Do you want to be at a healthy weight, have more energy, boost your immune system, help prevent many diseases and avoid premature aging? Well, the answer doesn’t lie in a bottle and there are no short-cuts. It comes down to healthful, balanced living, which means taking good care of yourself. It requires some work, but your health is well worth the investment!
#1: Eat Healthy
- Eat three balanced, regular meals per day (or multiple smaller ones) rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Include a lean protein source with each meal, and foods high in calcium. Eat healthy snacks when needed to satisfy hunger.
- Don’t skip meals, because it leads to extreme hunger and bingeing.
- Pay attention to hunger and fullness signals.
- Watch portion sizes. Refrigerate leftovers. It’s okay to leave some food on your plate once you’re full!
- Eat slowly, taking small bites. Meals should take at least 20 minutes, so they can be savored, and to give the brain time to process how much is consumed.
#2: Approach healthy eating as a way of life–not another diet.
- Make it a priority. Grocery shop once a week with a list in hand (but not when you’re hungry!). Stock up on fruits and vegetables, especially the convenient pre-cut and pre-washed selections.
- Plan your meal around a fruit or vegetable, rather than putting meat at the center of the meal.
- Do some cooking. This helps control ingredients and portion sizes. Keep it simple, like throwing some chicken in the oven, baking a potato and microwaving some frozen vegetables. Cook ahead and freeze on the weekends if that’s better for your schedule.
- Be wise about eating out. Portion sizes have gotten HUGE! Make up your mind to only eat half of your meal or share it with someone else. Leftovers can be part of a great lunch the next day. When bringing home take-out food, serve it with a bag of salad, some fruit and a healthier beverage from home.
- Make gradual, realistic changes. Lifestyle changes take time! If you never cook, try once or twice a week at first. Try adding extra fruit a few times a week, and then add more once you’ve adjusted.
- Try new things! Focus on what kinds of foods you should be having more of, rather than those that need to be cut back.
#3: Don’t deprive yourself of favorite foods.
Surprised by this one? Deprivation leads to bingeing for many people. Instead, set goals for small amounts of the not-so-healthy foods you enjoy.
#4: Learn to say “no thank you.”
When you aren’t hungry, don’t eat food just to appease others. If you’re concerned about insulting your host, ask if you can wrap a portion to take home and enjoy later, when you’re hungry.
#5: Don’t make food a part of every activity.
Evaluate how you use food in your life. Every time you do something fun and social, do you have to include food? Disassociate food from some of your activities, and learn to enjoy them independently.
Here are some examples:
- If you aren’t hungry, enjoy a movie without popcorn.
- Take a walk with your friends, instead of always meeting to eat.
- Don’t serve munchies for family game time if it’s after dinner.
#6: Keep well hydrated.
Don’t confuse the sluggishness of dehydration with hunger. When we get busy, it’s easy to ignore thirst and forget to drink enough fluids. Basic water requirements vary, however, depending on body size. In addition, the amount of fluids we need changes on a daily basis depending on the weather, our activity level and even the types of foods we eat (which contain differing amounts of water). So, stay tuned to your body’s fluid needs each day.
Keep in mind, however, that calories from beverages don’t seem to register as filling to our bodies. If you are drinking lots of sweetened beverages or even fruit juices, you can unintentionally consume more calories than needed. Plain water is one of the best ways to quench thirst between meals.
Find an activity that you can truly enjoy, and make it a part of your lifestyle. Set realistic goals so that you won’t get discouraged. If you can work it in, resistance or strength training exercises help boost metabolism by increasing lean muscle tissue in the body.
#8: Get enough rest.
Don’t confuse the low energy associated with fatigue as a signal to eat more than you need. If you’re sleep-deprived, your body is probably saying “rest”–not “eat.” In addition, there is mounting evidence that sleep deprivation–which impacts countless Americans–causes hormonal changes in the body that increase appetite and cravings, especially for high carbohydrate foods. It may even lead to a slower metabolism, furthering the likelihood of unhealthy weight gain. So if you aren’t getting a good eight hours of shut-eye a night, evaluate your busy schedule and look for ways to slow down.
#9: Deal with your emotions in a healthy way.
If you are an emotional eater, identify your triggers for overeating. For coping, substitute appropriate alternatives to food…
- Need to calm down? Take a warm bath, read, listen to soothing music.
- Need to vent anger or frustration? Dance, do jumping jacks, take a walk, jump rope.
- Need to be uplifted? Call a friend, say a prayer, do something nice for someone else, pamper yourself.
Of course, these are all temporary fixes. Long-term health means looking below the surface and dealing with the causes of your emotions. This could include learning to discuss problems, resolve issues, forgive and be forgiven. Emotions are complex responses to our thoughts and beliefs. If you are chronically experiencing anger, depression, or feelings of worthlessness, it’s time to seek professional counseling.
#10: Find support.
Join a group or find an accountability partner, who will help you to set and reach your goals for healthful living. If you’re not sure where to start, be sure to check out our FINDINGbalance Gathering and other small group tools.
#11: Have faith.
Numerous scientific studies have found that people who live a faith-filled life are healthier, experience greater contentment, and live longer. Research has shown that people involved in religion or religious activity fare better physically, emotionally and socially. We need to nourish our souls, as well as our bodies!