Healthy eating isn’t a diet, but rather a lifestyle of enjoyable healthy habits.
That’s right…enjoyable! The only way to achieve true health, is to actually enjoy healthy things. Meaning, for example, that passing on sugary desserts doesn’t feel like deprivation, but rather, something you actually want to do.
It also means having a well-balanced life – being healthy in mind, body, and spirit – so not just eating the right foods, but thinking the right thoughts, and doing the right actions.
Just as the path to happiness is different for everyone, so is the path to healthiness. However, there are some habits that many health people have in common.
Develop these 7 habits, and you’ll be well on your way to vibrant health.
1: Keep a Bottle of Water with You at All Times
We all know we should drink water, but many of us are not getting nearly enough each day. Make it a habit to keep a refillable glass water bottle with you at all times (or, at least at your desk during the day, and perhaps in your car). Aim for about 2.2 liters (for women) or 2.5 liters (for men) a day.
Why: Water helps our body in many ways:
- It aids in elimination and detoxification, by moving waste through the digestive system.
- It provides energy and prevents fatigue, as dehydration can make you tired and inhibit performance when exercising.
- It aids in calorie control. While I don’t advocate counting calories, drinking adequate water helps ensure you don’t go overboard on food by filling you up to some extent. Additionally, we can easily misinterpret dehydration for hunger, so instead of snacking, try downing a glass or two of water instead, and see if that makes any “hunger” fade.
- It keeps your skin looking hydrated, instead of scaly and flaky.
2: Make Your Plate at Least 50 % Vegetables at Lunch & Dinner
The simplest change you can make for a healthier life, is simply to eat more vegetables. Dark leafy greens in particular are a must-have in a healthy diet. So, aim to eat them every single day (and perhaps think about eating half dark leafy greens- such as kale, arugula, spinach, collards, chard, broccoli – and half other vegetables to fill your daily 50% of your lunch and dinner plate quota.
Why: Vegetables are loaded with health benefits including:
- They satiate you, so you end up snacking/eating less, yet feel energetic and satisfied.
- They aid in elimination, which is crucial for overall health and a flat stomach.
- They provide anti-aging benefits, not just physically, but mentally, too. Produce-filled diets have been found to keep your skin looking youthful (thanks to Vitamin C content) and your brain sharp (thanks to a variety of antioxidants).
- They protect against cancer, as they are loaded with powerful phytonutrients.
- They help you maintain a healthy weight, because when you eat more vegetables, they crowd out the more calorie dense yet nutrient poor stuff on your plate.
If adding more veggies to your plate sounds easier said than done, you’ll greatly benefit from EatSLIM, my 10-week online nutrition and cooking course. You’ll learn to love eating and cooking veggies, and be motivated and inspired to ingrain this habit into your lifestyle.
3: Move Your Body Daily
Move your body every single day…even if that means simply walking for 20-30 minutes, which could be achieved by getting off one train stop earlier, taking walking phone calls, or scheduling walking meetings.
Ideally, though, you’d also be fitting in a sweat session on the majority of the days of the week (meaning at least 4 days). Again, it doesn’t have to be long…30 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is perfectly acceptable. Find a workout you like and get your heart pumping.
And, when all else fails, consider adding in dance breaks throughout your day. These are so much fun, either on your own, or with co-workers. Every 1-3 hours, shut the door, turn up the music, and dance for 5 minutes like no one is watching. The endorphin rush will no doubt make you sharper when you get back to work.
- It significantly boosts your immune system and protects against cancer: Moderate work outs temporarily increase the number and aggressiveness of immune cells, as little as 50%, and as much as 300% . So, when you work out regularly, you end up boosting your immune system consistently and making it more efficient at fighting off any intruders. (source) Additionally, exercise is believed to lower the risk of various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colon.
- It releases feel good chemicals that reduce stress, put you in a happy mood, and lower risk of depression: Regular aerobic exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, and can help lessen anxiety. Studies have shown that for many people exercise is just as effective at relieving depression, as taking an anti-depressant.
- Helps with Elimination: Say goodbye to constipation with exercise. Forget fiber pills, exercising regularly should help you eliminate regularly.
- Balances Blood Sugar & Reduces Sugar Cravings: Exercise helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels by burning up the glucose in your bloodstream, and increasing the cells sensitivity to insulin. As your blood sugar levels normalize, you’ll notice your sugar cravings decrease. What’s even better, is that you reap these benefits for hours after you finish exercising. And not just from extreme exercise. Just brisk walking can regulate blood sugar to the extent that it significantly cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthen Your Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis: The dairy industry has probably persuaded you into thinking that calcium is the only way to get strong bones. That’s not true. Your bone is living tissue, and it responds to exercise by getting stronger. Of course, you still need to consume foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin K for strong bones, but don’t overlook exercise!
4: Develop a Good Oral Care Routine
Your oral health affects your overall health, so don’t skimp on it! Get into the habit of brushing, flossing, and mouth washing every single day (ideally, after each meal), as well as tongue scraping (the practice of literally scraping your tongue in the morning to remove the coating) and oil pulling in the AM.
Why: Aside from the obvious- preventing bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease – good oral hygiene affects your overall health.
Research suggests that if you have gum disease, it may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.
5: Don’t Obsess over Numbers, But Rather How You Feel
Truly healthy people don’t obsess over numbers, such as weight or calories, but rather how they feel.
- Obsessing over the scale leads to unnecessary anxiety. You are more than your weight, but besides that, weight is not always the best indicator of health. How you look and feel, and how your clothes fit is a better indicator, as you can get leaner and fitter, and be healthier, but weigh more than you did when you were more unhealthy!
- Obsessing over calories is futile. Not all calories were created equal, so obsessing over the numbers will not aid your health or weight loss as much as thinking about the quality and where that calorie came from. Healthy people eat a healthy diet (made up of real, whole foods) and know that they will naturally feel full and satisfied when there body has had enough, without thinking about calorie counts.
6: Take Me & Fun Time
Healthy people often get mocked in movies and on TV, for being annoying tight-asses. But, truly healthy people know that making time for fun, not taking yourself too seriously, and enjoying your life are essential to true health.
This can take many forms, such as a morning practice, in which you set aside 10-60 minutes to meditate, journal, practice gratitude, exercise, draw, paint, or do whatever your heart desires. This could also be an after work sweat session. A spa day. A bubble bath. Reading a non-work related book.
Taking fun time, is similar but of course, even more fun. When we are younger, we live for fun and play. As we get older, we tend to push it out of our lives, as we take on more “important responsibilities”. But without fun, why live?!
Maintain your youthful sense of adventure by traveling often and doing new things regularly. And that doesn’t have to be expensive – that could mean going to a new museum, a free concert, or simply walking through a cute nearby town that is an hour or two car-ride away (I personally, love going upstate and exploring cute towns!)
Also, make regular time for your friends – slumber parties with your girlfriends, long home cooked meals, and a weekend getaway are some of my favorite things to do.
Why: Taking adequate me time each day is extremely important for both mental and physical health.
7: Plan to Get Ahead
People who eat a healthy diet set themselves up for success by planning. This can mean a few different things:
- Choose the restaurant – When going out with friends or colleagues, if you can, choose the restaurant, so you ensure it has healthy options.
- Look at the menu beforehand – If you can’t choose the restaurant, check the menu beforehand so you know what you want to order, or can think about substitution possibilities if necessary, that way you don’t get anxiety trying to pick something quickly with a table full of people.
- Pack snacks or food when traveling – If you know you will be somewhere without healthy options, for example, if you’re going on a road trip or a 6 hour flight, eat beforehand and pack food for the trip. Don’t make excuses, make plans.
- Meal plan at home– During the week, instead of opting for takeout, consider meal planning and batch cooking, to save you time and frustration, while providing you with easy, nutritious, homemade meals. Meal planning takes the stress out of healthy eating at home. You can create your own, or check out my EatHealthy Meal Plan for a done-for you plan.