06 Jan 15 healthy lifelong habits
Many people view January 1 as an opportunity to start fresh, setting health goals, such as losing weight, improving their diets, and starting an exercise routine. All too often though, they set unrealistic and unachievable goals, leading most to break their resolutions within a few weeks, only to repeat the process all over again a year later. How frustrating to go through the same ordeal year after year without seeing any progress.
It’s time to break this cycle and making realistic and simple resolutions that turn into healthy habits, is the way to go. Here are my top 15 – start small and slow; give them time to become healthy habits; and keep tabs on your progress as you go. It’s never too late for a healthier you — and for the record, January 1 is only one of 365 days in a year that can offer a fresh start.
- Sit less, move more. Consider the ways you can add more activity into your day… because choosing to sit less and move more can add up to big gains in your health. Walk a few blocks instead of driving; hop off public transit a stop or two early; grab your morning coffee from a coffee shop a few blocks away; take stairs instead of escalators and elevators; get up from your desk every 30 minutes to refill your water bottle; consider a standing desk…. think about the many ways you can break the sitting cycle each day.
- Cook at home. As a long-term vegetarian, I have learned to make healthier, tastier food than I can get in just about any restaurant, and serve myself only the portion I want. When you shop for and prepare your own snacks and meals, you take control over your nutrition. You’ll save a bundle and be healthier for it too.
- Eat whole foods. Whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy proteins, offer the nutrients your body needs to function at an optimal level. Research shows following a whole-foods-based diet can significantly reduce heart disease risk factors, body weight, and blood sugar levels, as well as lower your risk for many diseases. Fill your grocery cart with healthy simple foods and then add one or two indulgences you can enjoy in moderation. My guilty pleasure is dark chocolate (85 or 90% dark) and I enjoy a small square or two every day, without any guilt whatsoever.
- Take more “me” time. A little self care will help you give your best to others. Sit back with an herbal tea; meditate for 10 minutes a day; go for a walk on your own; do what works for you.
- Limit screen time. Give Netflix a rest; put your phone down; and unplug the electronics. Swapping just 30 minutes of screen time (have the kids do this too) for active time (like a walk) can offer a significant boost to your health. Think of it like this: swap just 30 minutes a day for active time and you’ll find 3.5 hours of time for activity each week or 182 hours in the year. See? Little changes can really add up!
- Spend time outdoors. There are so many proven health benefits to spending time outdoors. Try a walk on your lunch hour or after dinner; eat your lunch outdoors instead of at your desk; be active outdoors instead or at the gym.
- Be physically active. Many consider sitting the new smoking… too much sitting truly endangers your health. Instead of dreading exercise, focus on trying a variety of activities until you find one or two you actually enjoy. I urge one, two, or more different activities so that you use different muscles and muscles differently and reduce the odds of injury. You don’t need the latest workout wear or a membership to a swanky club, a brisk walk or two a day will do just fine. But do experiment with fitness classes; try out different pieces of equipment at the gym (you may not like the elliptical trainer, but you might like cycling or jogging on a treadmill). If you still can’t find an activity or two you enjoy, be active anyway. I had a good friend who was Chief of Pediatrics at a Toronto hospital who ate certain foods he didn’t particularly enjoy, but because they were good for him. Exercise is the same.
- Be present. Turn off your phone; close the door; limit distractions; and invest your whole self in work, conversations with family and friends, or just the activities of daily living. Walking my neighbourhood every day, I pass dozens of people zigzagging along the sidewalk staring at their phones. They’re missing out on a lot.
- Use healthier household products. Ditch the toxins in your home and replace necessary products with healthier ones. This article will help.
- Cut back on alcohol. Research is telling us more and more about the unhealthy truth. Less is better.
- Take up a new hobby. When was the last time you tried your hand at something new? Take an art class, take a salsa dance lesson, sign up for a lecture series, learn an instrument. Learning helps us grow.
- Stop all negative body talk. The best bodies are the healthiest ones so invest wisely in yours.
- Invest in relationships. Build and invest in meaningful relationships – the colleagues, friends and family you cherish most. Make time to have authentic conversations; to spend quality time together; to make memories that will last.
- Quality sleep. There are many reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, so it’s important to focus on your schedule and lifestyle to determine the best ways to improve sleep quantity and quality. Learn more.
- Visit your doctor… or ours. Among the many things our patients at DeerFields Clinic appreciate most, is that our medical and health team (through time, state-of-the-art tests, etc.,) obtains a full picture of each patient’s health in order to create a customized plan that will help each patient optimize their health, prevent disease, and achieve their health and lifestyle goals. Initial consultations are complimentary.