START WHERE YOU ARE NOW WITH WHAT YOU HAVE. The small choices we make everyday can bring us to a higher, more vibrant existence of ourselves. Every moment we have the choice and exercising this opportunity on a regular basis makes for practice, which will truly bring about sustainable results over the long run.
Committing to a healthier lifestyle may seem daunting, but always keep in mind that consistency is key. Even the most agile martial artist doesn’t hurdle through the ranks, but builds up skill and discipline with time. Perfect lifestyles don’t exist, neither do notions of perfect eating. It all comes down to what you do most of the time, not sometimes. Be relaxed with food and don’t over-complicate the process. There is a distinct difference between making healthy choices and becoming obsessive about them. Moderation is one of the many paths to enlightenment – embrace that middle road and let go of extremes.
Change demands some form of discomfort. At times it may feel that you’re chipping away into an abyss, but don’t give up no matter where you find yourself in the process. Read on below for some tips:
1. Gradually substitute unhealthy choices with nutritious ones
Swap your daily soda with herbal Kombucha, Kefir soda (lemon ginger is delicious), sparkling mineral water mixed with fresh fruits, or a simple lemon and water.
Try coconut or almond milk instead of dairy milk, which is often congesting and mucus-forming.
Naturally cultured sourdough bread in place of refined wheat varieties.
Fruits, stevia or Luo Han Guo to sweeten your baked goods instead of refined sugar.
85%-92% dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
Note any symptoms you experience as you begin to eliminate foods that are known allergens and contribute to digestive issues. Common offenders include dairy, refined sugar, gluten, soy, yeast, peanuts and corn.
3. Skip calorie counts
Metabolism and how the body burns off calories is affected by many factors including insulin and leptin sensitivity, stress, hormones, thyroid conditions, liver health and digestive health. Given the right tools, the body is a self-modulating system – it’s not always about the amount of calories consumed, but the quality. Eating a healthy calorie-dense avocado rife with monounsaturated fats is far more nutritious and filling than eating a sweet treat with the same amount of calories, but loaded with inflammatory sugars and refined oils or margarine. Aim to eat a wholefoods diet with plenty of raw, enzyme-rich vegetables that fill up your plate. If you’re looking to trim down, schedule in 30-40 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week. Get your body moving whenever you have the chance – walk or bike to work and take the stairs instead of the lift.
“Calories are not created equal. The same number of calories from different types of food can have very different biological effects. In a study of 154 countries that looked at the correlation between calories, sugar and diabetes, scientitsts found that adding 150 calories a day to the diet barely raised the risk of diabetes in the population – but if those 150 calories came from soda, the risk of diabetes went up by 700%.” – Dr. Mark Hyman
4.Introduce one new healthy food weekly and keep your menu diverse
If you normally eat white or brown rice, try quinoa or buckwheat.
Add kale or watercress to your salads with toasted almonds or pine nuts.
Use nori sheets for wraps.
Make a tahini dressing in place of store-bought varieties.
Experiment with herbs and spices. They are nutritious and can add sublime effects to dishes.
5. Add veggies and fruits directly into your smoothies
This is a great multivitamin and mineral fix that allows you to get your daily produce servings, particularly when you’re limited for time and are on-the-go.
6. Preparation is everything.
Pre-pack snacks to take with you to work, while driving or riding the the train. If hunger strikes, you can be ready with nutritious options such as nuts, home-made trail mix, a piece of fruit, dehydrated veggie chips, seaweed snacks or sesame seed crackers.
7. Embrace imperfection
You can’t be on your A game every day. You will inevitably make less than healthy choices every now and then, which is normal and all goes back to balance. If you slip up, continue on your healthy path and don’t let it mess you up for the whole day or week. If you find yourself at a restaurant with friends or family, aim for the best option on the menu, and if you are offered food you don’t want, refuse kindly. No matter where you find yourself, don’t stress over every decision – be present and enjoy the moment.
8. Don’t compare
As we noted above, many factors have an impact on how the body metabolizes food and expends energy. We all require macro and micro nutrients, but the quantities in which we consume them and how they make us feel will be singular to us. Some people fair well on vegetarian diets, while others thrive on Paleo. Listen and take note to how your body feels after a meal, this will be your answer – not what is working for others.
9. Practice mindfulness
Consciously listen to what your body is asking for when sitting down for a meal, instead of eating out of boredom or following the latest food trend. Take your time, take in all the flavors of your meal, and chew your food well. Rushing to eat and inhaling everything quickly will put greater strain on your digestion. Your stomach will have to work harder to break down the meal, and stress slows down the process even further.
10. Up your water intake
Our bodies are made up of 70% water. Often times when we feel hungry and lethargic or when our skin becomes congested, it’s a sign that we need to increase the amount of water we’re consuming. Aim to drink half your body weight (lb) as liquid ounces daily. Herbal teas also do the trick as they don’t contain caffeine that acts as a diuretic. Coconut water is also a nice alternative with plenty of electrolytes.
Many times stress and lack of sleep can cause our healthy habits to take a detour—give meditation a try. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a proven way to calm your nervous system and regulate neurotransmitters that affect your mood, emotional health and sleep patterns.