6 Steps to a Healthier You

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on August 13, 2012

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I recently received a comment from a reader who had just started thinking about making some healthy lifestyle changes, and wanted some tips on how to get started.
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She told me that she felt overworked, stressed, tired, and was eating fast food or junk food just to get through the day. Overhauling her whole lifestyle was just too overwhelming, and she had reached out to see if there were just a few small things she could do to get healthy.
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I completely understood where she was coming from.
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It’s really hard to break old habits, especially when you’re stressed about a bunch of other things. Falling into old habits is comforting and dependable. The good news is: living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to change everything you do every day. You can make small, incremental changes that will make a big difference in your life!
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So as a tribute to this reader, I was inspired to write this post:
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The Picky Eater’s 6 Steps to a Healthier You
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Step #1: Move More. 
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When we were little kids, it was easy to get a day’s worth of exercise in – since as a kid, you’re basically running around all day. But once you move into post-college life, you end up spending most of the day sitting down. A recent study showed that working professionals spend ~70% of all waking time in the seated position. How crazy is that?
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Tips to get moving: Stand every hour and stretch, park farther away, take the stairs. If you have a workplace that allows standing desks, get one! It has changed the way I work. Try to fit in a lunchtime walk – all you need is 30 minutes (which you can even do in two 15 minute chunks throughout the day). An added bonus: for every hour you spend standing still vs. sitting still, you burn 30 extra calories.
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Step #2: Sleep Well. 1/3 of your life is spent asleep so make it count. According to a study at Harvard, sleep boosts brain power, is relaxing, rejuvenating, strengthens immune function, and is a critical source of renewal and recovery.

Sleep should be enjoyed and celebrated – I mean, who doesn’t want to look as relaxed as these furry guys?

Photo Credit: Sleeping Animals 

An added bonus: Getting lots of sleep can help with weight management. When you’re sleep deprived, you don’t feel energized, which means you’re less likely to work out and probably aren’t using your calories efficiently. A recent study found that sleeping for more than 9 hours a night could suppress genetic influences on weight and favorably affect BMI (body mass index). However, getting less than 7 hours had the opposite effect. Another study found that just looking at junk food while sleep deprived activated reward centers in a person’s brain — more so than those who got a sufficient amount of sleep — which could make that food harder to resist.

To get more/higher quality sleep: try to create a relaxing pre-sleep ritual – like reading or meditating – and power down at least 30-60 minutes before bed (that means step away from all the screens: phones, computer, TV, etc.).

Step #3: Eat Right. 

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/index.html

One of the most important factors that determine good health is what we eat. Forget about the confusing media and all of the fad diets out there – they all do exactly the same thing, which is try to get you to consume fewer calories than you’re burning. Instead of trying to “diet,” focus on building a healthy plate at every meal, eat smaller portions, and practice mindful eating (that means don’t inhale a bag of chips in front of the TV – pay attention to and savor what you eat!)
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To get started eating right, try this 7 day plan for clean eating – you’ll feel satisfied without depriving yourself, and each day’s meal plan has only 1200-1500 calories!
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Step #4: Manage Stress. 

 Source: TheStepMomsToolBox

We’ve all felt it: when we’re stressed, our muscles tighten, we get headaches, we feel tired, maybe even nauseous or sick. It’s no secret that stress isn’t good for us. And studies have shown that long-term, daily stress disrupts almost every one of our body’s processes, increasing the risk of serious health problems. Decreasing the stress in your life will obviously make you happier, but it will bring you to a healthier place mentally, physically and emotionally.
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Try to manage stress by spending time with family and friends, taking up a new hobby, exercising (I’ll often go for a run when I’m stressed, and I’ll feel so much better afterwards), getting a massage, or taking a day to just “unplug” from everything.


Step #5: Get a Baseline. 

 

Schedule a physical exam and learn your baseline on five simple metrics – blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, body mass index and waist circumference. Knowing and understanding your numbers allows you to monitor your health status over time and helps you catch problems proactively.
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Step #6: Take Action using the 80/20 Rule!
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What does the 80/20 rule mean? For me, it means eating smart 80% of the time, and being flexible 20% of the time. That way you always have some flexibility without throwing off your healthy lifestyle or weight-management goals. Eating right 100% of the time just isn’t realistic (like what if you’re stuck in an airport with nothing but a McDonald’s?). If you try to be 100% perfect, you’re more likely to get discouraged and give up after a “bad” day.
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The 80/20 rule is great for getting started on a path towards a healthier life. You don’t have to change everything about your lifestyle, just set one goal, and start taking action towards that goal. Tell people about your goals to hold yourself accountable and to get the support you need. Little by little, you’ll be able to work in all of your weight-management or healthy lifestyle goals, and pretty soon you’ll have transformed your life.
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Steger August 14, 2012 at 6:31 am

This is a great post. I absolutely agree about the 80/20 rule. It is much easier to stick to. Small steps and rewarding success are key.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

Thanks Kathy! And yes – completely agree – 80/20 is the way to go, and it’s not stressful because you have some wiggle room!

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dixya August 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

Anjali, I loved your 6 steps because they are very realistic and true. We all go through ups and downs and needs that 80/20 rule always in check- be it food, exercise, sleep etc. I am a big believer of 80/20 rule 🙂

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

That’s exactly right Dixya! I totally agree, the 80/20 rule can be applied to all aspects of your life!

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GC at Calm.Healthy.Sexy. August 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I love these tips! We would all feel so much better and enjoy life so much more if we followed them!

Gaye

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Thank you so much Gaye!! I totally agree – and they’re such easy changes to make too! So glad you find them helpful 🙂

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Janet August 19, 2012 at 1:15 am

I love your healthy eating ideas. I have been trying to keep fit and the brilliant ideas you got here are awesome. Thank you.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Awww thanks Janet!! I’m so happy my tips can help you on your path towards fitness and health. Keep it up!

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adam selby August 27, 2012 at 8:10 am

great article, couldnt recommend it enough, i studied nutrition at uni in in grays UK and the nutritional element is always pushed secondary to excersize. . . crazy. in fact my university grays essex pioneered some of the recent research showing links between stress, diet and strains of organ cancer in Western europe. their research is og -going but i recomend checking out the findings . . . may be a few months away yet though !!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Thanks Adam! I’m so glad you liked the article! I agree – you can’t just focus on exercise – it has to be a holistic approach to your health that includes exercise and nutrition!

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Ashni Das May 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Hi Anjali,

Just wanted to say thanks for all the great tips! The 80/20 rule is a really great idea. I know for myself, like you said, after one bad day discourgement sets in, and I feel like giving up straight away. Nice to know I’m not the only one.

I didn’t know sleep had such a vital impact on weight management too though, so thanks for including that.

Overall, I really liked your 6 Steps, and found them really helpful and easy to follow. Being realistic and understanding the different elements of your life are definitely the key to leading a healthy lifestyle!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Hi Ashni! No problem at all – I’m so glad they were helpful! And yes – it’s very important to not be too hard on yourself and to stay positive when it comes to being healthy. No one is perfect 100% of the time 🙂 Hope you are able to incorporate these 6 Steps more into your life! Stay well!

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Caldera Spas October 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Love this post! Very true. One thing we also stress is making time for YOU. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by busy schedules. Maintaining personal wellness is also about scheduling (if that’s what you need to do!) time for yourself. I enjoy 20 minutes each night in my spa. I sit back, close my eyes, and feel at peace with everything.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater October 16, 2013 at 7:39 am

That is a great point! Taking a little bit of time for yourself every day can greatly reduce stress and increase wellness. Taking a warm bath is a great way to “mimic” that spa feel!

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