Getting healthy: is it on your to do list this year?
Or even just getting healthier?
‘Lose weight’ usually tops the list of new year’s resolutions and it’s probably the first failure you’ll rack up for the year, too.
Instead of focusing on the outcome, try focusing on the process. At least, that’s what I’m doing this year.
Over the last decade, I’ve watched the numbers on the scale increasing and have dutifully made many attempts to diet the weight off. Diets all on their own are tough, add a sleep-deprived, super stressed body and it’s downright torture.
So, instead of being caught up in the numbers, I’ve made a promise to myself to focus on being healthier: eating better, sleeping better, and getting regular exercise outside in the fresh air and sunshine (and even if the weather is bad).
Focusing on being healthier means that I’m not adding extra stress to my life but actually finding ways to ameliorate it. The simple truth is that when you eat real food, get sufficient sleep and take the time to stretch your legs, not only do your stress hormones decrease but you’re better able to handle any new stress that comes your way. Win/win in my opinion!
If you’re interested in getting healthier this year, regardless of your reason for doing so, I think you’ll find these tips very useful.
Note: This post “Resolutions You Can Keep: Getting Healthy” contains affiliate links.
Eat real food
Let’s face it, most of the products in your average grocery store are better described as food-like substances. They’re full of additives and cheap ingredients that amount to little more than fillers. And, oftentimes, the stated nutrient value is a result of being fortified with synthetic vitamins.
Processed food is also expensive.
If getting healthy is on your agenda this year, the most important thing you can do for yourself, is to eat real food, bought fresh (if possible), and cooked at home. If that seems like a huge challenge for you, try replacing one or two meals a week with home-cooked meals from scratch and build it from there. Menu planning and bulk cooking are also great ways to make sure there’s always real food on the menu.
If you haven’t seen it yet, put Fed Up on your viewing schedule.
But don’t stop there…
Consume much less alcohol
Yep. I know. That’s going to be a big ask for a lot of people but let’s face it, alcohol creates way more problems than it solves (if it solves any!)
Even if you only drink four standard alcoholic drinks a week, that can add up to 1200 calories to your intake for the week. For example: a 12oz glass of beer = 153 calories; a 5oz glass of red wine = 125 calories; and a can of rum and coke will add another 248 calories.
Getting healthy (or healthier) by cutting down your alcohol consumption is simple and relatively painless. Better still, cut it out completely for a few months and see if you can break the habit completely.
Chocolate, sweets, and candy bars
When your energy is low, grabbing chocolate or something sweet is a quick energy fix. Or is it? The truth is, it steals more of your energy than it gives and all that sugar goes straight to your waistline. Trust me on this. I know from experience.
The biology of this is both simple and complex. The simple bit is, if you consume something that is immediately converted to glucose, your body reacts by pumping out insulin, which mops up all that glucose and sends it straight to the liver where it’s turned into fat. So, your quick buzz is quickly replaced with a rapid drop in blood sugar. And what do we do when our blood sugar is low? You guessed it, grab something sweet.
Anything that’s mostly sugar doesn’t deserve a spot in a healthy diet but it is highly addictive and a challenging habit to break.
So, do what you can to keep your energy on an even keel by eating real food and getting enough rest.
Cakes and cookies
Cafe culture has a lot to answer for where our food habits are concerned. Who can resist all those ‘coffee & cake’ specials?
When I was young, cake was reserved for celebrations and special events. Now, it seems like morning and afternoon tea breaks are sufficiently special to warrant cake.
Save yourself a boatload of additional, empty calories by skipping the cake and cookies except for truly special occasions.
Like the sweet stuff already mentioned, baked goods (home-baked or store-bought) have little to no nutrient value and will play merry hell with your blood sugar and waistline.
The good news is that once you break the sweet habit, you won’t be tempted by all that sugar.
I admit to having a bit of a sweet tooth but when it comes to savory snacks, I’m powerless to resist.
Potato chips, corn chips, anything puffed and covered in orange cheesy flavor and I’m a goner. You know that catchphrase, “You can’t stop at one!”? Well, there’s a reason for that. It’s all the flavor enhancers they add to the product.
Sure, you could try the unflavoured ‘salted’ variety (check the ingredients for the 62* numbers first) but the truth is, there’s no nutritional value in a bag of potato chips. None. It’s just entertainment value for your taste buds. Do the rest of your body a favor and ignore your taste buds.
If you must snack on something savory during your Netflix marathon, try air poppedÂ popcorn with real butter and some salt.
I was going to say sugary drinks but current research says once your body recognizes sweet, it reacts as though it’s expecting sugar, so artificially sweetened drinks are an issue, too.
Soda and soft drinks are major culprits in the battle against sugar and the process of getting healthy. It’s incredibly easy to consume the equivalent to a normal day’s calorie intake just in fizzy drinks. A 20oz (600ml) bottle of cola adds 258 calories to your intake for the day. Many of us drink much, much more than that. And, there’s not one single nutrient in those 258 calories.
An apple and a glass of water will quench your thirst, fill you up, satisfy your sweet tooth, provide nutrients, and only adds 72 calories to your daily intake.
And, don’t think that makes apple juice a better option than soda. It has more calories than the equivalent amount of cola (292 calories) and the nutritional value is nowhere near the same as the four apples – you probably couldn’t finish – for the same calories.
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Getting healthy means getting some exercise, too
While food is probably the biggest contributor to getting healthy, exercise has a role to play, too.
Exercise is a great way to de-stress, maintain your muscle mass, and keep your joints moving as they should. The trick is to find the exercise that suits you best and you enjoy.
One of the things I love about my daily walk is it’s my chance to enjoy some peaceful thinking time or listen to podcasts or TED talks (like one of these) or an audiobook. I do my best to get out first thing in the morning because I feel energized and ready to take on the day.
You don’t need to sign up for expensive gym memberships or buy expensive equipment in order to add exercise to your daily routine.
Here are some ideas to try that get you moving and are seriously frugal.
Now that we’re a one-car family, and I work from home, walking is becoming my usual mode of transport.
Walking is also one of the best ways to get started with an exercise program as it doesn’t place a huge amount of stress on your joints or heart.
Research has also shown that just 30 minutes of walking a day can positively impact the mood of depressed patients more quickly than antidepressants. So that morning walk can help you feel brighter and more optimistic, too
All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and you’re set.
You can use a treadmill if your outdoor options are limited but getting outside in the fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine will give your walk an added boost.
DIY Bootcamp Training
You don’t need to pay someone to yell at you. Unless you do… :-)
It’s a simple process to create your own boot-camp-style circuit training workout. Start with the basic bodyweight exercises like burpees, lunges, planks, squats, and push-ups and add more repetitions as your fitness improves. Here’s a great article from Shape to help you get started.
Another option is to check out the local park. Lots of municipalities are building obstacle courses in parkland. This could help add some variety to your training, too.
Take the stairs
Did you know that climbing stairs burns more calories than jogging? No? Me, either!
So, the next time you have an opportunity to choose between the stairs and an elevator or escalator; choose the stairs.
Just start with one flight and build on that. If you work on the 15th floor of a building, get off the elevator on the 14th floor and walk the rest of the way. Same applies if you live in a multi-story apartment building.
Incidental exercise like this will make a big difference to your fitness over time and is a great way to work on getting healthy every day.
Play with your kids and/or pets
Grab the kids, a ball, or a frisbee and the dog and, head to the local park for some outdoor fun (and exercise).
Apart from the exercise you’ll get, it’s time spent ‘un-plugged’ and in nature. You can’t lose.
And, you get to let your inner child loose for a while. Getting healthy can be fun, too.
There’s a reason boxers skip.
Not only does it give your heart and lungs a workout, it also promotes balance and flexibility, and it’s low impact so it strengthens your bones without stressing them too much. But the best bit? It burns calories. Fast. Skipping burns twice as many calories as walking so you can pack an intense workout into less time.
If your cardio fitness is a bit below par, start slowly. You’ll need to build your co-ordination, too.
Getting Healthy Challenge
So who’s with me?
Are you ready to challenge the status quo where your health is concerned?
Eating better and getting some exercise will help you look better but just as importantly, it will make you feel better. This is my personal number one goal for the year. And, before the end of the year, I’m determined to:
- Feel stronger; physically and mentally
- Have more energy
- A brighter outlook
- And, fit into my favorite clothes again.
I believe focusing on the process of getting healthy, day by day, meal by meal results in real lifestyle changes. Building habits along the way to support that change.
This year, make a resolution that you’ll keep.
Is ‘Lose Weight’ on your resolution list for the year? What about ‘Get Fit’? Will a change of mindset and focus on the process make those goals easier to achieve?