I used to feel like I spent half my life trying to lose weight and I struggled with making consistent, healthy lifestyle habits. I remember thinking, there’s got to be more to life than dieting, paying bills and cleaning the house.
And of course there is. Your success depends on implementing small habits that consistently (albeit slowly) add up to major changes in your health. Just like one brownie won’t make you gain 100 pounds, one healthy meal won’t change your life either.
Consistency is king.
Healthy lifestyle habits
Below are the top 10 healthy lifestyle habits that have made the biggest difference in my overall health and happiness. It can be overwhelming to make changes all at once, so start with just one tip, get used to it, and then add on for a cumulative effect. If you’re a research junkie like me, I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits.
Going to bed Early and waking up early
Gone are the days when I could party until 3 a.m. and start work at 8 a.m. feeling no worse for wear. There are tons of benefits to waking up early and the only way for me to make it happen is to also go to bed early. You can dedicate the newfound quiet time in the morning to reaching your health goals (like working out and meditating) before stress, exhaustion and excuses have the chance to build.
Tip: avoid blue light before bed – I use my salt lamp.
Exercising in the morning
The best time to workout is when you’ll actually do it. If that’s at midnight, then so be it. However, if it’s possible with your work schedule, I highly recommend getting your sweat on in the morning rather than hitting snooze 45 times.
Then you don’t have to think, “ugh, I still have to go to the gym after work” all day long because you’re already done and your metabolism is fired up. You’re also more likely to make healthy food choices when you’ve started your day with a workout.
I work out at home (free with YouTube workouts or Jillian Michaels DVDs, like 30 Day Shred) and the only thing preventing me from doing it bright and early is laziness, which is a habit that can be broken (believe me, I did it and I hate mornings).
Breaking a sweat daily
Don’t get me wrong – rest days are important and I’m not advocating doing HIIT on a daily basis. However, a rest day doesn’t have to mean a sloth day where you lounge on the couch eating chips. There’s no reason that you can’t do some gentle yoga or go for a walk on your off days. That way, you’re continuing to cultivate the habit of moving every day to combat how sedentary most of us are while still letting your body rest and recover.
Getting outside every single day
I live in Southern Ontario, which means we have like three nice days a year. It’s either way too hot, it’s pouring rain, or the world is covered in snow. However, that still doesn’t get me off the hook for getting natural vitamin D whenever possible and enjoying some fresh air.
At the cottage, we’re outside constantly because the air is actually fresh without city pollution, but it can be harder to force ourselves in the suburbs. Walking the boys is a great way to stay active and leave the house.
Taking care of your mental health
When making healthy lifestyle changes, many people focus on the physical (which is great), but forgot about their mental and emotional well being (not so great). Whatever it means to you, make sure you take care of your mental health. This could be meditating, working on a project that’s just for you, or saying no to yet another obligation when you’re overwhelmed.
Stopping the dreaded comparison
Ah, comparison, you miserable bitch. There’s nothing that can destroy your happiness like festering jealousy. Social media is all smoke and mirrors and your journey will never look exactly like someone else’s.
There isn’t a blueprint for happiness, health or success, so don’t worry about what anyone else is doing and work on finding your own balance. Don’t forget about that handy block/mute/delete button, being mindful about what you’re consuming, and surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good rather than “less than.”
Eating for fuel and function
I will never advocate for restrictions or rules that will send you straight towards a binge. However, I will encourage you to eat food that your body needs rather craves. Finding healthy alternatives to your favorites that still taste great is a great strategy and indulging in the “real thing” every once in awhile never hurt anyone.
Sugar and simple carbs make me feel tired, sluggish and gross. Extreme sugar, like buttercream frosting, actually gives me a headache. If you pay close attention to what your body is telling you, you’ll quickly learn to eat for health versus short term emotional sanctification. Find another way to fulfill those needs – food isn’t the answer.
Getting enough fiber
I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but regular bowel movements are critical to a healthy, functioning body. The Standard American Diet is deficient in so many critical vitamins and nutrients, so if you’re not getting enough fiber, taking a daily supplement. That’s it for poop talk, I promise.
Taking your vitamins
It would be awesome if we could get all of our nutrients from food, but our food sources are so depleted nowadays that it just isn’t possible even if you eat well. I take a ton of supplements, but your vitamin protocol needs be personalized to you.
If you live in a climate with dark winter months, chances are you’re deficient in vitamin d, though, so it could be a good place to start. A simple blood test will let you know. A high quality, organic multivitamin (catered to women and to men specifically) could also help if you don’t have the cash to do the testing.
Finding a support network
Starting healthy lifestyle habits is hard, especially if your life is currently full of unhealthy habits. Having a support network is helpful for some people, especially if your spouse isn’t making similar changes.
You could find a workout buddy or someone to text when you need to be talked out of eating a brownie for dinner. There are strong people who can do it all themselves, but if you don’t have to, why not find an accountability partner?
Drinking lots of water
Staying hydrated will help maintain healthy blood pressure, increase your energy levels and brain function, help to treat/prevent headaches, and aid weight loss. If you have a hard time remembering to drink enough water during the day, get an app to remind you or a bottle that measures your intake.
Knowing the difference between hunger and boredom
Many people eat for emotional reasons whether it’s boredom, depression or celebrating. If you treat food as what it is – fuel – rather than attaching emotional significance, it will ensure you make healthier choices. Before you eat something, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. Or better yet, meal plan so that your food decisions are made in advance.
What healthy habits would you add to my list?
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