As many of us have learned the hard way, trying to get healthy by starting some new diet or workout routine that promises fast results just doesn’t work. Sure, we may experience some healthy benefits at first, such as rapid weight loss or increased energy, but these programs are often so drastic that we just can’t sustain them. And so, despite our best intentions, we fall back into our old unhealthy habits until the next new fad comes along.
The only real solution to getting healthy and staying healthy is to make lifestyle changes, such as making better dietary choices each day and exercising regularly. Sure, that’s easier said than done. Doing this will take a little effort on your part. But if you are really want results and are ready to replace those old unhealthy habits with new and better behaviors, here are 5 things you can do right now:
1. Don’t try to change overnight
Getting healthy is a marathon, not a sprint. And since you already know that drastic diets and workout programs don’t work, start by making small changes in your diet and lifestyle that will improve your overall health in the long run. One tip is to try and gradually incorporate new habits over time, and before you know it, you will be eating more healthfully and losing weight. Some examples of small changes you can make right now would be starting each day with a balanced breakfast, reducing portion sizes, passing on second helpings and desserts, switching from dairy to healthier choices like almond milk, hemp milk or rice milk. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water. The rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water each day.
2. Know what you’re eating
A fundamental step to eating better that you can take right now is to start being more aware of what you’re putting on your plate and in your glass. One way you can achieve this is to read food labels, become familiar with lists of ingredients, and start to take notice of everything you put into your mouth. Becoming better educated about what you are eating will empower you to make healthier food choices each and every day. My rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t put it in your mouth. Whole food ingredients are easy to pronounce and safe to consume.
3. Have a strategy
You may want to exercise more often, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink more water throughout the day. But thinking about healthy behaviors and actually implementing them are two different things. In order to succeed you need to formulate a plan and be as specific as possible. If you want to start working out more often, start by setting your alarm early at least three times a week to give you enough time to hit the gym on your way to work. There are 1,440 minutes in a day and research shows it only takes 20 of those minutes each day of cardio to reduce blood pressure, burn calories and promote a healthy heart. Do you eat fruit every day? If not, you’re not alone. Only 8% of the population eat the recommended daily 5 servings of fruit. Add fruit to your daily eating routine. A great, low calorie mid or late night snack is sliced apples with almond butter. Also, you can freeze grapes and eat them at night as a delicious and healthy alternative to ice cream. Fruit has a lot of fiber and water which will help satisfy your appetite. By strategizing, you’ll find that it’s easier to fit your new health habits into your busy lifestyle.
4. Learn to manage negative triggers
Despite your determination to get healthy, certain events and emotions can trigger old unhealthy habits that can sabotage your success. Stress is probably the biggest culprit, as it can trigger urges to return to unhealthy “comfort foods” as a coping mechanism. To manage and alleviate stress, turn to healthy behaviors such as meditation and relaxation techniques or good old-fashioned exercise. Cherries are agreat “go to” during times of stress and inablility to sleep. Cherries contain L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to increase the production of serotonin (happy hormone) and melatonin (the body’s sleep hormone.)
5. Don’t set the bar too high
The problem with fad diets and workouts is that they program you to expect too much too soon. But adopting a healthier lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, as new behaviors can take up to a month or more to become healthy habits. Just remember that the long lasting health results you’re looking for will only come through consistent and persistent effort.
Fad diets don’t work but if you follow these five simple suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier lifestyle.