It doesn’t have to complicated or overwhelming to improve your habits. Last week I shared five healthy eating habits I learned from my personal journey to wellness. Today I will share five important healthy lifestyle habits.
HABIT #1: GET ENOUGH SLEEP. This may seem like a strange place to start, but it’s so important that I’m putting it on the top of the list. Why? Let’s face it, when we’re tired we tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day and reach for the quick-fix energy boost we need, often in the form of sugar-filled options and processed snacks. Lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythms and can lead to inefficient body regulation of energy balance, metabolism and appetite. Abnormal leptin and ghrelin levels – hormones that tell your body it’s full – can go awry when your body isn’t fully rested. To get more sleep, set a goal of what time you need to be in bed each night to get the 7-9 hours you need. Try it this week and see what difference you notice, both in how you feel and your appetite.
HABIT #2: REDUCE STRESS. I realize this is not always an easy thing to do. Most of us are juggling way too much and going through the day at warp speed, trying to get more done. Having a high stress level is harmful to your health and your waistline. When you are constantly under stress, hormone levels, like cortisol and insulin are elevated. The elevation of these two hormones can sabotage your weight loss efforts and actually cause weight gain. So, while you may think you can “handle it” as far as your stress level goes, we aren’t meant to be under constant stress and it takes its toll. If you are doing everything right as far as diet and exercise but you’re under stress everyday, you’re not going to see or feel the results you want. What are some ways you can reduce your stress level? Is there something you can start with this week or this month?
HABIT #3: GET MOVING. Exercise actually gives us energy! Think about how you feel after sitting for hours, versus how you feel when you’re up moving around. You just feel better when you’re active. You don’t have to spend countless hours at the gym to reap significant benefits from exercise. You can start with something simple like a 20-minute walk if you’re just getting back to an exercise routine. Look at ways you can add more activity into your day – a short walk during lunch, another walk after work perhaps. Maybe two 10-minute walks each day would work better for you, than one 20-minute walk. If you have taken a long break from exercising, don’t set yourself up for disappointment – have realistic expectations and be okay with feeling like a beginner again. Just start where you are right now and build on it. Note: Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
HABIT #4: PREPARE MORE MEALS AT HOME. Cooking meals at home allows you to control the quality, calories and portion sizes, of your food. Do you notice how much food you’re served when you go to a restaurant? It’s ridiculous! When we have more food in front of us, we’ll eat more without realizing it. Preparing meals at home saves money too. Plan your week out in advance and see which nights you can cook at home. On busy nights put your Crockpot to work!
HABIT #5: KEEP TRACK. Keeping track of what you eat can be pretty easy thanks to all the handy apps we have available at our fingertips. My favorite food tracking apps are MyFitnessPal and LoseIt. You will be surprised what you discover when you start tracking. Just remember, quality counts and it’s not just about the number of calories. 100 calories of cookies is not the same as 100 calories of veggies as far as nutrients and fueling your body is concerned. For tracking, you also want to track the nutrients (or lack of nutrients) in foods. Reading the nutrition label is key. Our society has become too focused on the calories listed on the food label, but not the ingredients. Look for foods that have the shortest list of ingredients and those that you recognize. If it’s a long list of ingredients with words that are difficult to pronounce or you don’t know what they are, put it back on the shelf and look for something else.
Take action this week by starting with the simplest habit first. Don’t get overwhelmed – just start with ONE thing. Write it down somewhere as a reminder. Imagine if you were to incorporate even one new habit each month for a year – amazing things would happen!
Download more healthy habits in my free e-Guide entitled “10 Simple Steps to a Leaner, Healthier You” at www.sarawolfsen.com. Check out my new downloadable eCoaching modules on my website to learn more about any of these healthy habits.
Sara Wolfsen is a Certified Health Coach who specializes in helping people make their own healthy changes by providing private health coaching, nutrition education and wellness classes, and gentle weight-loss guidance and support. Schedule your complimentary coaching session and learn more online at www.sarawolfsen.com.