Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle: A Realistic Path to HealthThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the idea of overhauling your lifestyle to create a healthier you, you’re not alone! But it doesn’t have to be extreme or daunting. With these 6 steps to a healthy lifestyle you will transform your health and well-being in a realistic way that will have a big impact on how you feel from the inside out!
I recently received a comment from a reader who had started thinking about making some healthy lifestyle changes, and wanted some tips on how to get started.
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.
I completely understood where she was coming from.
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: taking steps to a healthy 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!
Step #1: Move More
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?
Tips to Get Moving
- Stand every hour and stretch.
- Park farther away, and take the stairs.
- Use a standing desk if your workplace will allow it.
- Fit in a lunchtime walk. All you need is 30 minutes. Or break it into two 15 minute walks a day. An added bonus: for every hour you spend standing still vs. sitting still, you burn 30 extra calories.
Step #2: Get a Good Nights Rest
A third 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.
Benefits of Sleep
- Getting lots of sleep can help with weight management.
- 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).
Cons of Not Getting Enough Rest
- 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.
- Another study found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep activated reward centers in the brain for people when they looked at junk food while sleep deprived.
- Not enough sleep makes it more difficult to resist junk food!
Tips for Improving Sleep
- Create a relaxing pre-sleep ritual
- Power down at least 30-60 minutes before bed.
- Turn off all screens including phone, computer, TV, etc.
- Try reading or meditating.
Step #3: Make Healthier Eating Choices
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 to try to get you to consume fewer calories than you’re burning.
Instead of trying to “diet,” focus on building a healthy plate (as shown above).
Tips for Making Healthy Eating Choices
- Make healthy choices at meal time.
- Practice mindful eating (pay attention and savor what you eat!)
- Don’t eat while watching TV, looking at your phone, or working on your computer.
- Choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat whole grains.
- Enjoy lean protein.
- Drink water.
- Try meal planning.
Step #4: Manage Your Stress
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.
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: Understand Your Current Health
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.
Step #6: Use the 80/20 Rule
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.
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.
Tips for Following these Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle: You Can Do It!
- Give yourself specific and measurable goals.
- After you create your goals, make a plan for how you will accomplish them.
- Tell people about your goals to hold yourself accountable and to get the support you need.
- Don’t try to do everything all at once.
- Find yourself a walking or exercise buddy.
- Start a journal. Write down your goals, and check in with how your meeting those goals at the end of each day.
- Keep track of your health metrics from week to week and month to month.
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.