Did you start this year with the intention to achieve a healthier lifestyle? If you’ve got it nailed, well done! If you’re like many of us, and that long list of things you want to work on has you feeling overwhelmed and wondering where to begin, read on.
We all have people we look to as models of healthy living. Sometimes these are people we know, or sometimes they’re media personalities, like super-fit celebrity trainers or food bloggers who just seem to glow with nourishment.
When we look at their Instagram feeds, these people often make it look easy, always exercising and eating those fresh, colourful salads. Don’t they find it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Do they ever look at the dessert menu before deciding what they want for their main course?
The truth is, many of them do. And in all likelihood, their healthy lifestyles are not “perfect” all the time. They have busy lives. They know grabbing take-away means no cooking and no cleaning up. They hear the chocolate croissant calling their name at 3pm. But their overall healthy habits have come from practice – from learning to make choices more often in those moments that help take them a step forward in their health journey.
We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, or feel bad for seemingly not being as strong or dedicated as they are. Everyone’s life is different, and there are so many factors that influence our lifestyles, habits and behaviours.
But if better health is a goal you want to work towards, taking inspiration from the people you admire, observing their habits, and following some of their examples can be a useful way to stay motivated.
"The habit of eating well comes from knowing that nutritious whole foods give you energy, help you think clearly and fuel your body to perform well."
How to create healthy habits
So what can we learn from people who have made the goal of good health a central part of their lives? Making decisions to eat well, exercise, drink water, and manage lifestyle factors like stress is just a matter of forming strong habits. Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
The habit of eating well consistently comes from knowing that nutritious whole foods give you energy, help you think clearly and fuel your body to perform well. When you recognise that eating processed, empty calorie foods makes you feel tired, sluggish and foggy, making healthier choices each day becomes that little bit easier.
Fill your plate and shopping trolley with vegetables, fruit, lean meats, whole grains and good fats. Being prepared means there are always a good choices on hand in the fridge or pantry.
Here are a few more ideas for healthy eating:
• Breakfast. Skip the white toast and jam, or processed, low fibre cereal. Dial up the nutrients by making your own muesli, toasted or bircher. Try a chia pudding, or find the grainiest bread and top it with tomato, avocado, smoked salmon or poached eggs.
• Lunch and dinner. Swap the sandwiches and carb heavy pasta and rice dishes for power salads and vegetables mixed with lean meats or fish and whole grains. Turn up the delicious factor with quinoa, pumpkin and chickpeas, whip up a kale and feta pie or make a healthy stir fry full of veggies, and take the leftovers for lunch.
• Smart snacking. Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds will keep you feeling energised.
A simple but important habit to cultivate is hydration. Keep your fluids up all the time! If you’re not one who loves plain water, add bubbles, try it filtered, add lemon or mint, or find a herbal tea that tickles your tastebuds. You’ll soon notice the improvements in your thinking, your skin and your energy levels.
Healthy bodies need to move. Make exercise a priority in your day, and try to resist those excuses to skip it. Remember that being active helps boost your mood and reduce stress, and keeps your body functioning at its best.
So don’t hit snooze when the alarm goes off. Invest in a good weatherproof jacket and you’re ready to go rain, hail or shine. Have your active wear laid out so there’s a seamless transition from bed to bootcamp.
And the best way to make exercise a habit? Find something you love doing. Walking, running, cycling, kayaking, dancing, yoga, tai chi, tennis – there are so many ways to get active. Try a few different things and you’re sure to find at least one activity that makes you feel good.
We all get stressed and emotional at times – it’s part of life. But if you can find positive ways to get through those tough feelings (without chocolate biscuits, potato chips or a big glass of wine!) you’ll feel much better. Try meditation, calling a friend, listening to your favourite podcast, or sweating it out with a workout. And don’t forget the value of getting enough sleep.
Take inspiration from your healthy lifestyle role models, and learn to create habits that bring more energy and nourishment into your daily life.