5 Healthy Resolutions You Can Actually Keep!
Forty-one percent of Americans made a New Year's resolution last year. Of them, 33% resolved to be healthier in some way. Either by eating better or just bettering their health overall. Over 50% of them didn't keep it up past a month. That's not because they're lazy or un-motivated. Most often it's because they bit off more than they could chew! (Pun intended). Getting and staying healthy is about making small lifestyle changes that add up to big impact.
People are often amazed at the major changes that can come about from small, simple efforts. As a Health Coach I suggest applying the "crowding out" method. That means you give up nothing! Love chocolate? Eat it. Indulge in cookies? Go for it. Bread is your spirit animal? Have at it. BUT try ADDING IN any one of the following things and see how your body reacts. Crowding out works because when you fill your life (and body) with good things...ultimately you "crowd out" the bad! Above all else, be kind to yourself. Give yourself the true time it takes to create and maintain change, and accept where those changes lead you. You just might amaze yourself in 2018!
5. Drink more water.
By far and away the most simple - and yet people don't do it! The easiest way to make sure you're getting enough water is to invest in a reusable bottle that you can keep with you and refill throughout your day. Try a fun and personalized one like these S'Well Bottles. You also want to get most of your water in at the start of the day. Try having 2 tall glasses before you even eat breakfast. A third before lunch; and one more tall glass before dinner. This helps a few things. By drinking more water at the start of your day, you can drink less towards the end; which means you're less likely to get up in the middle of the night to pee. Now you're getting better sleep! Drinking water BEFORE meals helps prepare the stomach and digestive organs for the meal that's coming and helps your body process the food. It also helps you eat a bit less! Often when we feel we're hungry, we're actually just thirsty, or bored.
Deep, conscious breathing can calm the nervous system and keep stress at bay. Our constantly hectic lifestyle doesn't often allow us to focus on how we're breathing. But if you take stock and notice that you're breathing through your mouth or taking short breaths then your body is in a constant state of "fight or flight." That elevated level of stress won't allow your brain or body to relax and do the things they're meant to do! Take even 5 minutes to turn away from all the screens and monitors, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe deeply, in through your nose, sending the air deep into your belly. If it help, place your hand right over your belly-button and make it rise and fall with your breath. Hold the air for about 4-6 seconds, then let it all out through your mouth. If noise comes out, that's great! This simple practice can help your entire body operate better. Try doing it for more and more time every week.
3. Take Time to Think
Much like breathing, our never ending hustle and bustle doesn't leave us much time to be in our own heads. But if getting organized and motivated are at all part of your resolution to better yourself, you're going to have to take time to think. There are a few ways to go about this. I prefer to simply sit quietly with my coffee in the morning and allow my mind to wander. I keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down any "to-dos" that come to mind so I don't worry about remembering them. This allows my mind to be creative and come up with solutions, instead of focusing on my errands list. Another way is to keep a morning journal and write down everything that comes to mind in a stream of consciousness style. It's not for anyone to see, it's simply to get it out of your head! In either case, clearing those mental cobwebs daily allows you to focus on the day ahead and the task at hand! It's best to do this in the morning, but if the thought of taking any extra time in the morning makes you cringe, you can do it at night before bed.
2. Eat Your Greens!
This one also seems logical but it's SO difficult for us! But what most Americans are missing from their diet more than anything is green vegetables. I believe that part of our problem is how we think about a meal. There's been so much focus on protein, carbs and fat over the years that we no longer look at vegetables as part of the meal! Changing that image of your plate can help you get more greens in. Ideally our plates should be 2/3 vegetables and the last 1/3 should be split between protein and grain. That doesn't mean you eat a cold salad with every meal either. Try adding dark leafy greens to pasta dishes, stewed meats and even eggs! And experiment with different greens. Kale is different than chard, spinach has a more mild flavor than beet greens, arugula is miles from romaine. If you don't like one, it doesn't mean you don't like any of them!
And if you really can't bring yourself to eat your greens, drink 'em! Spinach, celery, parsley, even kale can all be added to fruit smoothies to help cover up their flavor. But your body knows they're there! Fresh is best, but frozen veggies are just fine as well. If you have to buy canned that's ok; and something is always better than nothing!
1. Cook Your Own Food
This is, of course, my number 1 tip for 2018! It's the mission of the Cucina! Plus it improves your life threefold! Cooking your own food, regardless of what you're making, will always be healthier for you. It's less expensive AND improves the environment. When you cook, you're in control of everything that goes into the dish! And you're far less likely to add too much salt, sugar or fat when compared to processed foods. Not only that but food made with real, whole ingredients contains far fewer harmful chemicals than packaged goods.
Cooking for yourself has also been found to be less expensive, then eating out - even fast food! When you incorporate the healthcare costs resulting from consistently eating out, it's always less expensive to cook your own food. Timeless, simple meals like rice and beans, or pasta cost pennies per serving. There's a reason the whole world eats some version of those dishes. Any budget can allow for home cooking.
Finally, cooking at home can improve your environment - both in and out of your house! Families that eat together are closer. Children who grow up in homes where they sat down to even one meal a week with family are happier and healthier. And putting your money behind locally grown and raised foods helps the air, water and soil in your area. On top of supporting your neighborhood farmer.
Make an effort to cook, even one day a week. Use your day off to prepare a big batch of a healthy soup or hearty chili that you can portion out and eat all week. Or cook a few things for the family to pick over as they go about their busy lives. Of course there's plenty of inspiration right here in the Cucina.
Any one of these things will greatly impact your health for the better in 2018. Remember, it's small steps that bring about the greatest change. I hope you have a happy, healthy new year!