Want to boost your energy? How about shed a few pounds and keep them off? If you’re not looking for the quick fix, making small, but significant, lifestyle changes is the way to go. The fast pace of the world today can make it feel like you don’t have time to be healthy, but with a few minor adjustments you could improve your everyday energy, feel good about the skin you’re in, and look as good as you feel. Consider trying one, two, or all of the following healthy living options into your routine to improve your life.
#1 Practice Mindful Eating
Eating healthier is probably the most obvious lifestyle change you can make to live a healthier life. You can browse the Internet and find countless recommendations on what to eat (more whole foods) and what not to eat (processed foods). Instead of listing what you should eat, let’s talk about how to maintain healthier eating habits.
Keep a Food Journal
Tracking what you eat during the week may seem like a waste of time and effort, but it may be the best way to change your eating habits. Knowing what you’re eating, and when, can help you better prepare with healthy choices. Start by tracking what you eat and drink for one week. You may find that you have cravings for sweet or savory snacks at predictable times. Rather than grabbing whatever is on hand when the craving arises, plan to have healthy substitutes available. For example, you can swap out peanuts or pistachios for something salty and crunchy, or a juicy piece of fruit for something sugary.
Pay Attention to Portion Sizes
Stocking your kitchen with healthy options is only one part of changing your eating habits. Controlling your environments and reducing your portion sizes are also important. When you go to restaurants, consider having a healthy snack before you go so you won’t be starving. Before going back for seconds at a party or buffet, wait at least 15 minutes and have a glass of water.
Portions served at home and in restaurants are usually bigger than your body needs. Retraining your brain (and body) to eat more slowly by putting the fork down between bites can be game changing. It can take almost 20 minutes for our body to tell our brain that we’re full. Think about that for a second. A good tip at home is to use smaller bowls and plates to help control your portions.
Skip the Juice, Grab a Smoothie
Fruit juice tends to be loaded with added sugars, unless the ingredients contain 100% juice. Try substituting a fresh homemade smoothie when you get a hankering for a sweet beverage. Smoothies made from whole fruit are more beneficial because you don’t lose the fiber in the process. Incorporating protein, carbs, and healthy fats in addition gives you a more filling and nutritious beverage.
# 2 Enjoy “Treat” Meals, Not Cheat Days
We’ve all heard of “cheat days” when someone is on a diet. A day (or weekend) where they can eat whatever they want without thinking of the repercussions. The problem with this approach is what you eat on your cheat day affects your next day. Partying all night Friday might leave you with a hangover Saturday, caused by dehydration. Spending all day Sunday eating junk food can lead to feeling sluggish and short-tempered on Monday.
So why not stick to healthy eating all week and find time to enjoy a “treat” meal every now and then? It may sound counterintuitive to think about treating yourself to dessert when you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight, but deprivation can, and often does, lead to overeating. Here are a few steps to get the most enjoyment from your favorite treat meal:
- Portion out one serving of your favorite treat
- Take a minute to smell it and look at it
- Savor each bite – chew slowly, focusing on the texture and taste
- After each bite, ask yourself if you want another bite or if you feel satisfied
Tuning into your body as you eat allows you to slow down and be more mindful of what things taste like. You may even surprise yourself and find that you’re satisfied and content after only a few bites. If you can stop eating when you’re satisfied, you’re less likely to overeat. As a bonus, you won’t have to wait until the weekend to indulge a little.
#3 Water is Good, Water is Great
There’s a reason every healthy lifestyle list tells you to drink more water. Actually, there are a lot of reasons. Staying well hydrated:
- Improves your overall health
- Helps your skin retain its moisture, elasticity, and color
- Delays the signs of aging
- Flushes out unwanted toxins
- Boosts brain function, mood and energy levels1
- Combats fatigue
Good hydration allows your body to keep your joints lubricated, distribute nutrients, eliminate waste, and maintain your blood pressure.
Exactly how much water your body needs is unique for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all water intake, so be sure to listen to your body. People who take certain medications or have a viral illness need more water. As a reminder, in hot weather or when exercising everyone needs to drink even more water than usual to stay hydrated.
We’re All a Bit Dehydrated (And May Not Know It)
Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, our bodies are actually craving water. It’s easy to mix up these signals if we aren’t in tune with our body. Try drinking a full glass (or bottle) of water when you think you feel hunger pangs. This will prevent you from eating more than you actually need.
Since dehydration can affect brain function and mood, we may feel sluggish and incorrectly blame a lack of sleep. Fatigue is another indicator that we may actually be dehydrated. Set goals throughout the day, like drinking a cup of water before eating, to help you stay hydrated. Consuming more water-rich produce like watermelon and cucumbers will also boost your hydration.
Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle
In order to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, it’s important to drink when you’re thirsty. Keeping a reusable water bottle on hand serves as a great reminder. A good tip is to refill your bottle every time you finish it.
As we age, we may not always feel thirsty, even if we need water. In these cases, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to drink more. Your refillable water bottle will help encourage you to drink more. You’ll also be reducing your plastic waste!
#4 Get Moving
Regular exercise strengthens your body, boosts circulation, and reduces your risk of serious illnesses or chronic diseases. It’s also useful for maintaining healthy skin since raising your heart rate brings oxygen and key nutrients to the surface, which helps brighten skin.
If you’re a sedentary person, moving your body is an essential part of moving toward a healthy lifestyle. The good news is you don’t need to run out and get a gym membership right away. In fact, one study found that relatively inactive people with unexplained fatigue decreased their tiredness by around 65% with low-intensity cycling2.
Here are few ideas for moving your body that you can do, even if you’re low on energy.
In the US, people use their cars for nearly 70% of all trips less than one mile. Try burning calories instead of gas. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to errands less than a mile away. Walking 10 minutes a day is better than not walking at all. More importantly a brisk 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to two hours, according to experiments conducted at California State University.
Use Your Bodyweight Against You
Even if you don’t have a gym membership or access to fancy workout equipment you can still incorporate strength training into your daily routine. Squats, push-ups, crunches, lunges, and chair dips can all be done with zero equipment. What’s important about these mini workouts is to fatigue your muscles within 60-90 seconds. Adding a resistance band can increase the burn.
Binge Session Workouts
If you’ve got time to binge watch your favorite show, you’ve got time to move your body. Consider commercial breaks as opportunities to get your heart rate up. Run in place, do squats, dance – the point is to feel breathless when you sit back down. If you take advantage of every commercial break, you can burn an extra 270 calories a day.
#5 Stay on Track With a Buddy
If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that being disconnected from our social groups is brutal. When we’re trying to live healthier, more energetic lives, support from our social network can help prevent depression, improve our cognitive performance, and keep us accountable. According to a study conducted in 2000, people with stronger social networks have been shown to have better mental and physical health as they age3.
Exercising or switching to healthier eating habits with a friend makes it easier to stay accountable. Even if you can’t work out together in person, you can keep each other motivated by downloading apps that track your progress or joining online community boards and challenges.
Workouts don’t have to look any particular way either. There are plenty of ways to have fun with friends and burn calories at the same time. Think rock climbing, paddleboarding, kayaking, or rollerblading.
#6 Cultivate Self-Awareness
Awareness in what you say, think, and how you feel is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. In order to know when your body is out of balance, you must be able to first create balance. Observing your thoughts and self-talk, how you treat yourself and others, your energy levels, and what you put into your body will help you learn what supports your health and what diminishes it. During the process of building self-awareness, practice compassion as you learn.
#7 Take Time for Your Mental Health
Most of us know that stress can have a major impact on both your physical and mental health. Not only have high levels of stress been linked with feeling tired and drained, but it can also wreak havoc on your skin. Stress is the result of anxiety, which diminishes our energy levels.
Although it’s certainly easier said than done, the best way to improve your health and boost your energy is to reduce stress whenever possible.
If you have the time, the following activities can help diffuse stress:
- Participate in a yoga class (if funds prohibit, there are free online videos)
- Join a support group
- Meditate (there are plenty of apps to help you do this at home)
- Talk with a therapist
If time is limited in your day-to-day life, try talking with a loved one or taking a few minutes for yourself each day listening to music to decompress.
#8 Protect Your Skin’s Health
Taking care of your health also means protecting your skin from the sun. Wearing sunscreen is important even on days when you don’t anticipate prolonged sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are present during all daylight hours, regardless of cloud cover and temperature. These UV rays damage your eyes, age your skin, and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Even short bursts of daily sun exposure can cause skin to thicken, freckle, and develop melasma (dark patches) if left unprotected. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily, and an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activities.
Don’t Pick Your Skin
This may seem obvious, but if you want your skin to be healthy – keep your hands off your face. Let’s be honest, they’re probably dirty anyway. While introducing dirt to the surface of your skin is bad enough, picking at pimples, injuries, or itchy areas can exacerbate the problem. Picking at your skin can lead to scars, or, in extreme scenarios, infection.
#9 Pursue a Daily Caloric Deficit
While you should avoid fad “lose weight fast” diets if you’re looking to truly change your lifestyle, pursuing a caloric deficit diet can help you lose weight over time. One pound of fat is 3500 calories. In order to lose one pound a week, you have to have a daily caloric deficit of 500 calories.
In an effort to burn more calories than you take in, it’s important to choose your liquid calories wisely. Sweetened drinks are a double whammy – they’re full of calories, but still leave you feeling hungry. Stick to water, 100% fruit juice, or low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over between meals.
#10 Optimize Sleep for You
No healthy lifestyle list would be complete without emphasizing the importance of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause a number of skin problems, in addition to increasing your risk of mood disorders, weight gain, immune deficiency, diabetes, and heart disease.
The recommendation is 7-9 hours of sleep for most adults, but it’s important to listen to your body. If you find you’re laying in bed for hours before falling asleep, try going to bed later to minimize your sleep time at first. This may seem counterproductive, but by slowly adding 15-20 minutes each night you’ll find the optimal number of hours of sleep for you.
Are You Ready to Live Your Best Life?
Engage in healthier eating habits, drink more water, move your body (with a buddy), check in with your mental health, and take care of your skin. It’s more than just shedding excess pounds; it’s about feeling good in your skin and having the energy to take on the day. The more you learn about what your body needs to thrive and feel healthy, the better equipped you’ll be to live your best life.