Tuesday, August 21, 2018

11 Habits for a Healthier Lifestyle











One of TCB's most frequently asked topics is about health and wellness, so today I am sharing 11 habits I've personally adopted to help me live a healthy lifestyle. I am by no means an expert on the topic, but these are things I have learned to incorporate into my daily life to help keep me on track - and they work. Keep in mind, it takes 21 days to create a habit, so give yourself at least three weeks of repetition before giving up! I have found that once I've created the habit, it doesn't feel like a chore anymore. It just becomes part of life and you don't really have to think about it, kind of like brushing your teeth - you just do it. Here are 11 habits to help you live a healthier lifestyle:

1. Drink Water 

I am the culprit of not drinking enough water, and used to go all day with only taking a sip or two with my meals and that was it. Water is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body, and skin. Once I realized the importance of drinking water, thirsty or not, I figured out a way to make drinking enough water a habit. Each morning I wake up and fill a YETI cup up with sliced lemons and water. This cup goes everywhere with me, and I refill it as I go. Another great way to make sure you're getting enough water is by using this Healthish bottle. It has each hour of the day labeled on the bottle, so you can measure where the water line should be at whatever time of the day it is. It's basically an accountability tool for drinking water! Genius.

2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night 

I used to think I was getting enough sleep, although I always felt exhausted. I calculated the amount of sleep I was getting simply by what time I went to sleep and woke up. Little did I know, I'm awake for over an hour each night! I invested in a Fitbit prior to finding this out which calculates your sleep for you. It includes time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep and calculates how many hours or minutes you spend awake each night. I've adjusted my bed time and alarm in the morning to allow for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep and I feel a world of difference in terms of alertness, concentration, and energy levels. If you're not in the market or ready to spend money on a Fitbit, apps like Sleep Cycle and Sleep Better can help track your sleep patterns as well.

3. Put your phone away 1 hour prior to going to bed

I used to be that girl that curled up in bed with my phone. It's so easy to get caught up in scrolling on Instagram and Facebook, but it's actually a stimulator and can disrupt your sleep. A few months ago I decided I was going to put the phone away 1 hour before bed and trade in my scrolling time for a TV show with my husband, or a few chapters of a book I enjoy. I feel so much more relaxed, I fall asleep quicker, and I sleep better! Most days, I also wake up on my own prior to my alarm sounding. Studies show that the blue light from your phone is proven to disrupt Melatonin levels, which in turn affects the quality of your sleep.

4. Remove processed sugar from your diet

I know, I know - you're probably thinking this sounds crazy. But hear me out! When the owner of HSM proposed this as an idea during my wedding training last year, I thought she was nuts. But, I also thought it would work - so I gave it a try and it was a total game changer. Because you're only removing processed sugar from your diet, you can still have natural sugar (in moderation).  Meaning, you can still have a glass of wine, berries, etc. Processed sugar has zero benefit for you. It isn't a healthy fat, it doesn't carry natural anti-oxidants, it's not a source of protein etc. It is merely an empty carb with no value. I will admit, the first two and a half weeks of this challenge were extremely difficult. I had headaches, I felt super fatigued, and slow. At around the 3 week mark (or 21 days as mentioned above), my body got used to functioning without the sugar I was previously putting into it daily. The headaches went away, I started to feel much more energized, I wasn't experiencing sugar cravings at all anymore, and I felt super clean. If you can't commit to this 100%, try removing it from certain parts of your diet in spurts. I started by reducing the amount of sugar in my coffee in the mornings, and then slowly moved on to removing it from other parts of my diet before I completely removed it all together. Every step you take, is a step in the right direction.

5. Invest in a tracker

There are lots of trackers out there these days. Some more affordable than others, but nonetheless - they're an excellent tool for accountability. I personally own a Fitbit and track all of my goals in the Fitbit app. I set a goal for steps, stairs, calories burned, workouts per week, hours of sleep per night, and active hours (number of hours with 250+ steps). If I'm not meeting my goals, the tracker alerts me periodically throughout the day that I'm behind, and helps motivate me to get up and get moving. I'm a super goal oriented person, so these small daily goals help keep me motivated! It's also fun sharing personal highs with your friends who own a tracker in the app!

6. Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably already know that fitness is something I commit to six days a week (I take Sundays off). Studies have shown that just 30 minutes a day can result in various health benefits, including weight loss. It's so easy to tell yourself you don't have time, but at the end of the day - 30 minutes is nothing and there is no excuse to not make it a priority. Find a time of day that you can commit to regularly, and stick to that for at least 21 days. For example, if you prefer to workout in the morning, tell yourself you will do 30 minutes of cardio Monday - Friday at 6:00 AM for at least three weeks. I have found that eventually your mind builds it into your day as part of your routine, and the actual act of getting to the gym becomes much easier. Not to mention, the health benefits of doing this are exponential.

7. Measure out your snacks

Since I left my job in corporate America, my snacking has minimized. However when I do snack, which is typically to bridge the gap from lunch to dinner, I measure out my snacks to match the serving size. Snacks like almonds, pistachios, hummus and carrots etc are all deemed healthy, but it's all too easy to eat until you feel full if you don't measure out the proper portion. Snacking is not meant to replace a meal. A super easy way to make sure you are eating the appropriate portion is to pre-plan your weekly snacks on Sundays. I used to measure out 1/4 cup of pistachios and put them in a sandwich baggy to take to work. Other alternatives are the 100 calorie snack packs of almonds or hummus singles.

8. Plan/Prep your meals

Meal prepping is one of the best ways to stay on track and works exceptionally well if you work a traditional 9-5. If you're anything like me, once you're hit with hunger and you have nothing on hand to eat, the nearest food item is your next victim - healthy or not. Having a meal already prepped and ready to go removes this temptation! It allows you to have total control over what's in your food. Sure, it's easy to order the "healthier" item on the menu at a restaurant, but lots of times that "healthy" item may be cooked in butter or drenched in a fat laden sauce you aren't aware of. Meal prepping lets you limit the usage of unwanted ingredients, saves time, money and removes bad temptations.

9. Find a routine and stick to it

While this may sound monotenous, it doesn't have to be. Routines offer structure and organization that allows you to improve your health. I am an extremely regimented person, and feel the healthiest when I am at home and my routine is in full swing. Traveling throws a curve ball in this as my sleep pattern is typically disrupted, I workout at different times of the day or don't work out at all, the food I'm eating isn't what I would normally eat at home etc. This is always when I feel my worst. Finding a routine can be as simple as waking up and going to sleep around the same time every day, working out at the same time every day (it doesn't have to be the same workout, choose different classes or options to keep it interesting), eating within the same time frame daily etc. We are creatures of habit, and routines can offer better health benefits along with efficiency. Try it out!

10.  Improve your relationships 

Living a healthier lifestyle isn't just limited to diet and excercise. Who you surround yourself with can be a big factor in how you feel. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals and lifestyles as you. You are so much more likely to connect and feel close to someone who relates to your openness, goals, and like mindedness than someone of the opposite nature. Relationships also require deposits. Deposit positivity and make an effort to surround yourself with positive people in person, not just online. My dad always said, "you can only count your best friends on one hand" - take care of them. A great way to stay connected to your close circle of friends is to have a standing dinner date or happy hour once a month. For example, the third Thursday of every month is girls night. And lastly, get rid of toxic people in your life. This is easier said than done, but we all have that one person wether it be family or friend, that does nothing for us in the way of lifting us up. Studies have shown that when you feel rejected by someone, your mind and body can actually register that as pain. So in that case, make a choice to remove them from your life.


11. Write down what you eat for a short period of time to observe patterns 

I use the MyFitnessPal app for this. A few months ago, I decided to switch out some of my foods with healthier options. For example, I switched milk to almond milk, peanut butter to almond butter and eggs to egg whites. However, I started to feel really bloated and my stomach was cramping constantly. When I wrote down my symptoms in a note in my phone as they would happen, I would go back to the MyFitnessPal app to see what I had consumed that day and almonds were the common denominator. This allowed me to realize I had an almond allergy, and that they make me feel awful. If you are experiencing constant headaches, bloating, or any type of symptom on a regular basis - try writing down your foods for 21 days to observe a pattern of behavior. This will help you eliminate items from your diet that your body does not process well. 


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