We all want a magic pill that will help us reach our goals, but the reality is that it takes a lot more than that. The good news is you don’t have to eat perfectly or live perfectly! You just need to start small and build on each of these habits. Pick one to start working on and go from there. Here are the top ten things you can start doing to improve your health, fitness, and waistline!
Eat mostly fruits and veggies. Aim for ten to twelve servings of fruits and veggies every day. This sounds like a lot but starts with adding one more tomorrow than you are doing today and you can build up over time. A good general rule is to have fruit and/or veggies with every meal and snack. Then you can try to fill up half of your plate with veggies and fruits. To get a variety of antioxidants and vitamins, choose all of the colors of the rainbow every day.
Eat whole, real foods. Choose foods with fewer ingredients that are in their whole, unprocessed form. The best bet is to pick foods that don’t need labels because they are fresh, whole foods. If your food has a label, check out the ingredient list and make sure that you would use all of those ingredients in your kitchen. If not, then pass on it and pick something else.
Balance your meals to meet your energy needs. Include protein, carbs, and healthy fats in your meals and snacks. Protein helps you feel full and helps rebuild your body. Carbs help give you energy and fuel your body. Fats are important for a healthy heart and brain. Make sure you are not eating too much by listening to your hunger and stopping before you get full.
Time your meals and snacks to provide food when your body needs it. Eat most of your calories when you are most active, which is during the day for most people. Avoid eating late at night because your body does not need food at that time and most people choose unhealthy snacks at night. Your body needs a break from food every day, so try to fast 12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast.
Eat foods that promote a healthy gut. Have one fermented food every day (kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, miso) and eat plenty of plant-based foods. Eating plant-based foods like fruits and veggies can help your gut be a place where healthy bacteria thrive, which can help improve your immune system and digestion.
Include one fun food every day. Trying to eat perfectly can be stressful, keep you from fun social events, and is not necessary to get results. Don’t think about these foods as “bad”. It’s ok to enjoy some foods just because they taste amazing. The problem is when unhealthy foods make up most of your day. Balancing healthy foods with fun foods is a great way to stop dieting and start living healthy. Fun food can be anything you eat or drink just for the joy of it-sweets, alcohol, fried foods, etc. Try to keep this at 150-200 calories per day and choose anything you want-enjoy without guilt! The key to staying on the right path is to get right back on track with foods that help you achieve your goals.
Stay well hydrated. Drinking water can help you feel better, decrease headaches, and keep you feeling more full. Aim for about half your body weight in water per day. Avoid beverages with sugar or sweeteners, which promote weight gain and chronic diseases like diabetes. Plain water is the best bet, but sparkling water or water with lemon, brewed tea, or coffee can help give you variety without added sugar. Artificially sweetened beverages are not healthy either and they promote your sweet tooth, so try to stick to more natural beverages.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Avoid sitting or being inactive for long periods. If you have a desk job, be sure to get up and move at least once per hour. Find active things that you enjoy and make exercise a priority every day. If you are waiting until you have time to exercise, you won’t ever start, so just get out there and get started. Everyone needs both cardiovascular exercise and strength training to be healthy and age well. You not only can burn some calories, improve your heart health, and lose weight but you can also live better into old age instead of just focusing on living longer.
Sleep 7-9 hours every day. Getting enough sleep helps you recover, improves hunger, and decreases stress on your body. Find a good bedtime routine and stick with it. Occasional lack of sleep is not a big deal, but if it is a pattern, then help yourself get to be earlier by setting a timer to remind you when you need to start getting ready for bed. Choose relaxing activities like a warm bath or reading instead of things that stimulate you like watching TV or getting on your computer.
Manage stress. Do something you truly enjoy every day, just for you. You need to spend a little time each day doing something that slows you down, brings you happiness, and decreases stress. Exercise can help you manage stress as well, but you also need to do other things during your day to help with stress. Breathing deeply and keeping things in perspective can help and take the time to spend even 5 minutes on something you want to do each day.
With a little effort, you can change your body for the better. Pick one of these today to start on and little by little, you can make a huge impact on your health and energy levels. Our bodies are amazing and if you give them what they need, they will respond by getting stronger, leaner, and fitter. You have the power to positively impact your life! Which habit are you going to start with?
About the author: Cassie Dimmick is the CEO and owner of Achieving Your Best in Springfield, MO. She is an expert in nutrition for sports performance, wellness, and disease prevention and management. Her professional certifications include Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine – Certified Exercise Physiologist, and Road Runner Club of America Certified Running Coach.