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A healthier lifestyle encompasses so much more than weight loss. I’m always looking to take small steps towards a healthier lifestyle, little things to tweak in my day to day living that won’t feel like I’m climbing a mountain during an avalanche. Sometimes it takes tweaking good habits and making them better and sometimes it is creating a new habit and breaking it down into more achievable, realistic goals.
Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to cost money, or consume a lot of time. It doesn’t require dedicating hours on end at the gym and following a strict fad diet (come on, we’ve tried them and we definitely know people who swear by the latest incarnation of the South Beach Diet or Atkins). I’m not bashing them at all! If you follow a diet to be healthy, awesome. My comment is addressing the people that feel like they’re not doing anything right by NOT following a specific diet, fad or not. There are cheap, inexpensive changes that can be made in your day to day living that can improve healthy, mental and physical without costing you any money. Some ideas, if you can afford, offer you other options. But, there really is no added cost in my five suggestions.
There are several ways to increase your steps each day without having to carve out a big chunk of your time. Here are some great examples
Park and Walk
Park at the end of the row when grocery shopping. Besides it being an easy way to get in extra steps, you’ll save on some patience! You won’t have to wait for other cars or people as most of the crowd wants to be as close to the entrance as possible. You’ll save on dings to your car door too because not too many people will park near you. At a restaurant, park far away. Instead of dropping your kids off to practice, park and take a walk. Check out a new neighborhood or walking trail.
Walk during your breaks
If you’re not on your feet all day, getting up to walk every so often has more benefits than you might think. It helps fight belly fat and helps lessen the chance of heart disease. If you can get out of the office and take in some fresh air, that’s even better. It’ll help clear your mind and let you refocus when you sit back down.
Even if you work from home, give yourself breaks throughout the day. Get up and doing some jumping jacks. Walk around your block. Go check the mail. Go outback and stretch for a few minutes. A small, yet healthy change is to stand up and walk around for two minutes every thirty minutes.
Ask for an activity tracker for your birthday or better yet, invest in one for your health. Wear it and set small, achievable goals. Wear it for a few days and see what your normal activity is each day. Then start setting achievable and reasonable goals to increase your steps. Start with a 20% increase and after a week, increase it again. Keep going until you’ve reached 10,000 steps in a day. It might take a few months, but that’s okay. It’s not a race. It’s about making small changes that can lead to a big difference.
Don’t think you need an expensive Fitbit or Garmin, either. Although, they’re fantastic, and according to people who have them totally worth the price, there are other options in a much less expensive price point that still get good reviews and can get the overall job done!
For example, this Fitness Tracker HR, Letscom Activity Tracker Watch with Heart Rate Monitor, IP67 Waterproof Smart Band, Step Counter Pedometer Watch for Kids Women and Men (Black) is only $30 and is an Amazon choice.
Drink More Water
Most people do not drink enough water in their day. The recommended water intake is all over the place depending on what you read. But, there seems to be a universal agreement that most people should drink AT LEAST 64 ounces a day. Carry around a water bottle and sip throughout the day and you’ll be surprised how much water you actually drink. The more you drink, the more you’ll get your steps in going to the bathroom! It’s a win win situation. Take your water bottle with you each time you walk, especially during the warmer months. Hydration is so important to a healthy, functioning body.
Find a water bottle you like and keep it with you. For the upcoming summer months, you might want to find an insulated bottle that will keep your water cold all day (even though you should be drinking all the water several times over). Again, no need to go with something super expensive. Here’s another inexpensive option, Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle Double Wall Flask- BPA Free Sports Bottle for Gym Office Travel Camping Hiking Outdoor Indoor Sports. Again, it gets great reviews on Amazon and is under $20.
Get More Sleep
Sleep is paramount. Being someone who deals with insomnia on a fairly regular basis, I know the lack of sleep affects my health. I wrote a more in depth post on the importance of sleep.
The lack of sleep can really affect your diet – sleepiness can mean you don’t cook and instead go out to eat. It might mean you’re just too tired to eat, which isn’t good for a healthy metabolism.
Lack of sleep can affect more than your diet though, it can cause moodiness, memory issues, and long term, possible high blood pressure. Sleep is paramount to having a healthy life and a healthy body.
Of course, if you’re drinking more water, you don’t want to be up all night going to the bathroom, so try and get all of your water in by dinnertime. Front load the water drinking, and you won’t affect your sleep habits.
Keep a Fruit Bowl and a Veggie Drawer
Put a fruit bowl out in the open. We have ours on our kitchen island, which is easy to reach and easy to see. I always try to have a variety of fruit – from apples, bananas, oranges, Asian pears, whatever I can find at the farmer’s market or at the store. Our kids have full access anytime to the fruit bowl.
Another small change that can be made is to make a veggie drawer. Again, I try to buy whatever I can in season and once or twice a week, wash and cut up vegetables. I have baggies of different colors of bell peppers, bags of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, cauliflower, and baby carrots. It is very easy to grab a bag or two of veggies when walking out the door. They can be eat in the car, at practice, when you’re walking on your break. It’s key to put all of the ready cut vegetables in a visible spot in your refrigerator. The more you see them, the more you’ll remember you have them.
Since most people do not eat enough vegetables in their diet, this is a simple and cheap way to possibly lose weight. Let your finger foods be healthy foods.
Go for 80/20
This might not necessarily be a small change, because if you can adapt an 80/20 mentality, this might be the most important change. People talk about willpower and taking an all or nothing approach to eating. I’ve tried that in the past and have gained more weight than I lost.
I work VERY hard at maintaining an 80/20 lifestyle, but I’m not perfect, yet’s it’s still my goal.
What is 80/20
I try to eat right eighty percent of the time and twenty percent of the time I just enjoy myself. I save those moments for special occasions, or a family meal out. For example, we went out to dinner, kind of spontaneously last week one night, and we rarely go sit down at a restaurant as a family because
- My kids activities leave us very little time
- Now that my kids are older, it’s WAY more expensive feeding a family of five when only one person eats off the kids menu, and heck, sometimes we don’t even get that anymore.
So, we found ourselves at one of our favorite restaurants. Instead of worrying about making the ‘healthy’ choice, I made the right choice for me. I picked what I wanted and I enjoyed my meal without guilt. Why? Because I had eaten very well the last several days and all day I’d made very good food choices.
It’s not about willpower, it’s about moderation. I dedicate my every day eating to healthy, good, nutritious choices that fit my lifestyle and diet, and those times I’m out socially or for an event, I allow myself to eat what I want. Often times, I still choose healthy because I feel like eating the healthy choice, not because I HAVE to eat the healthy option. I choose what sounds good. There’s no guilt or shame or a fight of willpower.
At the end of the day, it’s about taking small steps towards a bigger goal. The big goal should be about health and wellness. It shouldn’t be about win/lose, fail/success. If you don’t drink a sip of water one day, does that mean you failed? No! It means just that. You didn’t drink water. Tomorrow, drink water. Healthy living is about improving on yesterday, setting goals for tomorrow and living in today!
I have created a wonderful, short 8 page workbook to help set up a plan of action for long term healthy goals!