It’s nearly August. How are those New Year’s resolutions working out? To be quite honest, I’ve forgotten mine, but I do foggily remember something about being healthier.
I don’t subscribe to diets, or weight-loss fads, or anything of that ilk. They’re far too punishing and impermanent to be useful. Nor do I believe in preaching a 0 to 60 approach when it comes to exercise – it’s equally unhealthy.
These five easy-to-make choices will help you gradually transition into a healthier lifestyle.
Note: These changes are meant to be gentle on your body, they’ll help in the long-run but by no means are they meant to be quick-fix weight-loss tips. If you are looking to lose weight, please consult your physician to find the most effective and responsible course for your body.
1) Make water your go-to everyday drink: This is perhaps the easiest choice of all. Going out to a restaurant? Stick to water. Staying in? Opt for water. At a friend’s flat? “I’ll just have water, thank you.” Not only does your body need it, but because it’s zero calories and contains no sugar, you can drink water to your heart’s content. You’ll be surprised how this simple transition can drastically reduce both your calorie and sugar intake without a ton of effort on your part.
2) Take your coffee black: According to the Mayo Clinic, one cup of black coffee is only 2 calories and has 0 grams of sugar. What gets the calorie count climbing is everything else you add – sugar, half-and-half, whipping cream, etc. Table sugar alone adds about 50 calories to your morning brew. If you buy your coffee, instead of making it at home, you may also be inadvertently adding unnecessary calories. Check out the Starbucks’ website for calorie counts on your favorite drinks: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/catalog/nutrition?drink=all#drink=all&page=2
3) Pack your own lunch: Buying lunch can take a toll on both your wallet and your health, as you’re more likely to pick foods for convenience (or cravings) instead of nutritional content. When you make dinner, set some aside for your lunch the next day. Not only will you control your portion sizes but homemade foods are often significantly healthier than store or restaurant bought dinners. In addition to your main lunch, try packing a healthy snack as well: a clementine or fruit of your choosing, a small pack of nuts, baby carrots, celery and peanut butter etc.
4) Get some shut-eye: Getting enough sleep is vital to your overall health, and something that often goes ignored when talking about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sleep boosts immune health, maintains your energy balance, improves your motor skills, and plays key roles in memory consolidation and learning. Plus, you look and feel better when you’ve had a good night’s rest. To optimize your sleep, try setting a consistent bed time and waking up at the same time every morning, sleeping in a dark room, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and strenuous exercise 2-3 hours before bed.
5) Incorporate exercise in your week: This is the hardest change to make, especially if you live a sedentary life, but it is one of the most important. If you already have an exercise routine in place, good for you! Keep it up! If not, try to gradually incorporate physical activity into your schedule. Do you normally take the elevator up the 8 flights to your office? Try the stairs. Have some downtime after dinner? Take a half hour walk. Maybe you need more of a community feel and someone there to help keep you committed – why not sign up for an exercise class with a friend? Often there are less expensive (or free) community based classes that you can try without breaking the bank. Gyms frequently have membership discounts for first-timers, if you want to go that route. It doesn’t matter what you do – yoga, cycling, running, swimming, walking, kickboxing, badminton etc. – what matters is that you do some form of exercise consistently. Start off by doing 1-2 sessions of your chosen activity a week and work up from there. The hardest part is putting on your exercise clothes and starting. Once you do that, you’ll be surprised what you can do and how much healthier you’ll be for it.