Making the switch to a healthier lifestyle is tough. With trendy diets in the media, miracle pills on the market, and varying health facts and research which often contradict one another introduced daily to the public, taking the first steps towards health can be confusing and overwhelming. People hesitate to start because they equate “healthy” with restriction, a reluctant upheaval of their current habits. While breaking unhealthy habits is necessary towards a healthier lifestyle, those habits don’t have to be broken all at the same time. Making small, simple changes in your daily life will help create new habits and make it easier to get your mind and body used to a gradually healthier lifestyle.
Start by assessing your current eating habits. Introduce healthy substitutions into your diet and use them whenever possible. Some examples:
- Replace soda, juices and other sweetened beverages with water or unsweetened tea.
Why this works: Drinking sweetened beverages three times a day can add up to around 400 calories and 90 grams of sugar. Cutting out these excess calories can help you lose almost a pound a week.
- Replace white bread and pasta with whole wheat or whole grain products
Why this works: White breads are processed, meaning most of the nutrients have been removed. Switching to whole grain products, which retain nutrients such as fiber and protein, helps you stay fuller longer and leads to weight loss.
- Replace that side order of fries with a side order of salad
Why this works: Nobody wants to give up the fries, but fresh vegetables trumps deep fried potatoes in the nutritional battle every time. Make the sacrifice next time you eat out and avoid excess fat, salt and calories.
- Replace full fat dairy products with low-fat or skim
Why this works: Skim products have the same amount of protein as full fat products for less calories and fat. Use full fat products such as whole milk, butter and heavy cream sparingly.
- Replace store bought with homemade
Why this works: You have no control over the ingredients, fat content or calorie count in store bought products. Try looking up recipes and recreating foods such as granola bars, pizzas, and smoothies at home - they’re easy and cheaper to make, and you have full control over ingredients, flavor and nutrition.
Move on to exercise habits. If you’re not used to working out, start by incorporating more activity into your daily routine. Some examples:
- Park your car further away and walk to your destination
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Get up and stretch or take a walk in between classes/work breaks
- Try different desk exercises
- Whenever you find yourself aimlessly on the computer or watching television, turn it off and take a 15 minute walk instead
- Do housework and chores with vigor - clean and burn calories simultaneously
- Get involved in a club or hobby that involves physical activity - whether it’s gardening or kickboxing
No matter what shape you’re in, all these small changes are attainable goals when you don’t know where to start. Once you start incorporating changes into your life, you’ll find it easier and rewarding to keep going. Those small changes will eventually make a big difference.