A recent poll found that 41% of Americans made a New Year’s Resolution for 2017. According to that same survey, eating healthier was the #1 Resolution, said 21% of the respondents. Understandably so, getting in “great shape” has been a fad for decades and because of that, a large portion of the population, myself included, has obsessed over it.
Am I eating too much?
Am I eating enough?
How the f*** do I figure out micros vs. macros?
Should I eat fats?
Should I eat carbs?
How long should I work out?
How much rest should I get?
And best of all…
How does she look like that AND work a full-time job?
The questions were endless, and it stressed me the f*** out. I was always trying to find THE BEST workout or eating program, or “secret sauce” to living the healthiest life. Through that conquest, I have tried every diet and exercise plan out there, and have come to find two things:
- There is no “one size fits all”, but there are very basic fundamental ways that you can start living a healthier life now.
- Your “why” is the real driving force behind it all.
Through all my research and trials and errors, I found commonalities between almost all fitness blogs, books, programs, instructors, and nutritionists – so I have decided to share them with you.
DISCLAIMER: I am in NO WAY a health coach, nor am I trying to give advice on diet or exercise plans. I just want to share with you what I have experienced, and researched for myself in the past. 🙂
THERE IS NO “ONE SIZE FITS ALL”
Each person in this world is completely different from the next, hence why there are a bazillion different ice cream flavors in existence!
If we can’t agree on the same ice cream flavor, what makes you think that we can agree on the same exercise or meal plan? We simply can’t, nor should we. Instead, we should be feeding our bodies based on what it needs and wants most. (NOT McDonalds french fries, even if we all want them!)
For example, when it comes to meal plans, I have tried to eat carbs, no carbs, and only “whole” carbs (grains, oats, sprouted breads, sweet potatoes). From all those different ways of eating I have found that I like eating carbs, but when I eat whole carbs I feel and am physically my best. Now you may hate what carbs do to your body, and that’s fine too! Just try out different things to see what you like best, and apply that. It will not only benefit your body, but it will help you stick to whatever plan you choose. The Whole30 program is a great way to figure out what your body actually likes best, just do your research beforehand.
FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL
No matter what lifestyle you choose, you have to first decide what you want to do, and then GO DO IT. The “deciding” part involves research. Then, there is the “doing”, which seems to be the hardest part for most people. Since we all live fast-paced lives (in the US especially!) it’s easy to push off working out because we’re tired/aren’t getting enough sleep, or say that we don’t have enough time to plan our meals, cook and grocery shop. You have to make a commitment to yourself that you will stay dedicated to your goal and do whatever it takes to stay on track.
TIP: Schedule your workouts and add them to your calendar, and make it as important as a business meeting, no cancellations! I also highly advise meal prepping on Sundays, so you have easy, healthy grab-and-go meals ready.
DRINK MORE WATER
The recommended daily intake of H2O for men is about 3.7 liters (13 cups), and women are recommended to drink around 2.7 liters (9 cups). This recommendation does not include the additional 1-3 cups a day you should be drinking when you exercise, and the additional water you should drink after you drink coffee. (I don’t think I know anyone who drinks 9 cups of water a day- maybe 9 cups of coffee, but certainly not water!)
EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS AND LESS PROCESSED FOODS.
Eating whole, unprocessed foods is more of a lifestyle than it is a diet, which makes it even better (“diets” suck!). It is eating foods in their purest form so that get access to their nutrients and vitamins. Processed foods mostly have zero nutritional value, and are mainly composed of chemicals.
TIP: Look at the nutrition labels of packaged foods – it you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients or it looks like something that came right out of your high school chemistry book, it probably isn’t the best thing to be eating. … Some documentaries I would highly recommend watching on the topic are “Hungry for a Change”, “Forks over Knives” and “Food Choices”.
Our bodies are designed to move in all forms, whether it’s running, jumping, skipping, twirling, etc… Yet, a study found that the average American walks about 5,000 steps per day, which is half of the recommended amount.
Physical movement is so important to not only your health, but your brain functioning. If you move more during the day, you will be 11-15% more productive. So do whatever it takes: get a Fitbit, track it on your phone with a free health app, or book appointments with yourself every day to get up and move for a few minutes.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO
When you are moving, make it something you enjoy doing. If you are forcing yourself to do some intense workout that you dread, you are much more likely to stop showing up. On the other hand, if you are doing a workout that you love, you will be more likely to stick to it. For example, I hate running. HATE IT with every part of my being. I used to try to get myself to do longer runs or sprint workouts because they are so good for you, but I would always cancel and then feel bad about not showing up. However, when it came to my yoga classes, I would sign up for class every day and feel so good afterwards. I also started walking in order to get more cardio and movement, and not only did I get into great shape, but I FELT great and was so happy doing it!
Getting enough sleep is so crucial to your overall health. Sleep helps fight disease, aids in weight loss, and improves concentration and productivity levels. Think about when you stay up too late the night before work and then come in groggy, fighting to keep your eyes open. Then you over-caffeinate, and eat more in order to get more energy … This is all because you need more sleep. So just stop watching Netflix until midnight and set yourself a bedtime, like when you were a kid!
SCHEDULE DOWN TIME
Being healthy is not just about the body, but also about the mind. We are constantly “on” because of our phones and the constant flow and access to new information. In a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 83 percent of respondents said they “spent no time during the day relaxing or thinking!”
Constantly being on the run, or just simply not taking a minute to just “be”, can build up over time and will hurt you in the long run. In a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, they talk about the benefits of downtime. It stated that taking breaks can actually lead to productivity, creativity, and overall wellness.
So, schedule some time for yourself: go on a walk, sit outside, or even if it’s just 15 minutes before bed to read, think, or enjoy a cup of tea.
REMEMBER YOUR ‘WHY”
My last piece of advice for anyone striving for a healthier lifestyle would be to always remember your “why”. With any goal, WHY you are doing it will push you through the hard times and keep you from “cheating” or letting yourself off the hook.
My WHY has changed over the years … When I was dieting and trying to get in shape to compete in Miss Connecticut and Miss America, my ‘why’ was fear based. The reason WHY I wouldn’t eat the cookies was because I was afraid I wouldn’t look good or feel good on stage when I competed. Then, when that was all over, my only REAL reason WHY, was so I felt confident in a bathing suit on the beach. It wasn’t because of any of the millions of health benefits, but just simply about looking good.
Then my sister and mom went on a health reset and they started learning about WHY you shouldn’t eat sugar, or why you should limit certain foods. After that experience, I finally found out the reasons I wanted to eat certain foods and why I didn’t others. I also started looking at food as fuel rather than as a comforting friend. Once I had this change in mindset, I became infinitely more dedicated to my ways and it became easier because I didn’t feel deprived, and felt like I was doing something good for myself.
I hope this helps you with taking the initial steps towards a healthier life. Remember: being healthy is not about looking like Giselle, Gigi or the next new supermodel… It’s about feeling good about yourself and the life you lead… I advise you do your own research and educate yourself in all the above areas I mentioned. There is so much great information out there on how to live your healthiest life, so TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!