Healthy Living: Making Changes
by Dee Lambert, LCSW
Living a healthy lifestyle is important for your physical and mental health. Eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help reduce stress, and improve your overall mood. Physical exercise and healthy eating habits can also have a significant improvement on chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The human body needs healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains and protein to function at a healthier state.
The majority of our society did not grow up eating only natural healthy whole foods. Most people grew up eating processed foods that are high in fat, salt and other unhealthy ingredients. Now, we have a better knowledge of what the body needs to function at a healthier state. Although having that knowledge, and making the changes necessary, can be very difficult. Developing new habits takes time, dedication and perseverance. If changes are made too quickly failure may be inevitable. It is more important to make slow lasting lifestyle changes, which in turn make it easier for those changes to become healthier habits.
There are some healthier actions and choices you can make to begin the process of becoming a healthier you:
- Keep a food journal. This can help you target your areas of weakness. Once you see what changes need to be made, you can slowly start replacing unhealthy foods with healthier choices.
- Avoid purchasing unhealthy foods (junk food). Having temptations around the house will make it more difficult to stick to a healthy diet.
- Most vegetables are low in calories, so buy more vegetables when you are shopping at the grocery store, and avoid canned vegetables buying fresh or frozen instead.
- Eat plenty of fruit, but remember fruit has natural sugars. Limit yourself to no more than 2 ½ cups of fruit per day.
- The best protein is fish and chicken, but you can also get your daily protein from foods such as nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese to name a few.
- Eat whole grains and low fat dairy products.
- Rather than frying in grease, bake your food.
- Use canola oil or olive oil instead of vegetable oil, lard or butter.
- Try different methods of cooking, such as baking, steaming, boiling or stir fry.
- Do not skip meals. It is very bad for your body and your metabolism. If you are not able eat a meal, at least eat a healthy snack.
- Try one new recipe a week. Keeping a fresh and intriguing menu will help battle the cravings that most people struggle with while trying to eat healthier.
- Limit your starch intake. Some common starches are potatoes, corn, green peas, white breads, pastas, white rice, flour tortillas and corn tortillas.
Eating healthy is a great start, but it is not enough to make a healthier you. It is imperative to be active and exercise daily. Exercise increases your metabolism to burn more calories that you consume on a daily basis. A 20-minute cardio workout or exercise a day can be enough to increase your metabolism to burn more calories. A cardio workout or exercise is anything that gets your heart beating at a higher rate for a consistent period of time. A few examples of cardio exercise and workouts include:
- Bike riding
- Aerobic workouts
Most people would agree it is easier to change your eating habits than starting an exercise plan. Try different forms of exercise to find the one that best fits you, your abilities and your schedule. Once you find the exercise that best fits you, remember to start out slow. Dedicate time each day to exercise, but you may consider starting your length of workout to only 5 minutes. Over time you can slowly increase that time to 20 minutes a day. The key is to try and exercise every day. You will get the most out of your workout if it is done first thing in the morning before you eat. Just remember that it is more important to find what works best for you and your schedule, which will make you successful, consistent and dedicated to exercise. Another important point to remember is to avoid sedentary activity first thing in the morning, or when you first get home in the evening. Chances are once you sit down to watch television, read, surf the internet, etc. you will not be motivated to exercise afterwards.
Finally, do not beat yourself up when you “fall off the wagon” from your healthier diet and exercise plan. This is a lifelong process, and with a slow and steady plan you will see a difference in how you feel physically and mentally. Never give up!