It’s no surprise that one of the top New Year’s Resolutions people make every year is to lose weight. According to the CDC, in 2017-2018, 42.4% of the population were obese.* And it’s not hard to see why. Fast food, junk food, and highly palatable foods loaded in fat, sugar and calories are readily available to us, whereas healthier options often require additional cooking time and/or are more expensive. Most Americans also aren’t taught proper nutrition and they learn what to eat from their friends & families and by the slew of contradictory information available online.
Couple this with the impossible beauty standards the media portrays and it’s no wonder we all want to be just a little bit smaller. That being said, I think health is an important aspect of our lives because it improves our quality of life; however, it’s important to remember that weight does not equal health. So this year, I challenge you to make steps to improve your health and not necessarily lose weight. Thankfully, losing weight is often a side effect of being healthy though 🙂 Below are my top tips (in no particular order) to get healthy in 2021:
1.Start small. We all start at different places in our health journey and everyone’s journey is going to look different. You’re not going to go from 0 to 100 overnight. For some people, they can go from eating junk everyday for every meal and never working out to working out 5 times a week and eating sweet potatoes and kale. The reality is that for 99% of us, we will stick to that for a day, maybe a week, and then it’ll be too hard and we’ll go right back into what we were doing before. Implementing small steps will not only make it more sustainable but it will also make it a lot more enjoyable. If you’re not working out at all right now, aim for 1-2 times per week. Then when you have that down, aim for 2-3 times per week. If you struggle with eating healthy, aim for one meal a day to be a healthy home-cooked meal. When you have that down, aim for 2 meals a day and so on.
2. Drink more water. I think everyone can benefit from this tip even if you think you’re drinking enough water. Most likely, you’re not drinking enough. Personally, I aim for 1 gallon a day. You don’t have to drink that much but I would recommend drinking at least 64oz. Track how much water you’re drinking daily and increase it every week by 10 oz. This way your body will get used to it and you won’t be peeing every 30 minutes. But seriously, if you’re not peeing every couple of hours, you’re not drinking enough lol. You’ll be shocked at how drinking water will help improve your health, digestion and skin.
I make sure I’m drinking enough water by using a 40oz Hydro Flask. I fill it up 3-4 times a day so it’s easy to track how much I’m drinking.
3. Find exercise you love. If you’re one of those people who “don’t like working out” then you haven’t found your thing yet. Even if it’s just going for a walk around the block, there’s got to be something that gives you those happy endorphins :). Personally, I like a mix of things depending on how I’m feeling that day. Some days I lift weights, some days I go for a run and occasionally (very occasionally) I do yoga. Exercising doesn’t just have to be about burning calories. It will far more sustainable if you exercise because you love the feeling rather than just because it burns x amount of calories.
4. Eat more fruits & veggies. I think we all know this but how many of us actually do this?? It’s easy to say we’ll do this but the key to implementing it is to plan ahead. Buy fruits & veggies that you like from the grocery store. Cut up some veggies to have on hand in the fridge so they’re just as easily accessible as the chips in your pantry ;). If you’re like me and don’t like raw veggies, hummus is a great way to eat more veggies. Some more ideas to add more fruits & vegetables into your diet are:
- Add veggies to meals such as omelets, mac & cheese, pasta, casserole dishes, etc.
- Add berries to Greek yogurt or smoothies
- Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie
- Check out this blog for some delicious veggie packed dishes: http://www.runningonrealfood.com
5. Eat food you like. This may seem obvious but it seems like when people start eating healthy they opt for things like dry chicken breast, boiled broccoli and brown rice. You can totally eat these things and they are healthy but honestly, what are the odds that you are going to stick to it if you’re eating bland, boring food. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. Add some spices, try different recipes and you’ll be amazed at how delicious “healthy food” can be*. Also, if you don’t like broccoli, don’t eat broccoli. There’s a TON of different vegetables you can pick from. And that goes for fruits, legumes and nuts too.
- Going off of tip #1, starting small can mean making healthier versions of things you’re already eating. For example, if you love pasta, you can easily swap your regular pasta for whole wheat or chickpea pasta, add some broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms in, opt for a healthier pasta sauce and add less cheese on top. Or if you love pizza, you can still eat pizza but make a side salad to go with it.
- *I do want to note that your taste buds will change based on the foods you’re eating. It takes about 21 days for your taste buds to change and I have personally experienced this. I used to crave sugary foods and was addicting to peanut M&M’s. Now, I crave healthier foods and find M&M’s overly sweet. It didn’t happen overnight but I made small changes and over time it got easier.
6. My last tip goes hand in hand with #5: BALANCE. I know a lot of you are thinking that the foods you like to eat are ice cream, pizza, and fried chicken. That’s probably because that’s what you’ve been eating for awhile. These highly palatable foods are created to be addictive. Our bodies crave the fat and sugar in them and the more we eat these foods, the worse it gets. However, to assume that we will never eat things like ice cream, brownies and chips again is highly unlikely. That’s were balance & moderation come in. This may take some time but I love the 80/20 rule. 80% nutrient dense whole foods that provide our bodies with the vitamins and minerals we need to live a healthy life, and 20% “fun foods”. Fun foods are foods that may not provide our bodies with vitamins and minerals, but they provide us with soul food 😉 Here’s how I recommend getting the 80% foods:
- Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store. This is most likely where you’ll find the fruits, veggies, starches, beans & grains. Sometimes these can be in aisles too but most often the aisles are where the processed food (Cheez-its, cereal, cookies, crackers, etc.) will be.
- Eat less meat & dairy products. While I would put lean meats in the 80% category, the truth is that most Americans eat too much meat. Meat is not only high in calories, but also high in cholesterol which can be detrimental to our health. Try making more vegan or vegetarian dishes, and limiting how much meat & cheese you consume.
That’s all, friends! Let me know if you found these tips helpful and what you’re looking forward to most in 2021! 🙂