Because I spend so much time reading about health and wellness, teaching fitness classes and being immersed in all things healthy living, it’s easy for me to forget that those who are not in the health world, don’t always know where to start. And that’s where this post is coming from today. In order to feel better, you need to take small steps every day in the right direction. You DON’T have to change everything at once. Just choose one to two items to start with and go from there.
And this post is not for those of you who are health-obsessed and who probably know more than me about wellness. This one is for your sister, your brother, or your coworker who just doesn’t know where to begin to change their life or their habits. Be a pal, and pass this one along to them …
Five small steps you can start with to get healthier today
1. Drink more water. Way more water. And stop drinking soda. All of it.
I used to look forward to my lunch-time can of Diet Dr. Pepper when I was working in Orlando in public relations many years ago. I figured one daily soda with lunch couldn’t hurt anyone. But looking back now, I know that soda did nothing for me. It was full of artificial junk. If I had replaced that daily soda with a large cup of water, I would have been better off. It certainly would have eliminated the afternoon crash that ensued post-caffeine.
If you want to change ONE thing about your health, so that you have more energy and feel less bloated, cut out soda (and energy drinks) and add more water. If you don’t do soda, props to you. But you still may need more water. It’s something like 75 percent of the American population is chronically dehydrated. True story. So that means some of you fall into that category — with dehydration comes dry skin, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, low energy, stiffness and all sorts of unpleasantries, which are totally reversible. So put some lemon in your water, buy a fancy water bottle, do whatever you need to do to up your intake. You WILL feel better after you up your dosage of H2O on a daily basis.
2. Move more every day. Try adding in power walks three to four times a week.
You do not have to join a gym and attend a high-intensity group fitness class every single day to improve your fitness and muscle tone. Believe it or not, power walking can do wonders for your body. If you are currently inactive, then start small. Aim to do 20 minutes of power walking three-to-four times a week outdoors or on a treadmill. (And also, take the stairs, get up from your desk each hour and incorporate organic movement throughout your day.)
After you’ve successfully completed a couple of weeks of walking for 20 minutes, try 25. You will seen benefits in your energy levels instantly and hopefully start to crave those walks. Then, after you’ve dropped a bit of weight and gotten into a routine, you’ll be ready to add some bodyweight resistance moves to your routine like planks, push-ups, squats and lunges, which you can do before your daily walk or on alternate days. (And if you don’t love exercise, it’s okay … here’s how to get into it.)
3. Create a routine around sleep and stick to it religiously.
Improving your sleep is a game-changer in every aspect of your life. If you have trouble sleeping, please, please, please do not ignore it. Act on it. Become an investigator, an experimenter and figure out what’s going on. The first thing you should do is make sure that you go to bed around the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. You should also aim to be in bed not too much later than 10 p.m., if possible, because the best hours of sleep occur between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Also, try blacking out your bedroom from all lights, dropping the temperature to around 64 degrees and making sure you turn OFF your phone and all other technology at least an hour before bedtime. And please, don’t sleep with the TV on. Even if you think it doesn’t bother you, it actually will affect your sleep cycles. While you may be drawn to do just one more activity before bed, or to watch one more Netflix episode, falling into a deep beautiful night of sleep is FAR more important. Work diligently on your sleep, and you will reap the benefits. Trust me! I did it! (And for more tips on sleep, check this one out.)
4. Make meals at home and bring your own food with you more often.
In most cases, the food that you make at home is healthier than what you buy. While there are starting to be some excellently health food options like Lemonade, True Food Kitchen and even the Whole Foods salad bar, more times that not — buying food out is more expensive and not as good for you as creating it on your own. And microwavable meals do not count as making your own food. Step away from the Lean Cuisines, my friends. Just don’t.
Start small, by buying some frozen vegetables and lean organic chicken. You can bake or roast the chicken and saute the vegetables in olive oil or coconut oil in a pan and throw them together. And there’s a dinner or a lunch, and you are totally in control of the ingredients. If that seems too complicated, try starting your day with a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit, rather than stopping to get a breakfast sandwich on the way to work.
If you are currently eating all of your meals out, try replacing one meal each day with something that you prepared (or assembled) yourself, and you will be better off. Most healthy people have at least a few skills in the kitchen, and you’ll develop those over time. No need to get fancy with recipes, just learning to cook your vegetables and proteins how you like them is all you have to do. And if you really need help with your diet, seek assistance from a registered dietitian who can totally tailor a plan for you. (Also, here’s a meal prep plan for work lunches, a list of 11 healthy lunches and 14 healthy breakfasts.)
5. Design a self-care routine and give yourself a minute to relax each day.
Stress is an ugly thing. Our bodies were built with a stress response (cortisol), which helps us wake up, live our lives and also jump into action when we are in danger or being chased by a tiger. But if you live a life with chronic stress, you are consistently in that “fight or flight” mode, and are unable to come down to normal. Stress can make you tired. Stress can give you a stomach ache. Stress can give you a headache. Stress can ruin your relationships. Stress is bad!
While I know it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the pressures on you and the stress you have in your life from your job, it is TOTALLY possible to take action in preserving your well-being through self-care. For instance, maybe you ask your spouse to watch the kids for 15 minutes while you soak in a hot bubble bath in silence. Maybe you put your phone on airplane mode and snuggle with your pet for 20 minutes. Or maybe you download the Headspace app and try a 5-minute meditation each day before work. Find something that lowers your stress level, and do it each day. It’s worth it.
Just choose one thing and go for it
And there you have it! Five small steps you can take to start living healthier. And no, you don’t have to do them all right now. Choose your favorite, and work on it. Then add in another in about a week or so.
Here’s the thing: We’re all used to putting our time and attention into our jobs and the people around us. But we also need to focus on what’s right in front of us: our health and wellness. There’s nothing worth investing in more than you. Spend a minute, make a small change, and see how you feel.
Thanks for reading, friends. And remember: if you know someone who needs a little kick in the tush to get started on being healthier, tag them in this post on Facebook, send them the link in email, or print it out and staple it to their fridge. Whatever works for you!The five small steps you need to get started on being healthier today! @apstyle explains ... Click To Tweet
(Photo credit: Tamalyn Matney Photography)
Questions of the day
What’s one thing you’ve done to improve your health lately?
What’s your favorite self-care routine?