7 Daily Habits for a Healthy Lifestyle
There is more to being healthy than just eating right and exercising. Healthy living is like an iceberg. Exercise and clean eating are only the tip of the iceberg, and are supported by all the thinking, planning, prioritizing, and strategizing underneath. When trying to make lifestyle changes, evolutionary change as opposed to revolutionary change is easier and more sustainable. Start with one or two of these habits and build from there.
1. Drink More Water
No matter what your health and fitness goals are, drinking more water is always beneficial. Increased water intake will help you sleep better, wake up energized, perform better at the gym, brighten your skin, and aid in digestion. Start in the morning with a tall glass of water before you have your coffee, tea, or breakfast. Aim for half of your body weight in ounces for your daily water intake. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs would want to drink at least 75 ounces of water each day.
2. Prioritize Sleep
Studies continue to show the importance of sleep when it comes to hormone regulation, hunger and cravings, and stress. Lack of sleep causes increased hunger and cravings, which leads to increased snacking. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night to allow your body, brain and hormones to recover and reset. Keep alcohol and caffeine consumption moderate, as both interfere with good quality sleep. Go to bed at around the same time every night and power down all electronics one hour before bedtime. Try reading a good book before bed instead of staring at the blue light of a computer/phone screen or a TV. Got a lot on your mind? Do a brain dump. Take a few minutes to get rid of whatever is troubling you by writing it down. It will be there to tackle in the morning.
3. Be Prepared - Always Keep Snacks on the Ready
Preparation is crucial when changing eating habits. Don’t let yourself end up hungry and unprepared. That’s when things fall apart. Instead, stock your kitchen with healthy snack and meal options that set you up for success. Some ideas of things to have on hand are: nuts, fruit, hard boiled eggs, vegetables that are washed, cut and ready to eat, sliced lunch meats, precooked chicken breasts/strips for salads, cooked chicken drumsticks, meatballs, and frozen fruit/vegetables for smoothies.
4. Include Vegetables at Every Meal
Vegetables are some of the most nutrient-rich foods available, and provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which helps you feel fuller faster and longer. The energy in vegetables is in the form of complex carbohydrates which take longer to digest and don’t cause the glucose highs and lows that sugars (simple carbohydrates) do.
Make a habit out of having one serving of vegetables at every meal. Aim for a fist sized portion of veggies on your plate 3 times a day.
5. Plan Meals and Prep Ahead of Time
Meal Prep is a necessary evil to keep you on track with your health and fitness goals. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming! Plan out meals for the week, make a grocery list, and buy the ingredients. Try using a grocery delivery service to save time. Another way to save time is to make large batches of food and eat leftovers for other meals or snacks. Pull out that slow cooker or Instant Pot and make a delicious meal ahead of time, and do something else while it cooks. Make a big pot of soup, sauce, or chili that you can either enjoy for a few days, or freeze some for a later time. Meatballs or chicken drumsticks are great foods to make in large batches and freeze or refrigerate in smaller portions for later meals and snacks. Pick one day a week (or two) to make a couple of meals in large batches, then set aside in the freezer or fridge for later meals and snacks. If you don’t have time to cook whole meals in batches, wash and cut your vegetables and store in the fridge so they’re available when you’re ready to cook.
6. Eat More Protein and Essential Fats To Stay Fuller Longer
Eat a palm-sized portion of protein at each meal. Adding protein will help you build muscle, burn fat, and stay satisfied longer. Aim for whole food sources for your protein instead of protein bars and powders. If you’re still feeling hungry between meals, add more protein or a healthy fat (my favorite is avocado). It’s an easy way to give your metabolism a BOOST, feel satiated longer, and will help you reach your goals at the gym.
7. Move Your Body
You don’t need a hard core workout everyday, but make sure you move your body daily. This could include joint mobility (like we do in class), stretching, bodyweight exercises, weight training, hopping on a treadmill or elliptical machine, or walking. Walking is a highly underrated exercise, and you don’t always have to “power walk”. Studies have shown that leisure walking aids in reducing cortisol, a stress hormone that is linked to increases in belly fat. So get outside and walk, and experiment with varying your pace some days (for a more aerobic experience), and leisure walking on others to keep it interesting and enjoyable. When possible, walk in different settings or locations (city, beach, hills, etc) and take time to appreciate your surroundings.
Don’t wait until you feel like exercising, instead make an appointment with yourself to move. Actually enter it in your calendar. This will help keep you accountable.
Do you find all of this information overwhelming? Don’t sweat it! Start with one or two of these steps and build from there. And if you stumble, don’t sweat that either! It’s just food. Take a deep breath and start over. The goal is not perfection, but consistency.
Being a little less perfect makes you a lot more consistent.