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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle: A Realistic Path to Health

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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!

woman eating a salad as part of steps to a healthy lifestyle

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

woman's legs and feet running on black top in the woods

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

woman sleeping in bed of white sheets

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. 
  • 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

Harvard's healthy eating plate recommendation - source - 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 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

You are now entering a stress free zone sign on wooded path -  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. 

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

pulse on screen with heart around it

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

80/20 written on chalkboard

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.

Check out these other helpful articles to take additional steps to a healthy lifestyle!

18 responses to “Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle: A Realistic Path to Health”

  1. 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.

    • 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!

  2. 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!

    • 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!

  3. 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 !!

    • 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!

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

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

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

    Gaye

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

  6. 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 🙂

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

  7. 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.

    • 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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