Every day we encounter situations where we are given the opportunity to make a decision, and all of those decisions add up. Knowing what is best for yourself and your body, following through with it, and then repeating it day after day is key to living a healthy lifestyle.
You can’t just decide for one week that you will eat healthy, or workout every day, and make the rest of your life revolve around unhealthy decisions. It has to become an outlook on life, an improved philosophy towards food and fitness.
What Steps Do You Need To Take In Order To Make This Lifestyle Change?
Eat Real Food
What exactly does “real food” mean? It means that it should come from nature and hasn’t been transformed or processed – not a package or box. That includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, meat, fish, and more. When possible, opt for organic produce with fewer pesticides because pesticide residue can be found in almost all non-organic foods.
Processed foods like potato chips or crackers contain fake flavors and unnecessary chemicals that will only harm your body over time. Don’t drink your calories either, as liquid calories don’t make you feel full and tend to be packed with sugar, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.
Eat Healthy Fats
This one is often a tough sell to people. Let’s dispel the myth quickly; you cannot gain weight from eating healthy fats.
Unhealthy fats are processed and enriched to have a maximum shelf life, but all that junk often ends up being stored on your waistline and in your arteries. Healthy fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil.
These healthy sources of fat also provide nutrients for healthy brain function, strong immunity, and support absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K (1). You should aim at getting most of your daily calories from these types of foods if possible.
Eliminate Refined Sugar
A 2016 study found that 0.9% of the U.S population is diabetic and another 5.7% have pre-diabetes (i.e., not quite at a disease state, but on their way) (5).
The kicker? The number one risk factor for diabetes is obesity, which has surged by over 80% since 1990 (9)! And what’s fueling this rise in obesity? You guessed it.. refined sugar!!
Beyond this, scientists are now discovering that excess sugar could cause inflammation and major health problems through other pathways as well – so avoid sneaky added sugars wherever you can (4)!
Drink Water Instead Of Sugar-laden Drinks
Drinking a lot of water has many health benefits: it keeps you full, helps with digestion and is required for basic body functions. But drinking your calories is one of the worst things you can do if trying to lose weight.
Instead, drink lots of plain old water. It’s easily accessible, calorie-free and will help reduce your appetite for sugary drinks. In fact, more than half of all sugar-sweetened beverages are consumed on a daily basis by people who are overweight or obese – not what they need (8)!
For those times when you want an alternative to water that does have some flavor and kick, make sure your drink choices are sugar-free and have limited calories.
Some healthy beverages you can take instead of water include: unsweetened tea (hot or iced), low-sugar/calorie fruit juices like cranberry and pomegranate, and coffee. Just make sure you’re limiting the amount of added sugar or artificial sweeteners to no more than one teaspoon per 8oz serving.
Eating colors helps you get the nutrients your body needs to function. Try to include at least 3 different colors in every meal or snack (in case you can’t tell from the picture above, that is spinach, avocado, and leeks).
Providing your body with a variety of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fats – will give it the energy it needs throughout the day. Eating balanced meals from plant sources will also provide an abundance of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that support health.
Eat plenty of veggies all day; they’re low in calories yet full of vitamins and minerals! If you’re trying to lose weight, try adding more leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower into your diet (11).
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Take Care Of Your Gut
Gut health has a direct connection to overall health. There’s even an entire medical specialty, gastroenterology, that focuses on the stomach and intestines (collectively known as the gut). Health experts agree that one of the best ways to keep your digestive tract happy is by eating plenty of fiber (2). Fiber can be found in lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
If you aren’t particularly fond of eating these things raw or plain all day long, don’t worry! You can get them into your diet in other ways:
- Use a blender to blend up your greens for tasty juices
- Include whole grains when you make bread or pancakes
- Add flaxseeds to smoothies and oatmeal
- Try soaking nuts in saltwater overnight, then drying them out in the oven (check ’em every half hour to make sure they don’t burn) so you can roast instead of fry
And if you’re struggling with a digestive illness that affects your gut health, be sure to consult your doctor. They may recommend the usage of over-the-counter probiotics.
Probiotic supplements contain live bacteria which help balance good and bad bacteria in your gut. Because we have less control over what we eat when we’re outside our homes, experts also suggest taking probiotics as a preventative measure whenever possible for an extra boost of healthy microorganisms.
When it comes to health, your mind is just as important as your body! In fact, staying positive plays a key role in overall well being. Make time for yourself each day and focus on what you are grateful for.
Focusing on the negative will only set you up for stress and anxiety which can really have an impact on your overall health. Being stressed out and anxious creates cortisol which is a hormone that stores fat around your gut and leads to a vicious cycle of feeling out of control and helpless (10).
Ease up on the stress by keeping a gratitude journal or keeping track of all the good things that happen in your life each day! This will allow you to feel empowered, confident and happier knowing that you are getting what you need out of life.
While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid stress in today’s fast-paced, hectic world, there are some things that can help. For example, try to meditate at regular intervals throughout the day.
Mindfulness meditation is an effective tool for reducing anxiety and depression, improving focus and memory, and increasing compassion — not to mention clearing your head for a few minutes can provide much-needed refreshment to your busy life!
Other ways to relieve stress:
- Plan an escape once per week
- Say “no” more often (the research shows you’re happiest when you have fewer commitments)
- Treat yourself (to a spa day or new lipstick)
Basically, anything that makes you feel good will boost your immune system because feeling good gives you a psychological boost — and remember, you are the architect of your own happiness!
Exercise is an integral part of human health. It strengthens the heart, bones, muscles, and joints; it increases blood circulation and helps to regulate metabolism. Exercise also helps the body release endorphins – a positive mood-boosting chemical released in response to physical activity (6).
No exercise equipment is needed! Going for a walk daily provides great physical benefits but also aids in mental health. It’s simple to squeeze into any schedule or routine and with some extra effort, walking can be transformed into a whole-body workout.
Taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day counts as moderate exercise which will increase metabolism and create more energy throughout the day. By incorporating an activity you enjoy – whether that’s dancing or listening to music – you’ll have fun while taking care of your body too!
If you’ve ever exercised for any length of time, whether it be going on a run or doing some Pilates moves, you probably ran into moments when you weren’t feeling motivated at all about exercising (or just about anything).
That’s where gratitude comes in: thinking about something you are grateful for when you’re feeling frustrated will help shift your mindset. Try to think of at least three things that make you happy or grateful before you start an exercise and then focus on those.
Practicing mindfulness is about taking a conscious moment to slow down and focus on what you are thinking and doing. Studies have shown that doing so can help you maintain a healthy weight, eat healthier and exercise more (3).
By being calm, present in the moment, and focusing only on what is happening right now, you are taking important steps towards becoming healthy. Being aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions also allow you to make healthier decisions in the long run.
Mindful eating increases pleasure while eating because you’re paying attention to what goes in your body. Start by being aware of how long it takes for you to eat a meal and then make courses the right size. Enjoy every bite!
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Get Good Sleep
Your body needs time each day to rest and recover. Trouble sleeping or getting quality sleep is linked to a range of health issues, and it’s worth taking measures to improve your sleep.
Poor sleep can have the following effects (7):
- Increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Can impact learning, mood and behavior in children
- Cause pain
How do you get better sleep? Simply installing black-out curtains on your windows will help block light, which inhibits melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
Consider that going to bed earlier is easier than adjusting the time you wake up in the morning (the later you are awake, the harder it becomes for your body to fall asleep). If that still doesn’t work, consider using valerian supplements or chamomile tea before bedtime. Just don’t drink warm liquids right before bedtime as they can make digestion more active during the night.
We’re social creatures. In our early days, we relied on others in order to survive. Without friends and family surrounding us, how would we have learned the skills needed to raise children? How would we know where food was available or what types of plants were safe for consumption?
#1: Interaction Strengthens Your Bond With Others
Every moment that you interact with others is a step toward becoming healthier. Being around someone can improve your mood because you might get a sense of well-being from their presence alone.
They could also play an active role in improving your physical health by offering support and encouragement to lead a healthier lifestyle. The most important factor when it comes to staying healthy through interaction are the strong personal connections with those who care about you.
#2: Interaction Encourages Healthy Lifestyle Choices
How much healthier could your lifestyle be if all of your friends were healthy too? In social settings, you are surrounded by others who make decisions that can affect your health as well. You might find yourself eating more moderately or taking a walk because someone else suggested it.
Your contact with others doesn’t have to be physical in order for their actions to influence yours. If they are making healthy choices, their presence encourages similar behavior on your part. This is why it’s so important to maintain close relationships with people who demonstrate a commitment to staying fit and healthy themselves.
The Bottom Line
As you know, we are what we eat. Choose the best and healthiest foods for your body to stay healthy and maintain a youthful look. Remember that it’s not just about food; it’s also about mental health and living an active lifestyle. Don’t forget to include all three in your routine, they’re equally important!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion (2017, nih.gov)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Effectiveness of mindfulness training and dietary regime on weight loss in obese people (2015, nih.gov)
- Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies (2018, nih.gov)
- GLOBAL REPORT ON DIABETES (2016, who.int)
- Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence (2006, nih.gov)
- Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption (2017, nih.gov)
- Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease risk (2011, nih.gov)
- The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture (2016, nih.gov)
- The impact of stress on body function: A review (2017, nih.gov)
- Weight loss effects from vegetable intake: a 12-month randomised controlled trial (2014, nih.gov)