This time of year, everyone is looking to make big changes. And “getting healthier” and “losing weight” are at the top of the list of most common New Year’s resolutions. But 99% of the time these resolutions don’t make it past the first couple weeks. And that’s because it’s not grand resolutions that change lives but small consistent habits.
So this year, rather than focusing on a number on a scale, a crazy fad diet, or some kind of amorphous goal like “get healthy,” try implementing these five habits into your daily routine. They have made (and are making) a tremendous difference in my own body, and I know they will for you. These are the real game-changers for a healthier you in 2018.
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5 HABITS FOR A HEALTHIER YOU THIS YEAR
DRINK MORE WATER
This might be one of those things that’s on every “get healthier” list that make you go, “Yeah, yeah.” But if you’ve never taken it seriously before (and I didn’t for a loooong time), I urge you to do it now. Drinking enough water has some serious health benefits. It has been shown to increase energy, improve skin complexion, boost the immune system, maintain intestinal regularity, and flush toxins.
Several months ago, I decided to get serious about drinking more water. I was experiencing some bothersome physical symptoms, and I just felt tired and yucky all the time. I was told dehydration might be the culprit. So, I committed to drinking the daily recommended amount of water.
I can’t even overstate the impact it has had on how my body feels. While it hasn’t magically cured all my troubles (I don’t believe in magic bullets), it has made an enormous difference in how I feel and the energy I have throughout the day.
Think you might need to increase your water consumption? Here are my top 3 places to start:
- Download the My Water app – This app is great! It helps me track my water consumption throughout the day, but my favorite part is that it dings at me if I haven’t logged any water for a while. Plus there are fun (albeit totally meaningless) trophies and awards!
- Drink a cup of water first thing in the morning – It took me awhile, but I can finally say that this is a true habit of mine, and it makes me feel sooooo much better. Drinking a glass of water before anything else (even coffee *gasp*) helps rehydrate the body, fuel the brain, and increase alertness. It’s a great way to set yourself up for a healthy and productive day.
- Drink a glass of water for every cup of coffee or two cups of black tea – I’ve seen water logging programs that let you count your cup of coffee as part of your water intake, but due to its diuretic nature, I’ve read that you should actually drink an additional cup of water to compensate for it’s dehydrating effect. Other sources say that this is just a myth, and maybe it is, but I do know that I feel 100 times better when I drink water before and after my morning coffee.
EAT REAL FOOD
You will never ever hear me use the word “diet” except in the general meaning of the kind of food that you eat. I don’t believe in restrictive diets (other than in the cases of allergies or intolerances, of course), and I feel pretty strongly about it. I don’t follow crazy diets that cut out entire food groups or are so complicated that it adds stress to my life.
For one thing, they’re not sustainable – I see so many people go on crazy diets, lose a bunch of weight, and then gain it all back because they haven’t actually made any lifestyle changes. And secondly, it leads to an unhealthy attitude towards food.
I’m going to talk more about this in a future blog post because it’s a major mind-shift that I, personally, had to go through. But for now, I will simply say that my food motto is “Food as Fuel (and a little fun).” And that way of looking at food leads me to eat (mostly) real food.
I’m not 100% on this — I do have my vices 😉 — and I make allowances every once in a while for the sake of convenience, politeness, or special treats. But for the most part, I fill my body with foods that are going to be nourishing and enriching. My focus is no longer on the least amount of calories (though overall calorie consumption does matter) but rather the highest quality of fuel for my body to run.
If you want to start eating more real food, here are my top 3 places to start:
- Plan your menu – It’s really hard to make good decisions when you’re making them on the fly. I know we eat MUCH healthier when I sit down at the start of the week and make a plan for all our meals.
- Make more things from scratch – Pre-made foods are FULL of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and loads of sugar. You would be amazed at the things that are pumped full of sugar (and don’t be fooled – it’s not always the word “sugar”). This is especially true of items labeled “low fat,” “non-fat,” “fat-free,” etc. I won’t go into all that here, but there’s a good reason I don’t eat any of it anymore.
- Find some great real food resources – My favorites are 100 Days of Real Food, Live Simply, and Kitchen Stewardship.
You had to know this was coming. A healthy lifestyle isn’t just about what you eat, it’s what you do, too. Whenever I hear people talk about how much weight they’ve lost from a diet and they say, “and I don’t even have to exercise,” it makes me cringe. There is so much more to be gained from regular exercise than losing weight. Exercise can reduce your risk of chronic disease, increase your energy levels, support brain health, and produce a host of other benefits.
Federal guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. But it’s important to keep in mind that regular exercise is not all or nothing. Any increase in activity is a good thing, even if it’s not yet at the recommended level.
If you want to start incorporating more exercise into your routine, here are my top 3 places to start:
- Get a FitBit or other kind of activity tracker – I LOVE my FitBit for many reasons, but mostly because it motivates me to stay active. I am very competitive, even with myself, so those hourly “get up and move” prompts totally work for me. Plus, I have my workouts and steps sent to my Achievement app where I earn money from various healthy lifestyle choices, so that’s pretty motivating, too!
- Find a great in-home workout – I know lots of people who love going to the gym, and if that’s you, then more power to ya! But I would have to go to the gym at 4am in order to be back in time for Levon to go to work, and if I put it off until evening … well… it’s not happening. So in-home workouts on the computer or TV work the best for me.I offer my list of favorites in this post, but I love anything from Jessica Smith TV or Chalene Johnson.
- Don’t forget strength training! Exercise isn’t all cardio. It’s important to strengthen your muscles as well. Strength training can help you preserve muscle mass, increase metabolism, and manage your weight, and should be a key component in your exercise regime.
GET ENOUGH REST
I’m going to be honest — this is my biggest area of struggle and work-in-progress right now. So this one is a “do as I say, not as I do” step. But getting enough rest is HUGE for leading a healthier lifestyle.
Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night. Getting the recommended amount of sleep can help you think more clearly, reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight, and boost your immune system. It also lowers your risk of serious health problems.
If you want to get more rest, here are my top 3 places to start:
- Set a bedtime and be firm about it! – This is where I mess up all the time. After taking Money Saving Mom’s Make Over Your Evenings course, I set a bedtime of 9:30 for myself. That would give me 7 1/2 – 8 hours of sleep. But I am constantly staying up too late working on “one more thing,” reading “one more page,” or watching “one more episode.” And then I have no one to blame but myself when I’m tired the next morning (well, except for when the kids wake me up in the night, which is all the more reason to try to go to bed early!) So I also need to work on being firm about my bedtime!
- Put away all electronics a half hour before bed – This includes phones, computers, AND TV. The light from a screen stimulates you and inhibits your ability to fall asleep, and so does watching a high-action movie or TV show. As part of my evening routine, I like to read a book for the last 30 minutes before bed or cuddle and talk to Levon. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s what I aim for.
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day – Avoid late night binges and sleeping in on the weekends. (Fortunately, I have little people who help me stick to this plan!) This will help establish your body’s internal clock.
MAKE TIME FOR YOU
I believe that a healthier spirit, soul, and mind leads to a healthier body (and vice versa!). It is just as important to pay attention to what you’re feeding yourself spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically as to what you’re feeding yourself physically. It’s all a package, and neglecting one area inhibits how much progress you can make in all the others.
If you want to make more time for YOU, here are my top 3 places to start:
- Do something every day that brings you joy – Becoming a wife and a mom doesn’t mean you have to neglect yourself or quit doing the things you love (unless what you love harms your family in some way). That’s just crazy. Hang on to your hobbies! Pursue your passions! And do a little something each and every day that brings you joy. It’ll make you a healthier person, and honestly, it will make you a better mom.
- Feed your spirit – I firmly believe in the power of starting the day with Bible reading and some kind of devotions or journaling.
- Balance work and play – I know, “balance” is kind of a vague, elusive buzzword these days. But all I mean is don’t let your life become all about work and productivity. Balance it out with a little fun every once in awhile.
I know, everyone loves a magic bullet. We are a society of quick fixes and instant results. But I don’t think anything in life worth getting can actually be “gotten” that way. Certainly not a healthy body.
Secret formulas and magic potions aren’t going to get you there (though some might help). There is no shortcut to better health. The “secret” is consistency, discipline, and a healthy (haha) dose of patience.
These five habits won’t transform you overnight, but they will transform you. In a real and lasting way. I know they have (and will continue to do so as I practice them) for me, and I know they will for you.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS POST:
- Achievement App – Get paid for healthy choices!
- Live Simply real food planning course
- Make Over Your Evenings course
- 15 Days to a Healthier You course
- Chalene Johnson workouts
- Jessica Smith TV
- FitBit Charge 2
- My All-Time Favorite Workouts for Busy Moms
- 9 Gifts to Treat Yourself, Mom!
- 5 Tools for the Remarkable Year You’ve Always Wanted
- 10 Fun Ways to Incorporate Your Kids Into Your Exercise