The prospect of becoming healthier is one that gets a lot of people discouraged before they've even started. I'm here to tell you that it's definitely possible to get started on a health journey as soon as today, even without a lot of effort or change initially. Of course, if you want to go all out and make a complete overhaul then you're welcome to-and there is plenty of support for you to do so. I recommend a little more gradual approach for most people, especially when you live in a household with members who may not be on the same page, as it can end up leaving you less likely to maintain your new habits.
It is so important to commit to taking care of yourself, and it is so very easy to forget to as well! Honestly, if you just get started with something, even something small at first, you'll likely find yourself feeling better and more capable of making bigger changes as the weeks pass. The gradual implementation approach may also be easier to remember and be consistent with. Give yourself one thing every week to make changes to, and slowly and steadily start building on each new habit with another new habit. Even a lot of little steps in the right direction will benefit you in the long run, especially when you can stick with them since they were gradually and methodically implemented.
Big changes initially are great and quite sustainable for some people, so if you're an all or nothing type, I say go with it! Building new habits at any level will take time and dedication, so if you have a lot of unhealthy habits to break it may be worthwhile for you to either fully commit to a total overhaul, or start with just a few changes you can commit to. Many people find it helpful to set a date, and psych themselves out about it, getting ready with new foods, new workout clothes, or just a written plan or motivational images in places they frequent. The biggest decision may be whether you'll start small or go big. If you think there is 1 thing you really need to focus on, maybe it will be a quick and easy change, or maybe if it's a difficult or multifaceted issue, you'll be more successful chipping away at it slowly.
Regardless of where you are and where you want to be, you can try one or all of these 10 simple things today to get started or build upon your health journey. Of course, I am not a medical professional, and my suggestions are not a substitute for qualified medical advice. It is always best to consult a medical professional when making dietary and exercise changes. I hope that you can find the best way to change your habits to fit your lifestyle, whether from this list or by any means possible. You'll want to be sure you set yourself up for success, whatever that means for you. The very act of setting and achieving a goal makes us feel accomplished and is good for the mind, plus, these goals are good for your body too, so really an all-around win.
1. Reduce Sugary Liquid Calories
This is a really really good one to start with, especially if you're a soda or juice person. With all of the sugar and chemicals in sodas and other similar soft drinks, reducing your intake of them is so very beneficial. Juice has such a high concentration of sugar that it is not a whole lot better. Replace your heavy sugar drinks with similar but lighter drinks if you need to, like flavored sparkling water, herbal teas, lighter probiotic drinks similar to kombucha (I like Kevita) and fruit infused water. I try to stick with mostly water or a variation of it, and time my water between meals to avoid disrupting my digestive process. I mostly drink herbal tea mixed 50/50 with water, in place of plain tea or plain water.
2. Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake
If you have sodas, candy bars, cake, cookies, etc every day, you may want to think about cutting that back significantly, or at least replacing them with healthier options some of the time. If you have one sweet treat per day, every couple of days or somewhere in that range along with a balanced diet, I personally don't think that's as much of an issue. A nice trick is replacing a refined treat with some fruit gradually until pretty soon you consider fruit to be a treat! I go on a full on sugar cleanse every few months, but find that it's essential to keep fruit in the diet. Some people fully cleanse from all sugar, even fruit, and it works well for them. If you're interested in a strict sugar cleanse, I highly recommend the 21 Day Sugar Detox books by Diane Sanfilippo. While you can buy just the books through the link, there is a great deal through her website to buy one of the packages here. I know many people who have had great success with this plan, and have personally tried and loved many of the recipes!
3. Stop Replacing Meals With Sweets/Caffeine
This was MY problem guys... I used to regularly skip breakfast and just have 1-2 cups of black coffee, then crave sugar! If I ate the sugar, I wouldn't want to have any food! If you are in the habit of skipping breakfast, then eating sweet treats and then not being hungry for actual meals, perhaps it is time to consider getting that in check. Try eating your meal first (even if it's a small one) then allowing yourself a treat or caffeinated drink. If there is no way you can bring yourself to eat that early, or in place of your coffee, try adding some healthy fats or liquid protein into your coffee. Lately, I have been using half and half, but my favorite is coconut or almond milk plus a scoop of collagen peptides or grass-fed gelatin, mixed 50/50 with a bold organic roast. This really helps fill me up and stop any sugar cravings, since I am getting some nourishment from the creamer and collagen, even if it is slight.
4. Reduce Fast Food And Unhealthy Take-Out
There are definitely some options out there which are healthier than most, so if eating out is something that you cannot completely eliminate, research and choose better options. Find a local healthy place nearby or consider ordering from a meal prep service that can prep and deliver healthy options instead. Depending on where you are in the world I can recommend a number of them which use only real food ingredients. Bigger cities tend to have more real-time options, such as GrubHub or other similar services. There are likely hidden gems wherever you are, you just have to find them. There are also tons of meal delivery kits that make it easy to have a restaurant style meal in your own kitchen, we have tried Hello Fresh (that referral link will give you $40 off if you want to try it!) and Blue Apron-both were pretty awesome! We will update when we try others... These come to you with the meal already planned and ingredients ready to put together-you still have to cook it.
5. Balance Your Meals For You
This may be one of the toughest things to do on this entire list. You have to learn to eat intuitively without just being intuitive to your cravings-I know this first hand! I have found that a "reset" is helpful when getting back on track from being a little too indulgent. I will eat a lot of plain food, like soup, chicken, veggies, and rice for close to a week, then start to listen to my hunger cues and eat what I am craving. Some days I find I'm eating more carbs, some days more protein and other days more fat. Some days I am hardly hungry compared to others when I eat like I am an Olympic athlete, and feel good on both days. It really is easier to tune into my hunger cues when I've done this reset and am limiting sugar. Most nutrition professionals and dietary experts can agree that a reasonable balance of macro-nutrients is the best way to build a meal. Of course, this is unique to each individual and their specific needs and goals, consult a professional for more guidance, contact me if you would like to be put in touch with one I personally recommend.
6. Get A Little More Active
Just a little bit of activity in your day enough to get your heart rate up from normal and break a light sweat can have great benefits for you in the short and long-term. While we all know how important it is, the trouble often lies with actually implementing the activity! So many of us have a sedentary day job and busy schedules that may not always allow for a formal exercise routine. I try to sneak a little activity into my day multiple times as I can. This can mean going on a few walks throughout the day, parking further away, carrying my kiddos, doing 20 squats every time I get a drink, stair pushups every time I walk up them, etc. If you can, just try committing 10-15 minutes of your evening or morning to short exercise programs, such as those found on YouTube or Pinterest, or doing something a little more intensive. It is amazing what a 10-15 minute HIIT session can do every couple of days! I love to implement yoga and Pilates, especially when I am also doing HIIT. I feel best when I do a combo of the two, as well as my little bits of activity here and there.
7. Take Some Time For Yourself
You are pretty darn important, why not prioritize yourself a bit more? So many of us are pulled every which way with our priorities in general, that we may neglect to take a little extra care of ourselves. It's been proven that your overall well-being is important for your physical health. There are some really great ways to de-stress which will make you feel better overall. Take yourself on a quiet coffee date at the park, enjoying the sounds and sights, walk on the beach in your bare feet and feel the sand, go and get a massage or spa treatment, or take a nice relaxing bath. There are so many ways to pamper yourself and get some necessary mental balancing. In general, focus on being present in all that you do, enjoying and acknowledging each moment and experience for what it is. Explore guided meditation or silent meditations, listening to relaxing music, or just silently spending time reflecting on your day and being grateful for all that you are.
8. Eat More Of Your Meals Peacefully
I know this is hard for a lot of us living a busy lifestyle and I'm definitely not the best at this either. At the very least, when it is time to eat, just EAT. that's it, nothing else aside from chatting with your tablemates. It is so common to grab something and eat on the go, which is something I do more often than I'd like to admit. It is likely better to get some sustenance than to forgo it since you're unable to sit down and eat, but relaxing while eating is still very important. The more you can sit and enjoy your meal and a quiet place the more you can appreciate and be mindful of what you are eating. Challenge yourself to sit down for at least one of your meals, put away your phone (after that Instagram shot of course) and enjoy the meal you're eating without being distracted or rushed.
9. Take A Moment To Appreciate Your Food
Our digestion process actually starts before we even taste our food, to put it in perspective. Enjoy the process of preparing, cooking, serving and admiring your food before you dive in. Pause between bites and fully experience your meal. This is helpful in many ways, including portion control, since you'll have a better chance of realizing you're full by taking some time to eat your food more mindfully. It might be a little odd to catch onto this concept, but seriously take some time before eating to appreciate the things that will soon nourish you! Realize what each thing is doing for your body and acknowledge why you are eating it, as this may help you build the habit of making more informed choices in future situations. Appreciating the benefits of your foods can help reduce the chances that you will be eating for the wrong reasons and can help stop you from over-indulging in foods that will not do your body as much good.
10. Indulge Without Regrets
We have some amazing food readily available almost anywhere you go, and the fact is, it is not always healthy! It is not a big deal to treat yourself sometimes, and if you do, make sure to enjoy without guilt or shame! We all need some treats in our life once in awhile, even if your "treat" is someone else's health food, it is still something you're treating yourself with. Everyone has a different idea of what their indulgence is, and you have to be realistic with yourself, or you may suffer some unpleasant consequences. There was a time when a Dairy Queen Burger, Fries and Blizzard were appealing items for a treat after a hard workout lifting. There was also a time when I would have a Larabar and a few of those Trader Joes Chocolate covered frozen bananas and be like... WHOA sugar rush. It is totally fine to adjust your treats to where you are in your health journey, and eat that treat without regrets! I much prefer a slice or two of pizza anymore, to be quite honest, with a more rich and decadent treat, like fudge or coconut milk ice cream. The point is, find a balance for yourself and live a little!