I was a health coach for several years before and while beginning this blog because my heart was drawn to wanting to help people feel better. Possibly derived from my dad’s life work of helping people through his psychology work, I wanted to help people feel in control of their health and well-being.
I’m passionate about healthy living because when we are physically and mentally well, we are free to live our fullest lives. If this isn’t something you’ve given much though to before, how to begin creating a healthy lifestyle may seem overwhelming and daunting. However, the old adage is true- taking small, consistent steps is key to reaching your health goals. Today I’m sharing effective, sustainable, and practical strategies to create habits to kick start your health journey and reduce risk of chronic diseases.
How to Start a Health Journey
Start By Adding Healthy Habits, Not Subtracting
It’s easy to begin by focusing on what you should cut out. No more added sugar, no more eating after 6:00, no more processed foods. But restricting and feeling deprived can backfire, which is why it’s best to first focus in on adding healthy habits. Add an additional 16 ounces of water to your day, add an additional vegetable to lunch, add in 15 minutes of walking after dinner.
Healthy habits take time to build, which is why tracking can be so beneficial. Use a colorful pen for each habit you’re tracking and mark it on a calendar so you can get a visual representation of your success. Creating a new habit takes on average 66 days, so tracking can be a beneficial way to keep yourself on track until your new habit is set.
Improve Your Sleep
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I know so many that struggle with this, but it’s worth trying out ways to improve your sleep and see what helps you personally. Things that have helped me and might help you improve the quality of my sleep include:
- Stick to a sleep schedule that has you going to bed and waking up close to the same time each day.
- If possible, go for a morning walk when the sun comes up. Sun on retinas in the morning can help set your circadian rhythm, giving you more energy during the day and helping you to feel more naturally tired at night.
- Take magnesium bisglycinate in the evening. I mix mine with tart cherry juice (natural source of melatonin) and lime Spindrift for a sleep well cocktail.
- Ensure that the bedroom is dark and cool.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed, as both can interfere with your natural sleep phases.
- Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night continues to prove to improve both mental and physical health as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It also can help you to stay at a healthy weight and boost your immune system so you are sick less often. All hail king sleep.
Focus on Protein
Including more lean protein in your diet is beneficial for more goals than weight loss, it helps with maintaining lean body mass, staying satiated, improving blood sugar control, supporting bone health, and more. The amount of protein a person needs has been debated recently with health experts challenging the current general recommendation of .36g/lb of body weight, arguing that more is protein is necessary for optimal health. Certainly do your own research and see what feels right for you, but I encourage you to consider playing around with it a bit.
I can attest to the benefits I’ve personally experienced by shooting for closer to 100g of protein per day. Need ideas for how to boost your protein intake? Check out my go-to sources for protein that don’t include powders or supplements.
Consider Your Liquids
We all know we should be drinking water, but what else are you drinking? Are they additive to your health? Can you boost the health benefit of some of them? Are there others that would be beneficial to cut back on? A few of my favorite liquids include water, water with LMNT for better hydration (especially when I’m sweating a lot), bone broth for gut soothing and protein, and tea for enjoyment.
This year I had a goal to cut back on alcohol consumption and have played around with more mocktails and apoptogenic blends, like Apothekary. I blend their Stop Your Wine-ing blend in a wine glass. It has a subtle herb flavor and I swear it helps me feel more relaxed.
Move Your Body & Sweat
Yes, taking the stairs instead of the elevator is good, and if you are truly starting from scratch, it’s a great place to begin. But if you have fallen complacent with sticking to the same body moving routine, maybe it’s time to mix up your fitness goals and exercising times.
A good blend of strength training and cardio is a great place to start. For weight lifting, it’s best to begin with a focus on form, even if you are using really light weights. Have someone at the gym help make sure you have correct form to avoid injury, or if you work out at home, start by using workout guidance that includes video instruction you can mimic. I love Madeline’s Weekly Moves app (read my full review here) because I can do the workouts anywhere, it touches on all muscle groups, each exercise has a video tutorial, and it provides new workouts each week so I’m never bored.
If you want more cardio benefit from your walks but don’t want to switch to running, consider a weighted vest which can help increase your effort and heart rate.
If you have trouble sweating during the cold months like I do, a sauna or infrared sauna blanket like I have can provide relaxation and detoxification while promoting healthy blood flow and glowing skin in just 30 minutes as it helps you sweat/detox. Use my code AHS for $100 off.
I probably should have included mental health and stress management at the top, because along with sleep (and the two are tied together), stress management is a top player in overall health. Stress effects everything from our moods, to our hormones and our sleep. While we can’t eliminate all stress from our lives, there are ways we can learn to better navigate it.
- Take a break from watching the news and scrolling social media. While it’s good to be informed and connected, you weren’t designed to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders at all time.
- Take a walk outside. Getting in nature and moving your body can work wonders in changing your mindset.
- Practice deep breathing exercises. One of my favorites is the 4-7-8. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, then slowly exhale for 8 counts.
- Say no to commitments that don’t serve you or that you can not take on at the moment. Brene Brown taught me to choose temporary discomfort (saying no) over long term resentment (of having to follow through with said commitment).
- Watch funny bloopers of baby animals. Don’t knock it until you try it.
- And of course if you are struggling and aren’t seeing a way out, please reach out and ask for help, whether that’s a call or text to a trusted friend, family member, or health professional.
Cook Your Own Food
I remember being deeply impacted by the simplicity Michael Pollan preached in the book In Defense of Food. In a world of counting macros and fancy green powders, his advice of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” was incredibly refreshing. And I believe if you are starting a health journey, that’s the best place to begin. Eat food- real food. Fruits and vegetables and meats that your grandmother would recognize. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where all the fresh items are.
Cook at home. Michael Pollan also alludes to the fact that there is no junk food if we are making it ourselves. For example: craving French fries? Great! Peel and cut and fry the potatoes yourself. Not only will it be fresher ingredients than grabbing them from a drive through, but it takes more effort, which will naturally decrease the frequency and amount you’ll be consuming.
If you’re new to cooking, start simple! If you’re feeding a family, check out these kid-approved slow cooker meals. Learn a couple basics like how to roast broccoli or grill chicken. Cookbooks and fancy recipes are great for when you want to and have time to play around, but for everyday eating remember that simple is good. Buy a favorite dressing or sauce to jazz up your healthy eating basics until you have an arsenal of go-to favorite meals to rely on.
Once your foundational health blocks are in place, perhaps you’ll get excited about adding in a Lumen device or a CGM, but don’t feel like you have to start there. In fact, you shouldn’t. Despite what the flashiest IG fitness celeb says, your overall health is impacted greatest by your simple, everyday habits. If you can begin to get tweak those for the better, your health and fitness journey will be off to a solid start.
If you are just beginning your health journey, I hope you find this inspiring. Health is built in our foundational daily habits. It’s just as simple, and as challenging, as that. You’ve got this!