Often times when people look to become “healthier,” whether because they want to, feel they should or were told to, they aren’t sure where to begin. Improving your wellness can seem like such a grandiose task when you start to think about dietary changes, exercise, giving up your vices, stress reduction etc. Dietary changes alone can seem like an impossible feat, mostly because you instantly think it means “eat better and eat less,” synonymous with “eat bland foods and always feel hungry.” This sentiment is often what derails ones hopes of becoming “healthier.” When you try and make unsustainable and extreme changes to your lifestyle, you set yourself up for potential problems.
A giant misconception about health, thanks to diet culture, is that its this all or nothing situation. You either need to be living a rigid lifestyle of health foods and daily exercise or you’re unhealthy and whats the point? Yes, its unhealthy to be sedentary and avoid eating any produce or whole grains, but its also rather unhealthy to feel the need to eat 5 servings of vegetables in every meal, and avoid (insert any demonized food category/group), and feel like you need to exercise every single day to function. True and wholesome wellness exists somewhere in the grey area.
Another misconception of becoming healthier is the idea of always needing to “cut things out” of our lives. With the exception of cigarettes, drugs, and excessive alcohol consumption, there isn’t necessarily a need to completely eliminate something from your life. You don’t need to live the rest of your life saying no to every single cookie, hamburger or donut put in front of you, and a fast food meal every once in a while is not going to give you a heart attack. When you feel the need to completely eliminate something, it makes it that much more alluring. You crave it because it feels forbidden. Instead, look for ways to improve your health by adding things to your life, like more produce and whole foods, and still enjoy things in true moderation.
If you feel like there is some room in your life to be healthier, then there might be, but that doesn’t mean you have to do this complete 360 degree overhaul of your life. Start with one change and stick to it. Then when that feels like its become such a habit you don’t even think about it anymore, add another small change, and so on.
So today I’m bringing you 3 incredibly simple changes you can make and steps you can take to make it easier to incorporate it into your life.
Get that H2O
I know, you’ve heard this hundreds of times, I’m sure. But if there was just one change you adopted today, I’d make it this one. Our bodies are comprised of roughly 50-60% water. Water is essential to our body’s function on a systemic and cellular level and if you’re not consuming even remotely enough, your body is not going to function as optimally as it could. Adequate hydration is essential for your digestion, the health of your skin, and your liver and kidney’s ability to detoxify your body.
Here are somethings you can do to make increased water consumption easier:
- Invest in a Quality Water Bottle: When you have a water bottle you love, you might be more likely to carry it around everywhere and If you invest some money into a a nice one, you make also feel more inclined to use it. A stylish and quality water bottle certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a lot of great middle range products, like Healthy Human Water Bottles. Roughly 20 dollars and they will keep your drinks ice cold, or warm as can be. Plus they’re non-toxic, leak proof, and double walled (no sweating!).
- Naturally Flavor Your Water: Sometimes water on its own can be bland and uninteresting. But it doesn’t have to be! Adding lemon to your water is one tried and true way of flavoring, but you can take it a step further by adding fresh mint and cucumber. In the hottest days of summer, nothing is more refreshing than a giant mason jar full of water with mint, cucumber, and lemon slices. Another great way to flavor your water is by adding few chunks of watermelon. Watermelon has a decent amount of potassium so by adding it to your water, your creating your own electrolyte drink. As I write this, I realize this will be a great future blog post. Stay tuned, I’m going to come up with as many ways to flavor your water as possible!
- Schedule your water consumption: I try not to be dogmatic about my wellness, and suggest that others do the same, but in this case it may be helpful. If you set schedule of when you consume some of your daily water, it may be a great kickstarter into making this a habit. For instance, maybe plan to drink 1 full glass when you first wake up and then one more before you leave for work. Then you’re already maybe 30 ounces down before truly starting your day. Or maybe set a timer for 1 hour after you finish eating, and when that timer ends drink down a full glass. Its better to try and sip through out the day, but sometimes thats not practical for people so scheduling glasses of water may be a better way.
Add More Veggies to Your Diet
Again, another one you’ve definitely heard before, but I am here to tell you that this does not mean you must switch your entire dinner for a plate of salad in the name of health. Vegetables hold so much much nutritional value, each one with its own set of vitamin and mineral content. Even if you add just one extra serving of vegetables to your day, you’re doing yourself a favor. A few ways to make this easier for you:
- Start with Sweeter Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, carrots, and fresh peas may be a more palatable choice if you’re not accustom to eating may veggies.
- Find your Go-To Greens: I love vegetables, but even i’ll admit that I don’t love all greens. Some taste way better to me than others. With a little trial and error I’ve learned that I love kale, spinach, endive and green leaf lettuce. When greens are too soft I am really turned off by the texture, so I don’t ever buy them. I encourage you to experiment with greens in your salad and figure out which ones you like best, so it makes it easier to purchase weekly and throw into your meals or eat as a side salad.
- Just add a Side Salad: Again, eating better doesn’t mean you need to replace your meal with a salad; instead, think about just adding a small side salad to your lunch or dinner. Adding a side salad to a meal may be an easier place to start if you’re not sure about how to cook vegetables to your liking.
- Be Liberal and Experimental with Seasoning: An easy go to is always sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder. But you’ll be surprised by how great carrots can taste with curry powder, or how wonderful lemon and cayenne on brussel sprouts can be.
- Sauté or Roast in Grass Fed Butter or Olive Oil: Not only will this make your vegetables taste even better, many vegetables contain the fat soluable Vitamins A, D, E, & K, which means the vitamins from those veggies will be absorbed better when consumed with a fat. Double Win!
Incorporate More Movement
Yes, I know. I’m sure you’ve already been told a million times that exercise is important to your health. I’m not going to sugar coat it, it is; but lets discuss what counts as exercise. So often people can be a little intimidated by adding exercise to their routine when they think of standard exercise, cardio, and going to the gym. So rather than call it exercise, lets call it movement. Its important to move your body. Movement improves the health and strength of our muscles, it lubricates our joints, and helps prevent the development of osteoporosis. You don’t need to go the gym to reap the benefits of daily movement.
- Go for a Daily Walk: one of the easiest ways to add movement in to your life is to start going for a daily walk. Start small, a 10 minute walk is better than a 0 minute walk, but once you start getting used to 10 minutes, you’ll easily be able to add more increments of time.
- Find What Moves You: I wrote a previous post about this here. One of the ways to ensure you move regularly is to find the exercise/movement you truly enjoy doing, so you look forward to it. Walks, Barre/Yoga Classes, Zumba, Swimming, Tennis, etc. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something and enjoy it.
- Stand up and Stretch: When you sit for too long, the pressure placed on your lumbar spine can build up and cause low back and hip pain. The posture in your cervical spine and shoulders can also be compromised when you spend a lot of time at your desk or on the computer. Standing up once an hour and stretching can help off set the muscular imbalances caused by being in the same position for too long.
- Team Up: Find an activity you enjoy doing with a friend, family member or your significant other. It can be more motivating to move when it also means you get to spend time with some one you love!
While there are easily 100 other simple tips I could give on how to improve your wellness, I’ll leave it here for now. I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice though: Remember, living a life of wellness doesn’t mean you must obsess over your wellness. It doesn’t mean you must be perfect. It doesn’t mean you can only eat salad and have to hit the gym every day. Live the life you enjoy living and just add a cool water bottle to tote around, try some new vegetables and go for a 15 minute walk with your spouse or friend. Just 3 simple changes can make a big impact on your health and well being. You’re in control of your wellness!