is really, really important. And it might seem a little woo woo. It might seem like, well, I don’t know about that, but it really makes a big difference. And I find that just my mindset is a lot better on the days that I have that into my routine.
I’m a big morning person, so I start usually around 6:30 a.m. and I work right now at a company called NutriSense. So we are a nutrition company, a metabolic health company that’s helping people create, you know, tailored nutrition and lifestyle plans to reach their health potential. And honestly, this job I don’t truly think of as a job, I love what I do, so I’m always really excited to go to work.
One thing that’s helped me is to schedule every single thing that I do that day into my calendar, and that includes self-care. That includes walks, that includes breaks because I think when you’re passionate about what you do, you can really miss those and you can neglect your own needs. I have a little ping that comes off usually between 9:30 and 10:30 that tells me to break for my first break for the day. And that’s usually also when I break my fast. So I usually try and fast between 12 to 14 hours every day. And this depends on my hunger levels. Sometimes I’m not very hungry and I can fast for a little bit longer. Sometimes I’m ravenous in the mornings and I break it a little bit earlier. So I just listen to my body and let that dictate when I have my first meal. But one thing that I always do is I break my fast with protein. So we know that having protein first really helps help you have a better glucose response and kind of keep your energy and your glucose stable throughout the day.So I start usually with some eggs, maybe some potatoes, maybe some spinach, but I always have that protein first and that really, really helps me.
I knew I wanted to become something to do with nutrition from a very early age. I always loved food, but I really think my great grandmother was a dietitian and she lived to be 101 years old. So I looked at her. She was my best friend. She was my role model. And seeing her live such a healthy lifestyle, just with nutrition, just with the things that she was putting in her body was the biggest impact for me, and that kind of led my decision going forward.
I went to school in Illinois and did my internship working with veterans at the Memphis VA hospital, which I loved, learned so much there. I graduated from that and went into just counseling, so working with people that were trying to make a health change. But the thing that stood out to me is that we were hitting people a little too late. They were coming to me with diabetes or prediabetes, and I just thought, man, if I could have got to these people a little bit earlier. And that was really the turning point for me that led me to continuous glucose monitors that led me to preventative health because I think that’s where we can make the biggest difference. That’s where we can make a change in people’s lives and help them age better, live healthier lives that are more fulfilling.
I have a strength training workout, probably about four to five days out of the week, so that’s after work. That’s the first thing that I do. So I usually do strength training at the gym, or I’ll throw my weighted backpack on and go for a ruck run with my dog, with my German Shepherd, and we’ll go through our neighborhood. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy, but I wear my giant weighted pack and go through the neighborhood and that weights that continuous weight on me. That resistance really helps me. First of all, burn through stress. I think that’s probably one of the best ways that I manage my stress, but also it’s a huge sink for my glucose. So anything that I’m eating can help me manage and improve by having that strength training in my in my life.
You know, I always think that if we’re not moving our body and we’re not getting the stress out, so there’s a lot of pent-up energy after work. You know, you’ve worked really hard mentally, and I think it’s a really great way to work your body physically, really hard as well. So for me, that’s strength training. I think for, you know, being a woman and knowing that I need my bones to stay really strong and I’m at risk for them not to stay strong. Strength training really, really helps me continue to support my bone health and also, like I mentioned, my mental health. But the other thing I really focus on, and I think this sometimes gets neglected, especially if you have a desk job like I do, is moving my body in small bits throughout the day. So we actually have a program at work that comes up in Slack, in our communication system at work that reminds us to move. The thing that helps me the most, especially with in terms of my energy and my mood throughout the day, is adding walks after every single meal. So we all get or have had those post-meal slumps where your energy just kind of winds down, you want to take a nap. But the thing that I found that combats that the best is adding what we call postprandial or after a meal walks. So after every single meal, I go for just a quick 15, maybe 30 minute walk around my neighborhood through the woods. I think just being outside and getting sunlight vitamin D is really, really helpful for my mental state as well, and that helps me avoid that slump and I come back to work feeling energized and feeling on track.
I think about lifespan, I think about healthspan, and I think about how my normal routine and my normal habits every single day are helping me get to where I want to be later on. I think if you’re looking at your your schedule day to day, there’s no way you can be planning for your life at whole. So one thing I always do is ask myself, Is this something that I would want to be doing or that I would be happy with doing six months from now? So if that is working more than I want to be or skipping my daily workouts because I am stressed or drinking wine every single day, is this a habit that I would want to have six months from now? And so thinking long term can help you prepare and kind of build those habits into your life forever?
If you are just going going, going all day long and then you immediately go to bed, it’s no wonder you have trouble falling asleep or that your sleep quality isn’t great. So at least one and a half hours before I want to be asleep, I’m winding down. I’m shutting the lights down low. So really, really dim lights to again support that sleep wake cycle and my circadian rhythm and kind of priming my body to get in the mode of my melatonin is coming up. I’m getting ready for bed physically and mentally. I also always take a hot shower before bed that just seems to lull me to sleep a little bit, and then I try and avoid that blue light. So avoid my phone for at least an hour before bed. This is sometimes a challenge for me. I still struggle with this one, so I think if you’re struggling with that at home, you’re not alone. It’s really hard. But trying to do that and replacing it with a book. So every single night I read a book before bed, take that hot shower and aromatherapy. So every single morning, like I mentioned, I write down those self-care activities that I’m going to do throughout the day, and those are all always on the list. Do I have my walk in the day? Do I have my aromatherapy, my candles at night, my hot shower, my reading? Like all those things you can look forward to all day long and then they’re part of your routine and you’re kind of planning for them ahead, which for me is really important to stay on track.
I sleep at least eight hours a night. I think I’m happier when I’m like eight and a half nine hours. But yeah, last night I was in bed at 8:15. I was asleep by 8:45, up at 5:45. So that’s really important for me is overestimating how much sleep I actually need getting to bed earlier than I think I need to be and just enjoying that wind down routine as much as I can.