Trying to make 2009 your healthiest year to date? I’ve compiled for you what I believe to be some of the best health conscience habits you can easily adopt.
Habit 1: Drink more water.
Sure, I know about all the news reports that say it’s possible to drink too much water. Surprisingly, this same story is told just about every 4 years when news stations have no other “news” going on, and it always seems to stir up all sorts of awareness on the topic. The truth is, in all my years of guiding individuals on proper nutrition, I have yet to run into one person who had an H2O disorder. A well-hydrated body has a much easier time at shedding unwanted body fat and preserving lean muscle mass. A healthy, active individual should be consuming .6 – .7 ounces of water per pound of body weight.
Habit 2: Eat more fiber.
I’ll say it again. People do not get nearly enough fiber in their diets. Work on trying to get anywhere from 25 – 30 grams of fiber per day into your eating plan. Fiber provides a plethora of benefits from increasing the thermic effect (calories burned from digestion) of a meal, to trapping and evacuating excess fats.
Habit 3: Eat every 3 hours.
Start splitting your larger meals up into smaller, more frequent bouts of eating. Spreading your calories throughout the day allows for an increase in metabolism and insures that none of the nutrients you are consuming go to waste. This can be difficult for many people who maintain busy lifestyles, which is why I suggest picking one or two days a week to do all of your cooking. At that point, Tupperware containers become your new best friend.
Habit 4: Eat more fruits and vegetables.
And eat a large variety as well. The more colors you consume the better. They’re packed with fat-burning fiber, vitamins, and minerals. We all know that vegetables are gold, but when it comes to fruit, it sometimes gets a bad rep. I often get the question “but doesn’t fruit have a lot of sugar in it?” Again, I have yet to meet the person who has a well-balanced diet who has found that fruit was the main reason they couldn’t let go of the extra body fat. Get over it. If you’re obese fruit isn’t the culprit. Take a long look at everything else you’re eating, and I’m positive you’ll find something a little more worthy to drop.
Habit 5: Drink less alcohol.
If you want a drug that will help you gain body fat as well as decrease your lean body mass, then you’ve found the right prescription. This is true only when it’s consumed in excess, of course. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some beer, and there are studies showing plenty of benefits from its consumption at moderate dosages. But let’s not get carried away now. If you tend to go overboard, and you know who you are, maybe it’s time to start keeping track of just how much you’re putting back.
Habit 6: Choose organic and local foods when possible.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will start to see more and more studies come out showing the adverse effects of consuming over-processed food. It’s only a matter of time. Digestion is a delicate process, a process our bodies have spent hundreds of thousands of years perfecting. In just the past few decades we have started introducing extra hormones, antibiotics, and other impurities into our foods. Our bodies have filters that take care of these things, but let’s not put them to the test.
Habit 7: Reduce the amount of sugars consumed.
At this point it should be a no brainer. If anything good has come from the hundreds of diet books written this past decade, it’s the awareness that controlling your blood sugar is crucial to achieving optimal health. The sweets do not have to be eliminated from your diet completely, but you should have them well under control.
Habit 8: Stop going to the super market hungry.
Real simple. If you’re hungry, you’ll buy what you want, not what you need. Our bodies are still hard-wired for survival. Unfortunately when you stroll down the aisle at your local food supply your brain will target just about anything in your field of vision and deem it an acceptable choice of nourishment, regardless of its nutritional value.
Habit 9: Take regular stand up breaks at work.
Do it for your posture, do it for circulation, and do it for your own sanity. Our bodies were not designed to be in a seated position all day long. You could prevent much of life’s chronic pains if you would just take a moment to stand up and stretch your legs every 30 or 40 minutes. Set a timer on your desktop if you have to; just get it done.
Habit 10: Start using the stairs instead of the elevator.
Even park farther away from your destination so you have to walk a few extra steps in the day. Adding a tiny bit of extra footwork can add up at the end of the year. I know it’s not exciting or drastic, but the difference can be a few extra pounds that you don’t need hanging around your waist.
Habit 11: Balance your physical and sedentary activities.
I’m talking about what you do with your free time. Have you ever spent a couple of hours on the weekend watching TV, playing video games, or browsing the internet looking at cat pictures? Try to create some balance by doing an equal amount of leisure activities on your feet. Take a walk, shoot some hoops, and maybe take up a new physically active hobby. Who knows, you might find something new you really like.
Habit 12: Keep a health journal.
One of the most powerful ways to be successful with your health is to write it all down. Keep track of your workouts and your nutrition. It can be very hard to figure out where you’re going if you don’t remember where you’ve been. You’ll be giving yourself a point of reference so you can truly see if any of the changes you make are creating a difference. If they’re not, then at least you know that and can change your plan of action and recalibrate.
A lot of times we get a little too ambitious when it comes to our new year’s resolutions and try to take on more than we can handle. This inevitably leads to failure. Start with the small habits and work your way up the fitness ladder for a more subtle and long term experience. Good Luck.