Health wasn’t always a part of my picture. I’ve given into my vices. I’ve drunk myself into oblivion. I’ve turned to food to quell sadness. I’m still working on putting the pieces of my health together, but I’ve come a long way and have learned a lot about what my mind and body need to feel my best. And yes, sometimes I question whether or not it’s all worth it. We’re going to die in the end anyway, so what’s one doughnut going to do (is that dark)? But then I remember how hard I’ve worked on building up my healthy habits and one doughnut is fine, but if it turns into 5 doughnuts, that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to slide down.
I have worked hard over the years to create my healthy habits and today I am going to share them with you, as well as how I maintain motivation. It’s not always easy, and I, too, get tempted by sweets (chocolate!!) and the many options on Netflix and the life stressors that have the potential to interfere with self-care. But for me, these habits are non-negotiable. They come first and are my priority. Period.
1. Drink lots of clean water
My friends always tease me because I take my water bottle with me everywhere I go. In fact, I was once unknowingly photographed on the waterfront by a photographer and then featured in an art gallery (again, unknowingly) and was recognized by a friend because my water bottle was featured in the picture, which he recognized before he recognized me. I later acquired the picture from the photographer.
Water is life! It helps us detoxify, have regular bowel movements, and have more energy. It also helps regulate our body temperature, provides moisture for our skin, and supports muscle health and even sleep! I try to drink half of my weight in ounces every single day. Another good indicator that you are well hydrated is if your urine is mostly clear or a very light yellow. If your urine is dark yellow in color, you are dehydrated.
Drinking enough water is one thing but avoiding dehydrators is important too. Coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol and sodas can increase dehydration. If you love your cuppa joe, my recommendation is to drink a glass of water for every mug of coffee you down. Same with alcohol. Bottoms up!
I purify my water with a Berkey filter, which I love. This is a purification system and can purify practically any water source. I do not recommend tap water as it can contain lots of contaminants and who knows what! I also carry my Hydroflask with me everywhere I go so that I remember to drink water. Here are some other tips for remembering to drink more aqua:
- Add yummies to your water like fresh fruit, lemon juice, herbs
- Set an alarm to remind you to drink or try an app that reminds you
- Try herbal teas if you don’t like water (click here for a medicinal strength tea recipe)
- Put a glass of water or a pitcher in your bathroom or bedroom and drink a glass when you first wake up
- Start a challenge with some friends
Check out my blog post on more benefits of drinking water and a chia lemon water recipe.
2. Prioritize sleep
I love to sleep! It’s one of my favorite activities. Sleep helps us consolidate memories, balance hormones, modulate inflammation in the body, and of course, have more energy to do the things we have to do and the things we love to do. I schedule everything around my sleep schedule because it is that much of a priority for me. I’ve even turned down a job because it required me to wake up at the crack of dawn. I’ve invested in sleep supports like blackout curtains, a sound machine, a comfortable mattress topper, and sleep-supportive supplements.
Here are some of my favorite sleep products:
For more tips on sleeping well, check out my blog post on how to sleep better.
3. Daily movement
Not negotiable! Think about how much our primal ancestors moved. Think about cavemen – they were constantly moving, hunting, foraging, swimming, running after animals (or from them). Think about how sedentary our lives are now. Most of us have jobs that don’t require a lot of movement. We sit for hours. Then we come home and sit some more in front of the TV. Sometimes the only movement we get is to walk from our work building to our car.
We need to move throughout the day. I’m not sold on spending an hour at the gym and then being inactive the rest of the day. Not gonna cut it. Try to get movement in throughout the day. My trick is to drink a lot of water so that I frequently have to get up from my desk and walk to the bathroom (see how I’m overlapping those habits there?). I’ve also been doing laps around the block on my breaks. And when I get home, I do my yoga or workout right away before the lure of the couch holds me captive for the rest of the night.
My routine doesn’t involve pumping iron at the gym. And yours doesn’t have to either. Do what you love! To learn more about what my movement routine looks like, check out my blog post here.
4. Stress management, e-v-e-r-y d-a-y
Stress is something we all experience. I know very few people who say they live a stress-free life, and they are usually retired. I do something every single day to help support my relaxation, whether or not it has been a stressful day. It builds habit and it builds resiliency. If you wait until you are stressed to practice stress management, it is likely not going to work as well. That or you will just throw it all to the wind.
Whenever I can, I get outside. To me, there is nothing more therapeutic than being among the trees and breathing fresh air to clear my head. I can’t stay indoors for too long before I feel like the walls are closing in on me. Going for a walk outside helps me sleep better (exposure to the sun helps your body make vitamin D and regulates your sleep cycle), helps with stress, and gives me space to think about life or whatever might be troubling me.
I like to carve out time in my day to think. We all have lots of thoughts, stressors, big life decisions. When we lay down at night to go to sleep, this is not the time to mull things over. It’s essential to give yourself space to contemplate. That might mean going for a walk, sitting in silence, meditating, journaling, or meeting with a friend to talk things over.
Do what ever it is that makes you feel fulfilled and nourished, even if it’s 5-10 minutes a day (preferably longer but we do what we can). I recommend doing it first thing in the morning because if you put it off till the last thing at the end of the day, chances are you’ll push it off until tomorrow. And tomorrow never comes. Click here to read more about stress and some of my favorite stress-relieving teas.
Sometimes you need to make a date with yourself to think about things. And that might mean flexing your “no” muscle more.
5. Say no
People usually have trouble finding time to cook homemade meals, go to the gym, or fit in self-care because they’ve got too much going on. With work, errands, family obligations, and social commitments, when does one have time to dedicate to oneself? I try to do no more than two social commitments each week during the workweek. I’ve got other things to do, like take care of myself!
I’ve gotten really good at saying “no” and guess what? It feels good! Try it on and see how it fits for size.
6. Eat nutritious foods
What does eating healthy take? It takes planning, making time to cook, and ensuring that you are emotionally nourished.
Let’s start with planning. Planning healthy meals requires figuring out what you are going to eat for the week. What are some healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners? What do you need to get at the store to build healthy meals? I have a salad every day for lunch. It makes it super easy to eat healthy because I don’t have to think about lunch. It also guarantees I get my fiber and green leafies in every day.
Next, you need to carve out some time to prep and cook. Twice a week, I make salads ahead of time and cook batches of veggies and meat for the days when I get home late from work and don’t have time to cook. Is it tempting to stop by Chipotle on the way home from work to grab dinner? Of course. But it’s also tempting not to spend any more of my heard-earned money on junky food when I’ve got healthy options ready to eat at home. I recommend not doing your shopping and cooking on the same day. That’s just doing too much.
Can one eat healthy with a busy life? It’s difficult. I encourage people to get in the kitchen. If you’re too busy to cook, then you need to lighten your life load. This is essential to continue to live a quality life without crashing and burning. If you’re too busy because you’ve got a job that takes up more than 40 hours a week, that is not a balanced life. If you’re too busy because you’re taking care of a sick or handicapped family member, ask for help. Look up subsidized resources. Or hire a meal-prep service. Meals on Wheels is a good place to start.
Lastly, in order to achieve your goals with eating healthy, it’s essential to ensure you are emotionally nourished. There are many reasons why we eat and these days, hunger is just one reason, and often not the first one. We may turn to food because we are stressed, depressed, lonely, bored. If we don’t address these reasons for eating, healthy eating is going to be an obstacle. Believe me, I’ve been there. I used to do a lot of emotional eating and would often finish a box of cookies in one sitting. And it takes time to recover from that.
When I encounter someone seeking my help for emotional eating, I recommend making a list of “soul nourishers.” These are the things that make you feel good that you will turn to first before food. For me, these things are going for a walk, calling my mom, making a cup of tea, doing a puzzle. Last on my list is “just eat it already!” And that’s ok too. Don’t build it up in your head to be a big deal. It takes time.
I have two really great blog posts that delve into this further:
7. Take supplements
I used to think that we didn’t need supplements, that we could get everything we needed from food. And then I learned about how whole foods have been hybridized over the years to contain more sugars so that they taste better and how our soil has become depleted over time so that our crops are not being provided with as much nutrients and how our digestion has become compromised and it impairs our ability to absorb as many nutrients from our food. So we need to fill in the gaps with nutritional supplements. I’m not going to list all of my supplements here but the ones I recommend for most people (any of course everyone is different) are probiotics, vitamin D (although that depends on where you live and how often you get outside), B vitamins, magnesium, and fish oil. And take them daily so they can build you up and help you feel strong!
8. Keep health top of mind
So, the holidays are upon us. Right now I hear a lot of “well, I’m going on vacation,” or “I want to just enjoy myself for the holidays.” Fine, I get it. But really what I am hearing is a bunch of excuses to not treat yourself well for the sake of cookies and overeating. Treating yourself well doesn’t mean gorging yourself on holiday cookies and spiked nog. To me, it means spending time with family, getting outside for walks, lots of rest, lots of herbal tea, and a chance to put my healthy habits to the test. Yes, I’ll have some holiday treats. But I will also continue all of my healthy habits throughout the holidays because feeling good is worth the effort.
When I am faced with an obstacle (to finish the ice cream or not….), I put myself in future Katie’s shoes. Will this help me achieve my health goals? Will it cause me to be in pain later? Sometimes it’s just a cookie and that’s okay. But sometimes one cookie can be used to justify five cookies, so we have to keep all of the choices we make in line with our long-term goals.
I highly recommend surrounding yourself with people who practice healthy habits. I listen to health and wellness podcasts on my walks (The Model Health Show is my favorite) and I collaborate often with other healthcare practitioners. All of this fuels my desire and provides motivation to maintain my healthy habits. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals, who value their health, and who motivate and inspire you.
Feel free to reach out if you need support with your healthy habits. Remember that you are worth it and long-term health is the end goal. Keep working towards your goals, and in the meantime, have a restful and healthy holiday!
You might also be interested in reading my Nourishing Holiday Habits post! What are some of your healthy habits? I’d love to see them in the comments below!