Transitioning into a healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just wake up one morning and find that from that moment on and – Poof! – you’re perfectly healthy in everything that you do.
In reality, having a healthy lifestyle is a gradual process of integrating healthy habits into your daily life a little bit at a time. Deciding where to start to make a change can sometimes be the hardest, most overwhelming part. Rather than try and overhaul your life completely, I recommend you begin by introducing healthy habits one by one.
These are my 5 favorite ways to help set the ball rolling towards your healthier, happier life:
Get moving first thing in the morning
Exercise in the morning is one of the best ways you can start your day. It gets your blood pumping, kick-starts your metabolism, wakes you up, and energizes you for the day ahead. Exercising in the morning also puts you in a healthy mindset for the rest of the day, and will help you make healthier choices as the day goes on.
If you’re not an early bird and can’t imagine committing to an intense workout first thing after you wake up, consider adding any kind of movement. A gentle jog, a walk outside, or a brief yoga or stretching session right when you wake up is vastly better than doing nothing.
Start by committing to ten minutes of movement each morning. Then, as the weeks go on, progressively increase that time a few minutes every week. Before you know it you’ll be up and getting a good workout in for an hour or more.
Processed, refined sugar (not sugar found in fruit) is one of the worst things you can put into your body. It has absolutely no nutritional value and actually strips nutrients as it passes through the digestive system. It spikes your insulin levels, which leads to increased fat storage on the body, and some studies have even found that sugar has the same addictive effects on the brain as drugs including cocaine — so that once you consume some, you’ll automatically crave more.
Refined sugar can be hiding in foods you don’t even think of as sweet. For example, ketchup, salsa, salad dressings, crackers, whole-grain cereal, yogurt, breads and sauces can be packed with added sugar. So many processed or pre-packaged foods contain added sugar that I recommend you start reading your food labels and recognizing all the hidden words that actually mean sugar (sucralose, malt syrup, and dextrin, to name a few) just so you can tell which foods have it added in. Then start to cut those out.
Be prepared. The first time you cut sugar out of your diet, your body may experience withdrawal symptoms (as addictive as drugs, remember?) that can be quite intense. But once it’s out of your diet completely you will feel so much better for it, believe me!
Plan and prep your meal
If you want to eat healthy then you need to get organized with your food. One of the weekly habits I have in my life that helps so much is my meal planning and prepping.
At the beginning of the week I will work out what I’ll be making, write down my grocery list and then stick to that at the supermarket. Then I spend a few hours cooking up a storm in the kitchen so I can have lots of healthy food on hand during the week. It can seem like a lot of work to begin with but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. There are plenty of meal planning resources out there to help.
Plus, the more food you already have prepared and ready to go, the less you’ll cave in to temptation, like ordering in or fast-food takeout when you’re at the end of a long day and there’s nothing in the fridge.
Get plenty of sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is so important to a healthy lifestyle. When you get enough sleep — between 7 and 8 hours a night —your body is able to function better, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. Running on too-little sleep can also slow your metabolism down.
If you have a hard time getting to sleep because you stay up late watching TV or surfing the web, start by turning off all electronic devices one hour before your planned bedtime.
Get yourself into a nightly ritual before bed that will allow you to unwind and get to sleep easily. Things like reading, taking a hot bath, or some gentle stretching, can be hugely beneficial to getting off to bed and into a deep sleep more easily.
Remove negative self-talk
Being healthy isn’t just about having a healthy body, it’s also about having a healthy mind and outlook on life. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy by putting ourselves down. Who hasn’t heard that negative voice inside your head that tries to tell you that you’re worthless, dumb, annoying or a loser any time you try to make a change in your life? So what should you do when it comes up? DON’T LISTEN TO IT!
Starting right now, give your positive voice the microphone. Every time the negative voice starts, immediately stop it in its tracks and start thinking more positively. It might be hard to begin with but when you begin to do it more regularly it will become a lot easier to snap out of it when that negative voice makes an appearance.
Now remember, you don’t need to try and tackle these all at once. Take a minute. Take a breath. Start with one or two, let them become good, solid habits in your life and then move on to the next. You don’t even have to start with these goals — you may even have your own in mind!
Want some feedback? Please share your challenges and goals with me on Facebook and Twitter, along with any questions you may have!