Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a great idea. It’s going to seem like an especially great idea on January 1st, after a particularly indulgent vacation, or when you hit a big birthday and are ready for a change. But saying and doing are two different things, and such a big lifestyle change can seem insurmountable. Luckily, like anything else in life, it’s merely the result of taking a series of baby steps until, before you know it, you’re flatout running, and never looking back.
In no particular order, here are 8 steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
Sustainability is key
A healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, so drastic measures like crash diets are not the way to go. Not only are they potentially harmful, leaving your body lacking nutrients, with a weakened immune system, and completely exhausted, but they’re just not sustainable. They’ll leave you grumpy, unfulfilled, potentially injured, and not at all happy with your new choices. So, think in terms of cutting back, not cutting out. Think about what you can add instead of what you can just take away: adding more veggies to every meal is an easy thing to do for a quick health hit. Veggies should make up half your every meal, ideally - the more colourful, the better!
Ease into exercise
Another easy baby step is adding 20 minutes of exercise to your daily routine, whether that’s a trip to the gym, a gentle yoga class, or even something lower-key like walking to work or gardening. It’s amazing what just 20 minutes can do: endorphins will boost your mood, you’ll change the DNA in your muscles to help make them stronger, you’ll lower your risk of heart disease, and you’ll boost your metabolism!
If you fail to plan…
The old idiom applies to adopting a healthier lifestyle, too: a plan will make these changes fun and doable, not challenging and annoying. Look up your favourite healthy recipes and make a weekly meal plan, or, seek out pre-made meal plans before hitting the grocery store. You’ll be less likely to reach for sugary/salty snacks if you’re not aimlessly wandering. Doing a weekend meal prep is convenient and makes mornings easier, but it also means you won’t be eating unknown-ingredient take out.
You’ll also need to plan ahead for tempting snack opportunities: pack a healthy snack for the movies to help avoid the popcorn butter-fest, bring your own lunch to the office pizza party, and stash healthy non-perishable snacks like whole-grain rice cakes, almond butter, and nuts in your desk at work for those sneaky snack attacks.
Supplement, supplement, supplement
Possibly the simplest, quickest step on this list, adding the right supplements will get you on your way to a healthier lifestyle in a snap! Up your omega-3’s and essential fatty acids with a fish oil supplement and your brain and body will thank you, boost your digestive and immune systems with the daily probiotic that’s right for you, and supplement your vitamin intake with a multi-vitamin.
Power in numbers
The buddy system works beyond 5th grade field trips! It’s also a great way to stick to your healthy living goals. Knowing there is someone waiting for you to start their run will help you drag yourself out of bed on a chilly morning. So join a run club, recruit a friend, or turn it into a family activity with rewards and prizes for whoever clocks the most steps on their fitness app.
Speaking of, there are some fantastic apps out there to gamify healthy lifestyles: ones that encourage water consumption with adorable animated plants, ones that encourage kids to get up and out with fun treasure hunts, and even ones that let you challenge your friends, if friendly competition is your thing.
Substitute, don’t sacrifice
Let’s be honest. No one has the willpower to resist every craving, especially if healthy eating is something relatively new. Plus, denying yourself things means you’ll only end up wanting them more, leaving you vulnerable to a middle of the night pizza-binge. You have two plans of attack for when those healthy cravings hit.
- If you have a pretty tough will, nutritionists say to stick to the rule of 3: allow yourself three bites of the food you’d like, then step away.
- If the idea of taking a mere 3 bites of your favourite cake is cracking you up, make sure to have a healthy snack swap in your back pocket! Find a healthier version of your favourite food (think kale chips for potato chips or all-natural peanut butter in place of the high-sugar processed stuff) for when those cravings hit.
Be ready to build
What starts out as 20-minute walks might soon build into longer gym sessions where you’re lifting, squatting, or training for any number of goals. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, training-wise, make sure you have a plan, and do your research. Our Progress Now Training Manual is a great place to start. Full of nutrition tips, training advice, and motivation for those days where you just don’t feel like it, the guide will help you set and smash your goals.