Healthy Habits for a Healthy You

There are several ways to live a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle without having to make too many dramatic changes to your everyday routine. Slight variations or additions usually make for the biggest and lasting effect on your preexisting habits.

 

Eating breakfast

Breakfast is proven to be the most important meal of the day mainly because going from a fasted state (sleeping) to full activity needs fuel.  Fueling up at the start of the day will prepare you mentally and physically for your day as well as helping with weight control.  Breakfast skippers tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal, or tend to nibble on higher calorie snacks to help fight their hunger.

Park farther from work to walk more

By parking a little farther from where you normally park you are forced to walk a little farther.  Walking a little extra each day will burn more calories, reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and helps keep your blood pressure in check, just to name a few.

No late night snacking

Everybody has an internal clock that works on an approximate 8-12 hour window.  Recent studies have shown that during the early and middle part of the day when we are more active our metabolism is running more efficiently than the later part of the day when our internal clocks are winding down to prepare for sleep.  Therefore we process energy more efficiently during the day when our biological clocks are “on” so to say.

Grocery shop on a full stomach

When we grocery shop on an empty stomach, we typically spend more money on food we wouldn’t usually buy mainly because it looks good and we’re hungry.  Additionally, it is very important to make a list and stick to it.  This way we, again, will purchase only the items we needed in the first place and are less likely to veer off course with what we are attempting to do nutritionally at home.

Take the stairs

Instead of waiting an extra 2 to 5 minutes for the elevator to come, simply take the stairs.  This will give you the same benefits as parking farther away and walking a little more.  It helps you burn more calories, reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and helps keep your blood pressure in check.

Eat smaller and more frequent meals

Smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day, as opposed to 2 or 3 larger meals, will help keep your metabolism running stronger and more efficiently throughout the day and increase the rate at which your body burns calories and therefore stores fat.  Larger, less frequent meals tend to get stored as fat in the body if the energy consumption is greater than the amount needed at the time.

Cook with healthy oils

Without giving a chemistry or nutrition lesson about oxidation, mono-, poly-, or saturated fats, we’ll keep it simple and straight forward.  Oils rich in fatty acids help improve HDL cholesterol levels (the good ones) and help kill bacteria and other pathogens in the body.   Of course as with everything, you should limit your intake of oils and fats, but they are also extremely important to include in your everyday diet to help protect your organs, regulate your internal body temperature, and help regulate hormone levels and production.  Listed below are some of the best fats to eat/cook with:  Coconut oil, butter (real), olive oil, animal fats (especially pasture raised or grass-fed), palm oil, avocado oil, fish oil, flax oil, canola oil, nut oils or peanut oil, seed and vegetable oils.

For desk jobs

For those of us that find we are constantly or intermediately performing a sit down desk job, it is important to take frequent breaks away from the computer screen.  This is for the sake of both our eye health and our bodies by giving our eyes a break from the screen and getting our bodies up from the chair to stretch. This will help with circulation to our lower limbs and help prevent varicose veins and tight muscles that may cause other structural health issues with our lower and upper body.

Make a shopping list

As mentioned previously about not grocery shopping on an empty stomach, it is also a good idea to make a shopping list.  It’s best to do one big shop on the weekend and stock up for the week to help save money and extra shopping trips during the week.  When you do this, you are more likely to stick to the list and are less tempted to go out and get little unnecessary items during the week, both of which hurt the pocketbook and wreak havoc on your diet discipline.

Cook for the week on the weekend

Along the same lines as making a shopping list comes dedicating one day a week (Sunday’s work great) to cooking and preparing several meals for the whole week.  This aids with portion control, helps you stay on your target eating habits, and minimizes the amount of times you go out to dinner, which again saves time, money, and your diet.

Exercise 15-30 minutes 1-3 times per week

A little bit of exercise can speak volumes to your overall body health.  Whether it be a short walk during your lunch break or getting up an extra hour in the morning to go to the gym, all your body needs is a regular dose of exercise from 15-30 minutes 1-3 times a week.  Exercise helps control weight (you burn more calories which helps in weight loss); combats negative health conditions and diseases (decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and falls); improves mood (endorphins are a natural drug your body releases with exercise, which in turn can help boost your confidence and improve self-esteem); boosts energy (regular exercise helps improve muscle strength and endurance, also improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your body tissue, and helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently); promotes better sleeping patterns (helps you fall asleep faster and deepens your sleep); increases your sex drive (helps you feel and look better, leads to enhanced arousal for women, and a decrease in erectile dysfunction in men); and is a fun activity to do by yourself or with friends and family.

Plant a garden

Planting a garden or a few plants around the yard is a great outdoor activity for yourself and your family. It also helps provides good exercise, fresh produce, decreases stress, and helps you get in touch with nature.

Letting go of the little things

Unwanted stress is a natural ager and killer.  Take three deep breaths and unfurrow your brow at that would-be “day killer” that just cut you off in his sports car and listen to a cheerful song or think of something pleasant to take your mind off the situation.  Granted, you have the right to be upset, after all he did just endanger your life and his own by his millisecond saving actions, but negativity has a way of following you and spiraling out of control if you let it.  Things that are out of your immediate control are not worth stressing about.

Limit refined sugar intake

Sugar in excess amounts can be very harmful on the body in many forms other than just giving you extra visits to the dentist’s office.  Sugar can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and obesity; promote an increase in belly fat; increase leptin resistance (leptin is a hormone that signals your brain to tell your body you’ve had enough food); sugar also contains empty calories (no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, and no enzymes.  Your body literally has to borrow other vital nutrients like calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium from your body just to make use of the sugar).

Watch out for liquid calories

Along the same lines with watching your sugar intake is watching out for liquid calories.  What’s really in that double iced mocha latte? Or that 44oz coke you’re drinking to wash down lunch?  Liquids are typically filled with empty calories and high in sugar.  Also pay attention to sports drinks. Though they may be filled with important electrolytes, potassium and sodium replenishing fluids, they are also full of sugar.  Unless you need the extra calories from the sports drink, try having a “light” or “zero calories” version to get the essentials you need without the extra calories/sugar.  If you need a soda for the caffeine, try to at least have a diet soda which includes less sugar, but be wary of consuming too much too often.

Read labels

Have you ever been curious as to what is in your favorite foods that make them taste so good?  Many fast food restaurants are making available an ingredient list or nutritional facts list of their foods to inform the customers of what their eating, although many do not.  The best way to know exactly what you’re eating is to educate yourself about the contents of the package or research it online.  Many food items contain a considerable amount of sodium, carbohydrates (sugar), or fat (be wary of trans fats, or anything in the ingredients listed as “hydrogenated”).  If you have a special diet, it may be necessary to read the labels to ensure there are no allergens included, but out of pure curiosity you should start looking a little more into what you’re putting in your mouth—you may be surprised at the results.

 

There are many alterations that can be made to improve upon your health without having to give up or completely change your normal way of life.  Simple transitions generally tend to have more of an impact and a longer lasting effect on your daily habits as opposed to a 180o lifestyle change.  The best course of action is start with one habit to improve upon and work your way down the list as you become adjusted to the changes.

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