If I were to be completely and brutally honest with you guys, I would have to admit that I’ve been slipping up a lot lately. I’ve been eating poorly (lots of gluten omg I love cake and cookies), and not working out as much as usual. I’ve been stressing over everything: school, working out, eating poorly. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve also gained quite a few unwanted pounds. These all intertwine and leave me in a vicious cycle that’s so very hard to get out of. But today it dawned on me mid-workout, and I realized that to get back on track and stay back on track, there were just a few simple things I needed to do. By doing these things, I find that I’m my healthiest, happiest, and thus best me I can be. While there is science behind most of this, I wouldn’t want to bore you with that, so I’m going to dumb it down for you and just give you the gist of it. Who knows, maybe this could really help you, especially if you’re in the same boat as me.
The three key parts to leading a healthy life: diet, exercise, and happiness
But I’m not going to tell you to cut your calories by a million and work off every gram of food you put in your body and expect you to be happy, that’s neither realistic nor sustainable. Dig deep into these three things, and you’ll find the trick to maintaining all three is a lot simpler than it sometimes feels or sounds.
- Eat real, whole foods. This includes meat (unless you’re vegan or vegetarian), vegetables, fruit, and nuts. If you think of what you can’t eat rather than what you can, you make it so much harder on yourself. Search google or pinterest, and you can find millions of paleo/healthy recipes that are totally delicious. A few of my favorite entrees are Pizza Spaghetti Pie by PaleOMG, Smoky Mexican Tortilla-less Soup by Diane Sanfilippo, and Cracklin’ Chicken by Nom Nom Paleo. As for vegetable side dishes I love bacon roasted anything, especially brussels sprouts by Nom Nom Paleo. Fruits I love plain or with coconut milk or nut butter. And nuts I obviously love in nut butter form or in trail mix or grain-free granola like the one Against All Grain has.
- Eat when you’re hungry and don’t overeat. Starving yourself is never a good thing. It can lead to many issues with your metabolism later on in life, or even unknowingly overeating during the day because you’re always reaching for snacks instead of sitting down to an actual meal. Overeating also isn’t good. Many of us are binge eaters and turn to food when stress strikes, and eventually it becomes a habit that we can’t stop. This is due to dopamine (a feel-good chemical that tells your body that whatever you’re doing is making you happy). You can read more about that and the science behind overeating here. If you struggle with overeating, Grass Fed Girl shares a few tips in this post.
- Keep treats to a minimum, but do treat yourself every once in a while and don’t feel guilty about it either. While I’m not a big fan of having a weekly “cheat meal”-because I believe it can lead to emotional problems, anticipation, and thus a binge eating disorder-I do believe it is necessary to treat yourself guiltlessly when you feel the need or desire. Stick to a percentage that’s practical for you, and keep evolving it as you travel on your journey to a healthier you. Maybe you already eat healthy and can stick to 90% good, 10% unhealthy. Maybe 80/20 works for you. Don’t stress over treats, but do try to keep them few. You can also opt for fresh fruit with coconut milk whipped cream or paleo treats from some of my favorite paleo food bloggers. Brittany Angell has THE BEST paleo treats you could ever imagine. Check out her website and definitely try one of her recipes! (or order her new cookbook: Every Last Crumb!!!).
- Find a workout you love. Enjoy working out. Have fun. Look forward to it. If you dread your daily exercise, it could actually reverse it’s intensions by increasing stress, causing you to procrastinate, etc. Try a new class at your YMCA or gym, try crossfit, do a workout video, lift weights, go on a walk/run with your dog, do water aerobics. Almost anything can be turned into a workout, you just have to continue trying new things.
- Live an active, adventurous life. Spend time outdoors. Get off the couch and do something fun whether it be taking your dog for a walk, swimming, photographing the sunset, long boarding, boating, or even trying a new craft. Just turn off the technology and get away from the stress of the more unenjoyable things in life like work or homework. Learn to live in the moment and enjoy life for what it is.
- Spend time on yourself every day. Make an obligation to yourself to spend at least 20 minutes doing something that calms you down or makes you happy every day. This could be finding a new hobby, writing in a notebook, reading, going on a bike ride, or catching up on one episode of your favorite TV series (I suggest keeping TV use to a minimum, but that’s my personal opinion).
- Keep stress to a minimum. This is easier said than done, and I’m guilty as charge. Stress is one of the hardest things to get rid of because it’s almost a personality trait tied in with perfectionism. It’s hard to change who you are, but there are a few things you can do to help. Fox News came up with 10 easy ones to implement into your life, but along with these you just have to help yourself grow and realize that everything’s going to work out. There’s no use in worrying, and a lot of the time what we’re worrying about won’t even happen.
- Sleep. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night if not more. Sleep makes you a happier, healthier person and will enable you to live the life you truly want to. Whatever is causing you to lose zzz’s can wait until tomorrow, put it down and go to bed. (11 Health Benefits of Sleep by Health Magazine).
While some of these points may be harder to implement than others, I believe each and every one is necessary in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So today I pledge to take a step each day towards these goals to become a better me. I hope you join me as well.