Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Make these small changes. Your health is craving them …

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain the physique you’ve accomplished, you probably don’t need a lifestyle overhaul. Try these easy, fast approaches to healthier living.

Think First

It may seem unrealistic to plan meals in advance. Those ultra organized eaters who have a monthly calendar of meals hanging on the fridge are impressive and perhaps a bit off-putting. What if you aren’t in the mood for chicken next Wednesday or it rains on grilled salmon day? A little short-term planning is really all you need to assure more nutritious eating habits. (Notice, we don’t refer to it as a “diet.” This is a lifestyle change. Not a temporary fix to shed x-amount of pounds.)

Before your next grocery store run, think ahead a few days. Plan several meals depending on your schedule, budget, and latest hankering. Try to keep it well-round, especially with protein choices. Limit red meat to only once a week or less, if possible. Choose chicken, seafood, and a meatless option for healthy variety. Stock up on fruits and vegetables for snacking, meal prep, and desserts.

Be a label reader. Stock up accordingly.
Be a label reader. Stock up accordingly.

Every few months allow extra time at the store to read labels. Once you decide on a new selection of healthy foods, you can grab them effortlessly on future trips. Change it up in between by picking different flavors of the same. For example, determine one brand of yogurt contains the nutrients you need. It can be your go-to yogurt until you switch it up in a few months. Meanwhile, keep it interesting with new flavors.

Increase your fiber intake. Fiber reduces the effect of carbohydrates on your system. This is particularly helpful for those monitoring sugar levels. It also helps you feel full quicker and for longer. Avoid mid-morning hunger or that mid-afternoon crash by snacking on high-fiber foods that satisfy and keep the digestive system busy.

Stock several dinner choices in the fridge and save half the work of meals. The age-old debate of “What’s for dinner,” until it’s too late for anything but pizza, is squelched. If you aren’t in the mood for one particular dish, other options are only a reach away. This is one time when mindlessness works. Ingredients are available. Prepare and eat. No further thought needed. No temptations about what you could have if you went to the store, got take-out, or ate at a restaurant.

Aside from enjoying healthier meals with less stress, you avoid unnecessary trips back and forth to the market. Admit it. You’ve found yourself there more than once in one day at some point. Some feel like they live at the grocery store, with nightly stops there to find dinner.

Spend that time de-stressing with a workout or cup of tea after a hard day, not scanning the aisles for a quick meal. You will save money, as well. Less trips, especially when tired and hungry, mean less spontaneous purchases and splurges on comfort foods.

Experiment …

with life! Discover new recipes, workouts, books, and talents. Excitement sparks energy. Spending energy burns calories. Rid yourself of stagnant living. There is much to learn during our stay on earth. Resisting change may feel comfortable, but in reality it leads to discomforts. The world is in constant motion. Move with it, even if not at ease.

Healthy grabs.
Healthy grabs.

Start small. You do not need to eliminate traditional favorites from your meal plan. Find ways to make those favorites healthier. There is an abundance of updates for everything from smoothies to potpies. Rescue your recipes from the grips of fat, cholesterol, and sugar. It takes little effort to make something old new. Your family can fall in love with pizza, spaghetti, or cutlets all over again.

People are happy to share ways they make foods healthier. Food celebrities make a living off these recipe rescues. Often, it is a simple change, such as replacing a dish’s portion of meat with veggies. Meals become packed with more nutrition and less fat and calories.

Make fruit responsible for the sweetness in snacks and desserts. Even cocktails can undergo a makeover. Sangria, a summer favorite, can be mixed without added fruit syrup and sugar. Instead add fresh berries and peaches to a fruity wine.

Today is a great day to try a new workout. You don’t need any extensive planning. Arrive at the Center as you usually would. This time, turn in a different direction. Keep walking and see what you find. Is an interesting Group Fitness class about to start? Does the Exercise Floor have an opening on equipment you can try? A trainer is nearby to help. How about the pool? If you don’t have a swimsuit with you, stop in anyway. Wet your feet, literally and figuratively.

Sometimes, it’s best not to plan ahead, especially if you have beginner anxiety. Planning can be a method of procrastination. Just do it, today. A new workout can lead to new muscle development and renewed investment in fitness. Excitement gained; pounds lost.

Give a kettlebell a swing.
Give a kettlebell a swing.

Focus on new ways to get physical activity. Change is motivating. Instead of your usual walk around the neighborhood, go for a hike on a nearby trail. Try a kettlebell instead of free weights. Plant unusual flowers and learn how to care for them. An exotic bloom may be the inspiration needed to move away from the chips and tend to the garden. Ditch the same old reads for a new genre. It’s hard to nibble when your hands are engaged in a page-turner.

Keep Moving

Think of the elements. Without motion, the earth grows dry, hard, and crumbly. Water gets filmy. Air can grow stale. Fire smolders until it’s poked, its ashes disturbed. As humans, we face the same risk of becoming stagnant. With an intricate system of muscles, joints, and bones, we are meant to move.

Take fitness beyond what you accomplish at the Center. Make your free time active. While sitting, the body is in an idling state and muscles go silent. Studies performed on rats show this muscular shutdown was quickly followed by a dramatic drop in an enzyme that clears fat from the bloodstream. Researchers are finding artery-damaging fats can build up during every period of prolonged sitting.

An Australian study by Healy and colleagues proved the more breaks interjected in sedentary time, the lower the risk associated with waist circumference, body mass index, triglycerides, and two-hour plasma glucose. A six-centimeter difference in waist circumference was recognized between those who sat for prolonged periods and those who incorporated frequent movement throughout their days. This break can be a simple shift from sitting to standing or standing to walking.

Use the TV as an exercise tool. (You read that correctly.) Get hooked on a show and use the draw of entertainment for a regular addition to your formal workout. You may want to do the 10-daily-minutes-to-better-abs session. What is the reality of consistently dropping to the floor for it every day? It is hard to make random exercise happen. Instead, plan to knock it out during showtime.

As a twofer, you avoid snacking your way through the latest episode. After about six weeks, a habit is formed. TV will be associated with a mini workout, not a bag of popcorn. Leg lifts during commercials will happen automatically.

Avoid Extremes

Energize efforts with small steps.
Energize efforts with small steps.

Little changes work because they are doable. A diet that eliminates all forms of sugar or a workout that takes 2 hours daily may get results. However, these excessive behaviors usually do not last. Go healthier one decision at a time. It may be a glass of water chosen over soda. A decision to add five minutes to your treadmill time or five pounds to your weights. Commit to moderation and healthier living will evolve.

Many answer boredom’s call with food. Don’t hit a plateau. Answer it with little changes! Energize the mind and the body will follow.


“The Problem with Sitting: A Workplace Conundrum,” by Nico Pronk, American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal; vol. 15, no. 1.

“Your Health: Too Much Sitting Puts the Body on Idle,” by Kim Painter at www.usatoday.com.

Image Credits

Beach walk (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/nicksie2008/9605717335/

Label reader: www.flickr.com/photos/mikeschmid/1400021633/

Stocked fridge: www.flickr.com/photos/planofthebrachialplexus/5354722320/

Energize: www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/3421452549/

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