Living a healthy life shouldn’t be hard, right!?
We all know that eating nothing but chicken nuggets is not going to lead to abundant health and that regular exercise is needed to prevent chronic disease, but just knowing this information is not enough at times.
Last week, we spent some time talking about why and how we are driven to eat certain things. We unpacked the science behind the different factors that go into making healthy choices and we learned that having an iron willpower is only one piece of the healthy living puzzle. If you missed that post, go take a look here.
While the science is important- what we do with the information is even more important! I don’t want you to get lost in the nitty-gritty details that we talked about last week. So let’s uncomplicate things this week and get back to some simple and practical tips that you can apply to your life.
8 Tips for Effortless Healthy Living
I want you to take a minute and think about what an effortless healthy life would look life to you. Would it mean filling your plate with whole foods and being able to say no to those foods that aren’t going to nourish your body? Would you look forward to daily physical activity rather than viewing it as a chore? Or maybe it is something deeper, like a sense of balance in your life that stems from being physically and emotionally in tune. Whatever you imagine your effortlessly healthy life to look like, these tips will help you get there.
1. Make it Automatic
Habit plays an important role in creating a healthy lifestyle. Once a choice becomes a habit, we really don’t have to think about it anymore. Our habits include things like pouring a cup of coffee each morning at 11am or hitting up the gym everyday after work. We just do it without even thinking about it.
Our willpower reserves get drained with each choice that we make, so save up your willpower by making healthy choices automatic. Try something simple like scrambled eggs for breakfast each morning or taking a midday walk after lunch. Start with 1-2 habits at a time and remember that a new choice takes about 2 months before it becomes a habit.
2. Reject the Diet Mentality
We have already talked about why the diet mentality doesn’t work and ultimately sets us up for failure, so I dare you to reject the diet mentality. We are talking about a lifestyle here and not a quick fix. There will be no more restricting calories or not eating “x,y, and z” for 6 weeks.
Remember that healthy living is learning to find a balance that you are happy with and realizing that health is a long-term journey. This means filling your plate with whole foods (Tip #3) while also still enjoying your favorite foods like the occasional frozen yogurt or homemade brownies. It means moving your body in ways that honor it and knowing when to give it a break. Just keep that in mind as we go through the next few secrets to effortless health.
3. Fuel Your Body With Whole Foods….Most of the Time
Our bodies were meant to thrive on whole, fresh foods. This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This does not mean low-calorie “diet” foods, convenience foods, and artificial sweeteners. Eating whole foods provides your body with all of the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) while also giving your body the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that it needs. To ensure a balanced diet, make sure to combine a protein, fat, and carbohydrate at each meal and snack.
Healthy fat sources: avocados, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, and nut butters.
Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, starchy veggies, whole grain oatmeal, quinoa, bulgur, barley, brown rice, beans, and 100% whole-wheat bread, tortillas, and pasta.
Proteins: eggs, chicken, lean ground beef, lean cuts of steak and roasts, pork chops, wild game, fish, shrimp, scallops, tuna, deli meat, tofu, and edamame.
4. Become More Mindful
We live in a fast-paced world and our eating habits are no different. We eat while we watch TV, work on the computer, read the newspaper, clean the house, or we take our food in the car and eat on the go. All of this equates to mindless eating, which leads to overeating, an excessive calorie intake, and inevitable weight gain.
Our brain takes about 20 minutes to register that we have eaten, so here are some ways we can slow down and have a more mindful meal:
- Cut out the distractions and focus solely on eating.
- Take time to chew and make it a point to chew each bite 20 times. You will be amazed at how hard this is!
- Use your senses. Take in the aroma, texture, and taste. Savor your meal and truly enjoy it.
- Set your fork down between bites to slow things down.
- Honor your hunger and fullness cues. We should start eating before we get hangry (hungry and angry!) and stop eating when we are about 80% full.
- Check in with your fullness at the midpoint in the meal. Decide if you are starting to get full and then slow down and stop eating before your plate is clean.
5. Keep a Food Journal
Maybe it is time to get honest with yourself about your eating habits. Log everything you eat for 3-5 days in a handwritten journal or online app. This will help you get a clear picture of unhealthy and healthy habits that you might not even be aware of. It will also give you a good starting place for the changes you need to make. If you see that you start your day off by skipping meals and then binge on less nutritious foods later in the day, try adding breakfast and see if eating more will help with those unhealthy choices later in the day.
If you are feeling overwhelmed after keeping a food journal and just don’t know where to start, I would suggest finding a Registered Dietitian and meeting with them. They are trained to look at food journals and will help you set goals and choose next steps to becoming healthier.
6. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is one of the most impactful healthy choices we can make. Restaurant meals are typically loaded with fat, sugar, and salt because the masterminds behind these meals know that these are the 3 things that keep us coming back for more. On top of that, restaurant meals are large portions and usually more than enough to feed 2-3 people.
When cooking at home, we can choose fresh, wholesome ingredients and keep portions in check. If you are new to cooking, look for free cooking classes in your area or check out a couple of cookbooks from the library. There are also a lot of healthy recipe blogs out there with easy to follow recipes and step-by-step instructions!
7. Make Physical Activity a Priority
Moving your body and getting your blood flowing has so many benefits. It is recommended that we get 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. Physical activity lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of chronic disease, strengthens bones and muscles, elevates mood, increases self-esteem, and helps with sleep.
With so many benefits, we should aim to move our bodies in some way every day!
I am a total morning person and love getting a good sweat in first thing when I wake up. I feel that this sets the tone for the day. When we get our day started with a healthy choice right off the bat, we are more likely to keep those good choices flowing all day. We think of food as fuel, feel better, sleep better, and have a more positive outlook overall.
8. Get Enough Sleep
You might think it funny that sleep made the list, but it is one of the most underrated healthy living secrets. Most of us live busy lives and do not get enough sleep. Running on sleepless nights leaves us reaching for anything and everything that will give us a hit of energy. This usually means sugar, refined carbohydrates, and a ton of caffeine- not the healthiest options! Also, when we are tired and grumpy, we typically do not have any desire to exercise or get any physical activity in.
Do yourself a favor, and aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night. I have had to create a nighttime routine where I relax with a cup of tea and then read until I am tired enough to sleep. Putting screens away a few hours before bedtime and implementing calming habits can really help!
What are your favorite tips for living an effortlessly healthy life? Share your tip in the comments below!
Live happy. Live healthy.