Tired of dieting and committing to a gym routine as a new year’s resolution only to falter and burn out quickly? Creating healthy habits may be easier than you think. Instead of repeating history, focus on implementing some of these healthy habits. You can feel better and change your life at your own pace, without a lot of stress. Our health status is really dependant on the lifestyle choices we make. What do I mean by lifestyle choices? Lifestyle is how we live our life. The food we eat. The sleep we get. The chemicals we breath, absorb and ingest.
1. When we focus our daily nutritional intake on eating real foods rather than dieting, we allow our body to fuel with the nutrients it needs to sustain and support health. “Dieting” and eating processed factory produced “foods” with added sugars depletes our nutrients and drags us down. Eating real foods makes us “nutritionally wealthy”. Eat foods your grandparents ate when they were kids. Avoid eating out with any frequency. Restaurant food quality is often poor and they add a lot of unhealthy sodium, sugar, and fat to make food taste better.
2. Whether this is buying from a local farmer, farmer’s market, or from a store, such as Outpost, buying local supports our local economy and is great for your health. Get to know your farmer. Buying locally and seasonally, guarantees foods are at the peak of freshness and will have more available nutrients. Buying mostly locally farmed foods from the “Farmacy” may help you stay away from the Pharmacy!
3. The obesity and chronic disease epidemic is higher than ever and millions are chronically ill with autoimmune disease, which can take up to 10 years to be diagnosed. Investing in real, healthy foods with the fewest chemicals possible are an investment into your health. Investing in pasture-raised meat from animals from locally sourced farms where the animals are fed REAL food and no antibiotics is ideal. Buying a pastured meat share may be cheaper than buying conventionally raised meat from the store. Additionally, buying organic fruits and veggies as much as possible reduces the chemicals load to which our bodies are exposed. While organic foods may be more expensive up front; buying them on sale or only when in season is an investment into our own health. Focus on buying the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean 15 and avoid the dirty dozen.
4. Buying from our local farmers helps support our community and creates sustainable agriculture. Big companies listen to consumers and the real food movement is being heard. Companies are starting to listen because their product sales are down and they realize that consumers want transparency and they are buying less processed foods. Let your voice be heard.
5. Our bodies are so resilient and amazing! When things aren’t working right, we get signs and symptoms that are worthwhile paying attention to and addressing. Are you listening to your body? Are you getting headaches, gaining weight, have acne, gas/bloating, nutritional deficiencies, muscle aches and pains, brain fog, memory issues or loss of focus, unusual fatigue, trouble sleeping, feeling the need to eat all the time, anxiety, depression, seasonal allergies, sleep issues, etc? If so, return to #1 and #3. Are you feeding your body the real food nutrients you need to support a healthy body and mind? It starts with food. You may be eating foods that you are sensitive to which may cause these symptoms, therefore following an elimination/provocation diet can help you distinguish which foods are contributing to symptoms your body expresses, those with digestive issues or autoimmune disease. Those with autoimmune disease are advised to follow a gluten free diet at minimum (not gluten free products, but a grain free whole foods based diet). There are several good resources for those interested in exploring this:
It Starts with Food, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
The Paleo Cure, Chris Kresser
The Paleo Approach, Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D.
The 21-Day Sugar Detox, Diane Sanfilippo
The Virgin Diet, JJ Virgin
6. When it comes to committing to eating healthy, failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning meals is simple when you use fresh and simple ingredients to plan recipes. You will not only save money, but the huge BONUS is that you will save kitchen time, feel less stressed, and feel great for setting yourself and your family up for . Here are some tips. Prepare lunches from left overs, prepare snack packs of cut up veggies/fruit and prepare lunch and breakfast options so that they are ready to “grab and go” in the morning. Slow cooked meals are simple, delicious and easy to prepare. You can keep non-perishable items on hand in your desk, car or locker in the event that you forget your lunch or something happens and you don’t have a lunch. Items such as canned tuna, canned sardines, black olives, and nut butters (such as almond or sunflower seed butter) are great options.
7. There are many stress reduction tips and techniques available. While yoga and meditation are great options, they don’t appeal to everyone. First and foremost, applying the other healthy habits mentioned in this document will help you reduce and manage stress. Simply making time for yourself - doing something you enjoy on at least a weekly basis is beneficial. Everyone has to find what works for them personally. Are there ways to reduce your stress? Sure. Try to prevent over scheduling yourselves or your kids and creating a schedule that doesn’t run you ragged. “NO” is a powerful word. Sometimes it is hard, but it may be the best way to reduce & manage stress. There are other forms of stress that may need to be addressed, such as financial or relationship stress. Identifying the stressor and coming up with a plan is the first step to being healthy because long term unmanaged stress leads to illness.
8. Sleep issues seem to be common, especially as we get older. For many, simply following a healthy diet (see tip #1 and #5), will greatly improve sleep quality. Impaired sleep patterns that may result from scenarios such as being a late night owl, a shift worker, or from waking up during the night unable to fall back asleep greatly impacts our health. Here are some general tips you can try to help improve sleep quality.
Reduce caffeine consumption. Avoid caffeine past 3p (for some, the cut-off time might be earlier). Why? Because caffeine can interfere with the bodies natural circadian rhythm. When we drink caffeine, it raises our level of cortisol hormone. High cortisol at bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep or reach REM sleep.
Ensure the bedroom is completely dark. Artificial lights can be sensed by our skin and prevent us from sleeping. Sources are clocks, lights, outside lights, TV, etc.
Eliminate electronics two hours prior to bed. Browsing the Internet and answering email stimulates the brain and can impact sleep/quality.
Listen to relaxing music/sounds. Breathe deeply from the belly to relax your body.
Try this ancient Qigong technique called Toe Tapping. While lying in bed on your back, stretch out the legs and align your feet together. Like an opposite windshield wiper movement, move feet apart so little toes move downward towards bed, then gently bring big toes together. Repeat for approximately 200-300 reps. Toe tapping will quiet the mind and help release emotional tension from the body.
Get to bed no later than 10p. If you are a night owl, simply winding down earlier and lying down earlier can help. This may take weeks to adjust to. If you are a night owl, you may need to incorporate all of these tips to make change.
Shift Workers. It is recommended to maintain the same work sleep schedule on your off days. Changing sleep habits on off days is hard on the body and induces more stress.
Address blood sugar issues with your doctor. If you wake up and eat during the night, it might be beneficial to eat a small snack just before bed to help balance your blood sugar and prevent waking up.
9. Being sedentary has a negative impact on our bodies. From our muscles, our heart health, to our digestive tract, our bodies need movement. Sitting in the same position in a standard chair for long periods of time causes muscle issues. Getting up and moving around during work to take short walking breaks is beneficial. Be mindful of bad posture habits that can be contributing to muscle pain and/or tightness. Commit to taking a short walk every hour at work and just move. Did you know that Walking is actually better for health then running? For those already active, consider decreasing the chronic cardio routine and incorporate weight training into your program.
10. Evaluate the beverages you drink on a daily basis. While some aren’t ready to give up their favorite beverages completely, simply making some healthy swaps can improve your health. For example, using ½ & ½ in your coffee instead of a creamer with added sugars and chemicals is a healthy option that reduces added sugar consumption. Instead of drinking fruit juices that are concentrated and have added sugar, consider eating the fruit. Enjoying your favorite beverages less often can have a big impact on your overall health. For example, if you enjoy latte’s or Frappuccino’s, consider drinking these sugary delights no more than once per week. Making it “skinny” doesn’t make the drink any healthier, but getting the smallest size beverage with pumps of the sweet syrup will go a long way in reducing your sugar consumption. Focusing on drinking more water is a great way to improve overall health. Dehydration causes many issues in the body. A general recommendation is to drink enough water so that your urine is a pale yellow color.
Small Steps = Big Change!
Confused? Overwhelmed? Don't know where to start? I can help. Message me if you would like to work with me and we can work together on starting your health journey by creating your personal roadmap to health.