“Do it with a good heart.” That’s something my father used to say whenever one of us kids would complain about having to do a chore. What he meant was that whatever it is you’re doing, do it with love and care. This philosophy can be applied to healthy habits.
So, whether you’re making a salad, taking a run each day, or even drinking a cup of camomile tea to help you fall asleep at night, do in the spirit of happiness and gratitude. So before you start any healthy habit, remind yourself why you’re doing it. You’re why is up to you—maybe you want to reduce the amount of insulin you need each day for your type 2 diabetes. Maybe you want to fit into a certain outfit that you used to love to wear. Maybe you want to live longer so you can spend more time with your family. Your “why” is personal. And your “why” can be the underlying driving force for every habit. Know your “why” and let it inspire you toward change and help you push through when you don’t feel like doing what you need to do to get healthy.
Keeping Track Keeps You On Track
I actually keep track of calories. Yes, I am aware that “counting calories” is so 1980. I do it not because I think calories in equals calories out. I do understand that not every calorie is created equal. If I allow myself 1700 calories a day and choose to eat 1700 calories work of cookies each day, I’m going to feel like crap after day one. If I eat 1700 calories worth of good fats, fruits, vegetables, and good quality protein, I’m going to feel good. I’m going to have energy and be in a good mood both of which help me stay productive. I count calories because I’ve found it’s the easiest way to hold myself accountable. There are so many easy-to-use apps today. In the 80’s I had to use a pen and paper. Can you imagine?
I also keep track of the workouts I do per week or the miles I ride my bike on the trail, depending on the season. I like to set fitness goals for myself. It makes exercise extra fun because there’s a contest between me and myself. If I decide to ride 1,000 miles in a season, how will I know if I’ve reached my goal unless I keep track of my rides each day? I use mapmyride. It’s easy to use and let’s me know how fast I’m going too.
Keeping a log of food or workouts doesn’t have to be a hassle or something you use to beat yourself up over. It can simply be a way to keep yourself on task so that you reach your goals.
Lay the Groundwork
Many years ago, I was training for a marathon and working full-time. If you’ve ever trained for a long race, you know that putting in those miles every week was like a part-time job. In order to get my miles in, I had to get up early. And I’m not a morning person. I needed a strategy so I would not skip the miles to get more sleep. Each evening I would lay out my workout clothes for the next day. I would check the weather report too so if it was going to rain, I would be ready to run in the rain or cold so that all I had to do was roll out of bed and get into my running clothes. Many mornings, I could get dressed half-awake. By the time I was fully awake, I was fully dressed for a run. There was no turning back at that point.
The same principles apply to healthy eating. That healthy lunch isn’t going to fall from the sky at 1 pm. You’re going to have to plan for lunch the next day. That means you’re going to have to have vegetables in the refrigerator. That means you’re going to be chopping the night before. I do not like making salads. However, eating a salad a day at lunch is hands down the best way for me to maintain my weight and have the energy to get through my workday. I decided that making salads can be fun. If I play some music or listen to a podcast while I am doing the cleaning and chopping, it’s much more fun. I make sure that I have my favorite dressing ready to go each week. Even the cleanup can be easy if you’re enjoying yourself. You can involve your kids too. Every kid needs to know what a fennel looks like and how to cut it to make a salad really special.
Prepare for that workout the night before so you don’t skip it. Make that healthy lunch ahead of time so you don’t get stuck ordering fast food.
Being present with your food is a good habit. So many of us eat on the fly, in our cars, standing up, while doing something else. I know that makes us think we are saving time. There’s a reason you don’t remember what you ate. It’s because you weren’t there when you were eating it. You were distracted.
One time I remember logging my calories for the day and I just couldn’t believe how many calories I had left. It was a miracle! I was not hungry, yet I had calories to spare! It didn’t add up so I thought back through my day and it took a good hour to realize that I had eaten a sandwich at 2:00. I barely remember eating it. I was also doing some work on my computer at that time. Not only did I not enjoy that sandwich, but I know if I ate absent-mindedly every day, after about a month, I would put on extra pounds. Even if you only have ten minutes, make them count. Be present. Chew your food slowly. Enjoy the smell, taste, and texture of the food.
Little Rituals Add Up to Big Success
I had a friend in college that had the simplest ritual for maintaining her weight. After dinner each night, she had one piece of chocolate. Before she ate it she would say these words, “Something sweet and then I’m done.” And she was. She never gained a pound in college. Never struggled with her weight. She was done. No tempting late-night study eating. The chocolate signaled the end of eating for the day.
Another good ritual to help you start a new habit is to write yourself a post-it note to remind you of your wellness goals and put it on your bathroom mirror. Here are some words you can write to yourself:
Today I eat healthy food to support my body
I work-out to keep my mind sharp and my body fit
I like cooking healthy food for me and my family
I enjoy my food. It fuels my body.
Exercising feels good. I enjoy it.
My health is important to me, therefore I _____ (insert habit you’re trying to establish)
Healthy habits are imperative if you want to regain your health or lay a solid foundation to keep your health. Good health can be helped along with herbs, supplements, and prescription medications. Health is enhanced with a nutritious diet, good sleep, and exercise. The bottom line is that all of these things- even taking prescriptions require your participation. You need to establish healthy habits.
Healthy habits are imperative if you want to regain your health or lay a solid foundation to keep your health. Start somewhere, anywhere. Just. Start. Whether you are re-establishing a habit that you lost during these unprecedented times or starting something brand new. It doesn’t matter. Just start.
What’s a healthy habit you want to establish (or re-establish) today?