With a clear understanding that there’s no such thing as “just try, and you’ll see,” here are quick tips on how to start introducing healthy changes into your day-to-day routine. They demand a little time and sweat, but won’t give you beginner’s anxiety and frustration. Most important, they truly are simple to adopt—whatever your lifestyle choices might be. These 10 habits will prove sustainable and highly addictive and, in time, they will motivate you enough to change your life completely.
- It’s all about the breakfast. We all have that one girl on our Instagram feed who’s ultra-fit. Day after day, she shares her photo straight from the gym, with her stomach still sweaty from the workout and a protein smoothie in her hand, looking just as irresistible as her toned abs. #Fitnessgoals, the caption says. But what Miss Perfect isn’t telling you is that she actually follows a dietary concept called the 85/15 rule.
This simply means that around 85 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy food choices—food high in protein like chicken, eggs, legumes and fish, nuts and olive oil for healthy fats, and plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout the day—and you can fill in the last 15 percent of your calories with your favorite snacks and junk food.
Moderation is the true goal here, and the routine is effective simply because it offers a reward. But, how do you get there?
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic claims it’s all about the breakfast, and other professional athletes agree. In order to start introducing healthy eating habits, you have to start at the beginning—a bowl of nutrient-rich oatmeal, two tablespoons of honey, generously chopped nuts and seeds, a fruit infusion, coconut water and milk (nondairy, if you are lactose intolerant) are just too tasty for anyone to say “no” to.
- No water, no life. A large cup of water is an indispensable part of a lot of athletes’ morning rituals, as well. It’s a boring tip, I’m aware, but it’s only because it actually works. As frequently mentioned, 2 liters a day is the goal you should shoot for if you want to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. It is, however, an average measure, which means that some people need less, and some—particularly caffeine addicts—need more. Consulting your doctor might be a good idea.
Now, you might ask, “Why before a meal?” Well, water gives you a sense of fullness that keeps you from eating more than you actually need to. As for its general effects and benefits, I don’t believe that the ultimate elixir of life needs any particular introductions.
In addition to keeping you energized throughout the day (energy levels tend to drop with dehydration), water increases metabolism, primes muscles, gives a natural makeover to your skin by relieving it from dryness and blemishes, and helps the heart pump faster and without any unnecessary effort.
- Love your veggies. Fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamins A and E—by themselves, veggies are packed with beneficial nutrients that help dramatically lower the risk of almost every common health issues you can think of, from high blood pressure and heart disease to cancer and diabetes. But, even if they weren’t so good for you, they would still be better from their alternatives, which is why a plate half full of greens is a plate full of health.
What’s even greater is that when prepared in an imaginative way, veggies are a delight to eat. Broccoli cheese soup makes even the bleakest of diets seductive, while still retaining the much-needed amount of health-promoting vitamins and minerals. If you’re just learning to love flexible dieting, a carrot grated directly onto your chicken breast sandwich will make it impossible to resist.
Don’t listen to what your burger-loving taste buds tell you—surprise them with unique, straightforward and utterly brilliant flavors of Asian-style sesame and garlic green beans, sautéed mushrooms, or cheesy Brussels sprouts. As long as your nutrition is diverse and you stay moderate in your choices, feel free to take the best of both worlds.
- Pack your almonds. Healthy eating habits are so hard to develop, not because wholesome food is tasteless, but because it takes time to make it delicious. Besides, it’s much easier to stop at the nearest drive-in or have your specialties delivered to the door than to roll up your sleeves and get creative. If you are someone who rarely takes it slow, eating healthy is almost impossible.
Most commonly, that’s why we all fail. Even if determined not to eat processed food at home, we usually fall for it during lunch breaks. On the other hand, preparing homemade meals for your lunchbox the night before is, let’s be honest, a drag. Luckily, there is a quick yet better alternative you can try out.
There are three elements you cannot afford to ignore in these cases: nuts, fruits and whole-wheat toasts. Hopefully, you don’t have to be reminded to buy fresh fruit every couple of days. In addition to those, always have a bag of almonds and a pack of miracle bread in your bag wherever you go. Insanely nutritious, wonderfully yummy and gentle on your stomach, this combo will soothe you whenever there’s no other healthier solution for your hunger pains.
- Use chopsticks, practice patience. So, your workout session has been long and effective, you’ve just taken your shower and now you feel like you’ve finally reached all of your fitness goals. And there’s a frozen yogurt in the fridge, too, the one you’ve been thinking about in order to chase away the burn from your outer thighs. Unfortunately, the moment of sweet, sweet victory lasts for about a second, and before you know it, the glass is empty. And then, you reward yourself with Nutella, straight from the jar.
For food lovers, that moment of pure delight is often too short, so we keep on eating to prolong the enjoyment. Eat slower, count your chews. Although obvious, this hack is usually unsustainable, since at the end of the day, we don’t exactly have the willpower needed for overcoming our urges.
But what might work is ditching the fork and going Asian-style instead. Years ago, a mate gave me chopsticks for my birthday to encourage me to practice patience, and it’s a piece of advice I’ve been passing on ever since.
- Some walks you have to take alone. If regular exercises are not your strongest suit, or you really don’t have any time to spare for frequent visits to the gym, you can still use your boots for walking even if you’re absolutely ignorant of everything that’s currently going on in the fitness universe. Stretching your legs at least three times a week is not a habit that needs to be developed—it’s an ability that separates you from the spiritless and disconsolate.
Ditching your car might be the hardest thing on this list and possibly a habit that will take the longest to develop. If you’re driving to work, park at least a 10-minute walking distance away from the office. Not only will your heart be healthier, but by the time you finally reach home, your mind will be clearer and ready for new, exciting adventures that await you in your family nest. Ultimately, staying in shape is not all about being healthy but being cheerful and enthusiastic about simple pleasures, as well.
- Sweat those excuses away. As a student, I’ve been in continual struggle with my bodyweight. Additionally, studying sessions were not particularly gentle on my back. Perpetual all-nighters were making me tired and snappy, while my kitchen remained pretty much unused. Until one day, when I hit a wall and decided that enough was enough. My first goal—a 20-minute exercise routine.
Having experienced the nonstop working regime firsthand, I no longer believe when people claim that they don’t have half an hour a day to commit to at-home physical training, because it’s simply not true. Getting ready, going to the gym and getting back home is a different thing, and it often lasts longer than the training program itself, but doing a routine in your own room every other night before going to bed is absolutely sustainable.
YouTube is brimming with such routines, and I guarantee you that you’ll work, sleep and eat better once you’ve included them in your schedule. Along with 10 minutes worth of breathers and a 15-minute-long shower, it’s a habit that requires an hour of your time and the one that will fully transform your mind-set, health and, without any exaggeration, your life.
- Think in mantras. Meditation is something that has helped me out a lot in life, and it’s quite an easy habit to pick up. Though inseparable from physical exercising, healthy living concerns both the body and the mind. I’ve found my peace through regular training, since it helps me clear and reset my mind, as well, but incredible benefits of spiritual relaxation cannot be denied.
There’s plenty of meditation styles to choose from, from counting your breaths to just focusing on what you feel as you sit and letting each sensation and thought slowly pass away on its own. Beginners are advised to go small until they catch the pace, which is great news for busy people. For most, 10 to 20 minutes a day is quite enough to calm your mind, refresh your focus and get ready for new battles.
- Hug your pillow. You’ve guessed it right—no health article can avoid discussing the massive importance of regular sleep, and mine is no exception. It is, after all, what balances our arduous daily efforts out and what allows us to dream on. And, when it comes to restoration techniques, nothing beats a good old ticket to slumber land.
The rules to improving your sleep cycle are clear and easy to follow. Go to bed and wake up every day at approximately the same time, be clever about naps, make your chambers tech-free and comfortably dark, and avoid coffee intake after 6 to 7 p.m.
Heavy sleepers, myself included, have all those brilliant alarm-clock apps to lean on, while newfangled methods for reversing sleep cycles work even for the most notorious of night owls.
- Have fun! (seriously). Last, but not least, remember to take deep breaths and celebrate your victories—however tiny they are. A healthy exterior starts from a healthy interior, where our universes are endlessly complex and beautiful. Once we learn to cherish their fragility and nurture their strength, the world will be a healthier place for all.
As you can see, it’s not that difficult to start adopting simple habits that can, eventually, lead you to a much healthier and happier lifestyle—just tough it out in the beginning and find a good source of motivation.