Who doesn’t want to be healthy and happy? In my work with clients, I find that one of the most common barriers to happiness is dissatisfaction with their weight, body or looks. It’s one of the main reasons they resort to restrictive, unsustainable dieting and weight-loss plans. Can you relate?
The sad truth is diets leave you hungry and unhappy. They have a 95 percent failure rate and they don’t even lead to good health. What if you did something different? What if you stopped focusing on the wrong outcome (your appearance) and instead spent your energy working on positive lifestyle choices you can actually live with? You might actually be happier and healthier. “What you can live with” is actually up to you to decide. I can’t choose that for you. I can, however, offer ideas that help you change your habits in a realistic way without the exhaustive extremes of diets.
I recently spoke at the Blueberry Health Research and Culinary Luncheon hosted by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council in New York City, where I shared “little changes” for food, fitness and fun to help you live happier and healthier.
Here are nine tips to help you live a healthier and happier life without exhausting yourself with diets.
1. Decorate your plate with color, and don’t eliminate the foods you love.
Start with half a plate of veggies and fruit, and fill the other part with whatever you’re craving. Maybe it’s salmon one day and pizza the next. Don’t eliminate foods you love, because that deprivation will likely lead to overeating later. Be reasonable and balanced in your portions. Don’t be a “food cop.”
2. “Healthify” your home.
Refresh your refrigerator and pantry so making meals is easier. Make healthy foods accessible to you and your family. Place a bowl of fruit on the counter instead of a bag of chips. Revamp your grocery list into a more healthful one by adding more whole foods to your list.
3. Do a “quick prep” for work, on-the-go and home.
Take an hour or two on weekends to prep lunches, get meals started and assemble on-the-go snacks. Clean and chop your produce for salads and snacks, cook hard-boiled eggs and make some whole grains such as faro or quinoa to throw in salads or serve as a side. Portion your items out into individual containers, so all you need to do the night before (when you’re already exhausted from your day) is throw items into lunch bags. This will save several hours through the week and lots of day-to-day frustration. With everything ready to go, it will be easy to eat healthfully every day — you won’t have to invest any time or thought into what to pack, and you won’t find yourself too tired and reaching for less healthy options.
4. Master the &”mini workout.”
If you feel like you don’t have the time to include an hour-long workout in your schedule, 10 minutes at a time can have positive physical and mental health benefits. Have walking meetings with other fitness-minded coworkers, do body weight exercises such as push-ups, planks and jumping jacks, climb the office stairs, or do a short yoga series. Any movement is better than none at all. You’ll not only be helping yourself get healthy and strong, but taking these exercise breaks can help you feel better, improve focus and elevate mood.
5. Make movement your stress reducer.
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Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever by boosting your “feel good” endorphins and distracting you from daily worries. The rhythmic breathing of exercise helps you tolerate “fight or flight” and reduce blood pressure. Spend more time with nature. Go for a hike and bring along a DIY trail mix, like this >Gluten-Free Spicy Blueberry trail mix. A proper balance of carbs, protein and fats will provide a steady flow of energy that will power you along the hike.
6. Activate your life.
The average person gets 17 minutes of exercise a day when we really need 60 minutes. Build activity into your life with physical projects, exercises and events that fulfill you. Walk or bike to work instead of driving, and delegate other “jobs” to free your time.
7. Schedule at least one hour a week to do something you truly love
A happy hour where you put “me first.” Whatever it is that makes you happy — indulging in a trashy novel, getting lunch with a friend, trying a new workout or exploring a new part of your town or city. When you take time for yourself, you’re taking time to &”recharge.” Even if you feel too busy, you’ll likely end up being more productive once you’ve taken the time to decompress.
8. Make a “to-don’t-list” for yourself.
Cross off anything you know is not going to get done. Back out of obligations in a responsible way if you feel they won’t fulfill you, and free up some time so there is actually “white space” on your calendar. Then schedule something fun for you and only you.
9. Slow down and recharge.
Instead of spending money on materialistic things, invest in your own well-being. Spend more time preparing your own meals at home and with your family. Limit your screen time on your computer, phone or television, and instead enjoy a walk outside or play an interactive game with your family or friends. You’ll be amazed how much this can change your mood and energy level.
The mind and body must be in unison, in order to create a healthier and happier lifestyle. Use the “me first” attitude and make sure you’re taking care of yourself before you can be the best wife, mother or coworker you can be. Of course, there is nothing wrong with self-improvement. If you want to work on “you,” go for it. But let me leave you with this simple, but meaningful message. Make sure you don’t deplete your emotional health while you work to improve your physical health.