Everyone wants to be healthier. Usually I try to stay away from generalizations of that kind, but really, I feel pretty comfortable with that one. Point me to a person who doesn’t want to be healthier if they could be, and I’ll buy you a gigantic $6 sugar filled latte! Everyone wants to be healthier – but, the hard part is putting that “want” into action. That’s the part that takes work. I am as guilty of this as anyone. Last night I went for a run for the first time in weeks and it was just… sad. Let’s just say, there was lots of huffing and puffing. And I may have had a cookie before dinner. Or like, three cookies. They were the little ones from the variety bag, but still! It’s hard to make health a priority and a habit, and yet, it is something that I think many (see what I did there?) would agree can infinitely improve your quality of life.
But, instead of beating myself up about the cookie, I was thinking about all of the little steps I’ve taken lately to improve my overall health. I came up with five things I do at least once every week that aids in healthy living, and I think these are things all of you could do too with a little time and preparation. Little things can add up quickly – and, as I reminded myself last night, you’ve got to start somewhere!
1. Exercise when you can.
This one seems obvious (“duh! exercise! why didn’t I think of that?”) but I’m speaking in a more “take it when you can get it” way. I am guilty of being very “all or nothing” about my exercise – if I don’t have the time or energy to go for a 2+ mile run, then I won’t go. But, how does that add up? Why am I so reluctant to take baby steps towards my health goals, especially when each day is its own baby step? Why can’t my baby steps be in baby steps? Or, to put it in a less linguistically convoluted way, it’s like a savings account. Why would I only save money if I had $200 to save instead of $50? That makes no sense – $50 is still $50. The same should apply to my exercise and health: if I can only run once a week at first, then I should still at least do that. If I can only go for a mile one day, then I should still lace up and do that. If my “workout” is walking to the store instead of driving, or walking that extra bus stop, or parking further away from my errands and walking in, then I should do that. Every bit counts.
2. Get 7+ hours of sleep.
This is another one I struggle with deeply – I am the queen of late night television, of “one more chapter!”, of distracting myself until I realize it’s 12:30am and I have to wake up at 6:30am and I know that when I do I’ll be bleary eyed and exhausted. Listen to your own body’s needs and wants, but I know that my body needs at least seven or more hours of sleep a night (and really does best best best with eight!) Make sleep a priority. That TV show will be on OnDemand tomorrow; that book will be there in the morning; that blog post will be okay if posted at 10:30am not 8:30am. If you can do something on your lunch break instead of staying up late, do that. I’m not advocating for full-on procrastination, but figure out where your limits are, and make sleep a massive priority. If you follow the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” you could unknowingly be damaging your health so that you ARE dead soon…er. Sooner. I’m not saying lack of sleep will kill you tomorrow, but it is far more important than any of us realizes currently. I’m pretty sure.
3. Take vitamins.
This one is easy! Phew. Aren’t you relieved? The key is to pick vitamins that work for you – I love the Trader Joe’s Women’s multi-vitamin (in a pink bottle) but I know some people take pre-natal vitamins even when not pregnant to help their nails and hair, or some people might need more iron in theirs to help with anemia, or others might need more calcium, etc. If you don’t want to look at all of these differences, just get a basic multi-vitamin and a basic omega-3 vitamin and call it a day. At least you’re doing something! Our diets are really not varied enough in this day and age to cover all of the nutritional requirements of our bodies, even if you eat exceptionally healthfully, so taking a vitamin will help cover any of those leftover gaps. So, just do it! You will feel better.
4. Drink fancy water vs. sugary drinks.
This one is my “splurge” item on this list. It’s an excuse to buy those Perriers you crave, those Hint waters, those sparkling delights. In my view, drinking a $4 bottle of water is still better than drinking that $0.99 soda – so when I can pry myself away from the Coca-Cola, and go for something healthier, I don’t let myself feel bad about buying that citrus flavored sparking water from the store. It really is an investment in your health versus an investment in your grocery budget – it’s a swap that will save you calories, blood sugar spikes, and cavities. It’s taken me a long time to realize this (yes, I know, I know – but I was a child of the 80s-90s!) but it truly has changed the way I look at drinking water. If I know I can still treat myself a little bit, and have water that tastes good and “entertains” my senses, then I’ll drink that instead of soda. Well…most of the time. I’m only human.
5. Eat lean meats.
This last one is one I’m still struggling with, as the pull of a juicy cheeseburger still has quite an effect on me. However, my current aim is to eat only lean meats – fish, pork, chicken, etc. No red meat, no fatty meats. Anyone who has seen me eat bacon in the past week, pipe down! All I’m saying is, you don’t have to go completely vegetarian – but one of the tenets of the Paleo diet that I really agree with is not just eating “more meat,” it’s eating high-quality lean meat that will give your body protein without blocking up your digestive tract. Lovely visual, right? Just trying to be honest here! Last night I had salmon for dinner, tonight I’m going to have chicken mango sausage, and this weekend maybe I’ll try a white fish or a pork chop. I’m not perfect – I had a cheeseburger from a food truck with my team at work this week – but I’m trying where I can. It doesn’t have to be boring, but it’s an easy way to make small changes in your diet that can help make you feel healthier from the inside out.
ps – Mom, I realize red meat can come in “lean” varieties too, but I’m just saying. I still think no red meat is healthier! Even if it’s delicious!
What’s something you’re doing this week to make yourself healthier?