A How-to Guide to Kickstart Your Health
It can be daunting to make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Often, people don’t quite know where to start when they’re told to alter their diet and daily routine. Thoughts of joining a gym or cutting out favorite foods are often the first things to come to mind, and these adjustments can be difficult to make for several reasons.
Further complicating the issue is how easy it is to fall back into old habits. Maybe you run everyday for a week and then stop for two, or cut out all junk food until your cheat meal becomes a cheat day, then becomes a cheat week.
Improving your health, however, does not need to be so intimidating. Instead of making drastic changes, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle in the long term. Even some of the most mundane tasks can help you achieve a healthier lifestyle.
You’ve all heard the usual advice – walk or bike to work instead of driving. For someone who lives 5-15 minutes away from work and can avoid busy roads, this is great advice. For many, however, this is not a feasible option. Some easier ways to increase your steps for the day include the following:
- If you take public transportation, get off one stop earlier. This will increase your physical activity without affecting travel time too much.
- If you drive to work, park farther away. It’s an easy way to get a couple hundred more steps in just by walking a longer distance across the parking lot.
Small changes can be made at the workplace too. If your workplace has a gym, use it. It can cut down on costs and time spent traveling to and from the gym. For those who aren’t as lucky, there are other ways to get yourself moving.
- If you work on an upper level, try and take the stairs as much as possible or get off the elevator one floor below your own.
- When getting water or running to the bathroom, head to a different floor to do so.
- If time allows, take a walk during your lunch break.
- Avoid keeping snacks at your desk when possible.
- If you must keep snacks at your desk for various reasons, opt for “snack packs” of healthy foods to help control portion size. Many brands sell packs of food that limit the portion size to just 100 calories. You can also keep fruits or vegetables at your desk for another healthy option.
Overall, the Physical Activity Guidelines for American’s recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times per week. The above methods can help chip away at that goal, as can briskly walking for a total of 30 minutes throughout your day. If you have time to incorporate exercise into your schedule, try doing these quick 30-minute workouts.
Food & Eating Habits
There’s no need to throw all of your favorite food away or stock up on “super foods”. Small steps in our diets are the key in making changes last. Here are some easy ways to begin the process of change without it feeling too drastic. By no means do you have to jump right in and do all of these things. Instead, pick two and commit to sticking to them. Once you feel like you’ve made a change a habit, add more small goals for yourself and keep going from there.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake and don’t feel pressured to always use fresh options. Canned, frozen, or fresh can all benefit your diet and bring up your total intake over time.
- Make small adjustments to your diet to start. For example, if you have three sodas a day, try only having one per day, then eventually two per week, and so on. If you can’t imagine giving up pizza, try eating a veggie slice instead of that chef’s special loaded with processed meats. Or better yet, make pizza at home. Making food from home can be a great start to any healthy improvements in the diet because you’re in charge of exactly what goes into your food.
- Choose healthier sides when you dine out of the house. Instead of avoiding going out to eat entirely, maintain your social life with cookouts at home or opt for vegetable sides instead of fries when eating out.
You can start to make small changes that have big impacts on your health and quality of life. Increasing your physical activity and changing your food choices slightly can leave you feeling more energized and motivated to keep making healthy changes. Also, make sure to utilize your community, peers, and health care professionals to help you make these lifelong changes.
-Courtney Long, Practicum Student, BWH Nutrition and Wellness