Every year, millions of Americans start New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, drop excess weight, eat right, and exercise. Local gyms can barely keep up with all the new exercise enthusiasts, and people feel hopeful that this year’s health picture will be different. But as January rolls into February, the initial surge of people thins out (no pun intended), and by March, more than half return to their pre-exercise routines, excuses, and resignations.
If you want to develop permanently healthy habits, then you will need to find a way of integrating them into your everyday routine. It can be easy to have an exercise or healthy-eating kick which may last a couple of weeks or even months. However, if you want to make a more lasting change, then you will need to make sure that your healthy habits are ones which can be adhered to on a daily basis, and I would suggest making these habits as easy as possible. Here are just a few ways in which you may be able to incorporate certain healthy behaviors into your daily routine.
Not a passing phase
Firstly, you will want to make sure that your new healthy diet becomes more than just a passing phase. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, and simply don’t purchase any items which you are trying to avoid eating. This will mean that you are far less tempted to eat them at a later date. As you are doubtless aware, healthy eating can affect everything from your weight, to your general health, and some individuals also maintain that it can alter everything from your state of mind to the cost of your insurance policies. This is why this is an important healthy habit to adhere to. Once you have made the switch to a healthier diet, you are far less likely to get extreme sugar-cravings like you may have done in the past.
Use your own engine
Another way in which you can make sure that your healthy habits become part of your daily routine is to think about the method of transport you tend to use. Do you sometimes jump in the car to travel a distance which you may have been able to cover on foot, or by bicycle? These are far healthier options, which can also save you money, and are well worth integrating into your regular routine. If you tend to take the car in order to transport your shopping home with you, then bear in mind that carrying it can offer even more of a workout – even if you need to make more than one trip!
Your town may have ride-to-work programs, bicycle trails and paths, and run/walk areas you may not be familiar with. My best advice is to integrate your exercise routine into your habits as much as possible, and assume they will take more time than it does to hop into your car.
I know most people are busy. We have kids to raise, jobs to do, bills to pay, friends and relatives to visit. Taking care of yourself, including diet and exercise, often do not get as much attention. The challenge is to remember that everyone gets the same twenty-four hours per day. If diet and exercise need to fit in your schedule and you do not know how to make it fit, you must think differently about it.
How is it that some people are better at accomplishing their goals in the same amount of time? The most successful people are goal-oriented and practice-driven. They write down their daily goals, including activities like exercise and active recreation. While some track what they eat, others have found the same system I use: they eat the same 8-10 foods during the week, which include lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and plenty of water (instead of sodas or juice). You must think differently about how you attend to what you want out of life, including your eating goals.
Sounds boring? Let me ask you this: when was fueling your body supposed to be exciting? If you are over-eating sugary, salty, and fat-laden foods, it’s possible that all you want is a party in your mouth. When eating is primarily for satiation (a satisfying feeling of about 80% fullness in the stomach) and fueling your body to accomplish what it needs to do (convert fuel to sugars to regulate all its systems), the focus moves away from just wanting that mouth party to go on and on for no reason. Again, you must think differently about food.
The same can be applied to exercise. When starting a routine that you want to develop into a habit, I recommend you start with something easy and accessible. Even if you join a gym, chances are you will not use that gym often unless you make it easy to go there. Have clean T-shirts and workout wear packed and ready to go. Keep your gym shoes in your bag (don’t forget to air them out in between workouts!). Hide a carb snack bar in the gym bag pocket for longer workouts. Engage in at least 30-45 minutes of cardio activity to start. If you can’t do that much because you are heavy or your lungs are weak, start with 10-15 minutes, and add five minutes each time you work out. Add resistance exercises after your cardio routine feels fairly routine.
At the same time as having a gym routine, I recommend having something even more convenient around your home. Since most people own a computer and a TV in their homes, you can use exercise videos and Internet programs to guide you through short workout routines with minimal equipment. If you have an exercise ball and a resistance band, you can find free routines that use those props. You don’t need to buy any expensive equipment for your home. Again, start easy and convenient until it becomes a habit.
The way you’re thinking differently is to not think of exercise is the thing you “do” at the gym, but also the things you do at home or even on your breaks. Have a lunch break for an hour? Eat for fifteen minutes, and walk for 45 minutes. Don’t have time to work out in the morning for 75 minutes? Work out in the morning for 30 minutes, and finish your workout in the evening. Like to watch at TV show in the evening? OK, pretend your body has to provide the battery life for the TV to run. Do 200 crunches and play imaginary jump rope games for 10 minutes of that 30 minute show. Can’t sleep for seven to eight hours? Sleep for five, get up and do your thing, and take a little nap later? Who said you have to always get all your sleep at once? Think differently about your health.
If you eat out, ask about portions. If portions are big at your favorite restaurants, order your food with a take out box at the start of the meal, and put half of the food in the box before you even start eating. How’s THAT for thinking differently?
There are many examples of healthy habits which can be incorporated into your daily routine when you think differently. If you have more, please feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll share your comment with our readers.
– Imei Hsu, RN, MAC, LMHC
Healthy Snacks I Recommend
Do you like eating healthy, but you’re short on time? Here’s an article from Lifehacker that lists some quick ways to prepare healthy meals that don’t require a lot of cooking.
Healthy Exercise Habits
See your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a heart condition, low back injury, have had a recent surgery, or high blood pressure that has affected your vision.
45 – 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day
Resistance exercise 2-3 times a week (weights, bands, or lifting your own body weight)
Try to do more errands walking or riding a bicycle
Healthy Habits for the Mind
Healthy Habits for the Soul
Healthy Supplements and Vitamins
If you are looking for a specific company to purchase vitamins and supplements, I can refer you to reputable company and representative. SDC does not profit from these referrals. The listing below are the most common deficiencies I encounter through my office clients:
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin D (therapeutic dosing in Northern hemisphere)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
Iron (especially in male vegetarians and those reducing red meat consumption, and replacement of iron loss in menstration)
Potassium (especially in female Eating Disorder patients)
Please respect that as a licensed mental health counselor and nurse maintaining this website, I will not be directly selling or promoting medicinal or supplemental products in the treatment of specific diseases.