We've all heard the age-old saying that it takes 21 days to make a habit, right? So imagine for a second, just how much healthier and happier you would be 12 months from now if you added one of these healthy habits to your life every month for a year. Think about it - what would you look like? are you leaner? wearing a smaller size? is your skin more supple? What would you feel like? do you have more energy? are you less lethargic and more active? Who would you be? I ask because - get this - you are completely in control of that person. It's entirely up to you to create who you desire to be 2…10...12 months from now. Start small. Don't expect to revamp your entire diet in a day. Don't plan to suddenly start working out 6x a week. That's not realistic. My grandfather likes to say, All good things take time. After all, I took 9 months. Pick one goal to master this week and then continue to focus on that same goal next week…and the following, until it's no longer an obligation but a habit. Once you feel confident with your compliance, add something new. Wouldn't you rather make slow, steady progress over the course of a year than to dive head first into a new health plan onto you fail a month later and try again? We've done that. I'm over it. Aren't you? Let's do it the healthy, sustainable way.
10 Habits for a Healthier Life:
1. Drink More Water.
Studies show that as many as 75% of us are dehydrated. Assume you are among them. Dehydration can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, toxicity, digestive issues, pre-mature aging and high cholesterol. Symptoms that then go on to pose more serious health risks. Hydration is important on a cellular level - every single one of your cells needs to be properly hydrated in order to flush out toxins. And no, drinking coffee, soda and alcohol doesn't count - all of those dehydrate your body. Drink water. You know, the 0 calorie stuff.
2. Eliminate Soda. Even Diet Soda.
As mentioned earlier, soda dehydrates you…but that's the least of your worries if you're a fan of sugary carbonated beverages. Sodas are loaded with sugar and sugar consumption is a major cause of degenerative diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diet sodas are NO better and in most cases worse as they contain cancer-causing artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Aspartame. I recently had a chat with a fellow at the gym and he said, "I made the healthy switch to diet soda because my wife made me." To which I responded, "Well sir, with all due respect to your wife, she's not doing you any favors. Diet soda is worse than the regular stuff." "But there aren't any calories! How can it be bad? There's nothing in it." Ahhhh, how uninformed and misguided are we? There's nothing in it but chemicals and artificial ingredients. Avoid it. Find something else to quench your thirst like unsweetened tea or sparkling water with fruit.
3. Forget Fast Food.
McDonalds, Burger King, Subway….yes, even Subway. With a slogan like "Eat Fresh" you shouldn't be able to serve processed meats and bread with the same ingredients used to make yoga mats. If you never ate high-sodium nitrate processed meat again you'd be better off!! Fast food is not food. It's dead. Eat real, live food. If it doesn't go bad, it's bad for you. and what you eat is directly correlated with what you feel. All together now, if you eat BAD food you will feel…B A D. Now, for those of you who are fast food junkies, realise that because your body is addicted to the sodium, starch and sugar used in fast food you will feel worse before you feel better as your body goes through withdrawal. Stick with it. Your future self will thank you.
4. Read food labels and eliminate harmful ingredients.
Eliminate foods containing synthetic preservatives, artificial flavors and/or coloring, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, Aspartame and Genetically Modified ingredients. If you want to make this really easy, simply start avoiding processed and packaged foods in general. You are what you eat so don't be cheap, greasy or fake. Ask yourself these questions:
- are there more than 5 ingredients?
- can I pronounce all of the ingredients?
- what is it made from? do I even know what it used to be?
Minimally processed and fresh whole foods is what’s lacking in the Standard American Diet which is, in part, why the majority of the US population is sick and obese.
5. Make a weekly grocery list with at least 10 different fruits and vegetables.
Load up on those greens. If every individual in your household is to be consuming 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, that means your grocery list better include those items! Buy from local farmers markets first whenever possible. The less your food travels before it ends up on your plate, the more nutrients it will provide for you. PLUS it will carry a lower carbon footprint for the environment! Additionally, buying from farmers markets and local produce stands is usually much more cost effective and pesticide-free.
6. Shut down the screens and MOVE.
Have 'active hour' - an hour a day without screen time (computers, cell phones, iPods, etc.) where you go DO something. Go for a hike, walk the dogs, take a yoga class, etc. Whatever you choose, do something that motivates you and releases you from the daily grind. Exercise helps us reduce stress, increases metabolism, boosts mood and promotes self-esteem. Who doesn't want those things? Get your family involved and be active together.
7. Make 90% of your meals at home.
Eating healthy turns a hill into a mountain when you choose to eat out. There are so many hurdles you have to watch out for - high sodium counts, calorie-laden sauces and dressings, large portions sizes, etc. When you cook at home you are completely in control of what goes into a recipe and into your body. Spend time on the weekend preparing meals for the week, pack lunches the night before, make large batches to store in the freezer for leftovers. Don't just be an ignorant consumer, be an active eater!
8. Get rid of the negative self-talk.
BING BING BING. This is a big deal so listen up. In my experience, both in the lives of my clients as well as my own life, I've found that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is our own mental dialogue.
"Well, I've already messed up so I might as well just eat the whole thing…"
"I feel like I'm always restricting myself. This is no way to live! This diet doesn't' work for me."
"I can't lose weight. I've tried so many times, it's just not fair."
Have you ever caught yourself saying something similar? You are your own worst enemy. Negative self talk turns to negative energy which brings you down on a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level. First, become aware of these thoughts as you move throughout your day. You might be surprised how down on yourself you are. Next, ask yourself if you would want your child/spouse/friend/client to speak to themselves that way. If the answer is no, then you would do well to eliminate those thoughts from your mental vocabulary. Lastly, combat those negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Positive thoughts have 10x the energy of negative thoughts, so be uplifting (yes, even inside of your own head). Everyone blossoms in the face of encouragement, so compliment your own efforts and let that set the tone for future behavior.
9. Nurture Your Relationships.
Stable, loving relationships, not just with a spouse or partner but also with friends and relatives, have been shown to result in fewer doctor's visits, less anxiety, depression and substance abuse, lower blood pressure, better pain control and stress management, and a longer, happier life. Make an effort to improve your communication skills, learn how to manage conflict, talk out negative emotions instead of letting them fester, engage in challenging and exciting activities regularly, get and give hugs, and celebrate successes and failures together. If you have the power to impact someones day for the better, do it.
10. Take Time to Breathe.
Regular meditation changes the structure of our brains and how our neurons interact with each other resulting in better stress management, anxiety reduction, addiction control, decreased depression and better cognitive function. People who take time for themselves to breathe deeply and meditate also often have improved blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and cellular health. Breathing is important as it maintains our oxygen levels for energy production. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us use only about 20% of our breathing capacity. Take time to slow down, focus on the present moment (not on what's for dinner or that student loan you forgot to pay), and tell your body it's okay to relax. Perhaps it's spending a few quiet moments in the mornings with a cup of coffee and your Bible; maybe it's just sitting outside by yourself, soaking up the sun, or taking some time before bed to journal…whatever meditation means to you, make time for it.
One new, healthy habit each month and you'll be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself come Christmastime.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.