It doesn’t take a total diet overhaul to be healthy. If you’re looking to have some simple changes to incorporate into your current routines, read on below.
Get a big water bottle
Water helps you to regulate your body temperature, lubricates your joints, and provides a medium for all the physiological actions within your body to take place. Water makes up your blood and saliva, plumps up and is the main component in your cells, and comprises the cerebrospinal fluid that provides protection for your brain and spinal cord. Water is not just to stop you from feeling thirsty.
Setting a goal for yourself to improve your water intake can help you to feel energized and make your skin look youthful and healthy. Try setting a timer to remind yourself when to take a drink, download a free app to help you to remember to drink water, or keep a water bottle in your car, at your workplace, and/or on your kitchen counter. Fill your water bottle up and drink it all before lunch, and then fill another for after lunch. Figure out what works for you! You are over half water (60% in fact), so get it in you!
Establish a regular nighttime routine
Yes, this means on weekends too.
Sleep is the time when your body gets to rest its organs and regenerate and to form memories. Not enough or too much sleep has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, depression, and obesity. Forming a regular sleep schedule helps to deepen and potentially lengthen your time of sleep.
Your body loves keeping a schedule. Your hormones are delivered on a diurnal or circadian rhythm. Melatonin is your “sleep” hormone and cortisol is your “wake-up” hormone and both are released in response to the light/dark cycle of day and night. Going to bed at a different hour every night, constant stress, exposure to blue light or daylight, or naps and shift work will throw one or both of these hormones off their usual curves. It causes them to not know when to put you to sleep (melatonin high, cortisol low) or wake you up (cortisol high, melatonin low). Your sleep becomes less restful, you have difficulty falling asleep, and you have difficulty staying asleep.
Developing a bedtime routine (shutting off electronic devices an hour before bed, having a cup of herbal non-caffeinated tea, sitting and reading a book, etc.) and then going to bed at the same time as often as you can help to improve your sleep, and diminish your chances of developing disease.
Breathe into your abdomen
Did you know that it is our natural instinct to breathe into our abdomens as babies and kids, but breathing into the chest becomes the norm as we get older? Breathing deeply improves oxygenation to the lungs and body tissues promotes relaxation by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, and pumps your lymphatic system (which is responsible for pushing waste products around and out of your body). When you’re driving in the car, when you’re sitting at your desk, and when you’re laying in bed, take a few deep breaths through your nose and into your abdomen. It feels good!
Get rid of the granola bars
Granola bars are full of sugar, and sugar has zero nutritional value and does more harm than good. If you’re eating a granola bar for breakfast or because you’re hungry at 2 pm, this is one of the worst things that you can do for your hunger and health. The simple carbohydrates and sugars in those bars quickly break down in your saliva and stomach, get absorbed, get used, and then leave you on empty an hour later. Eating a meal or snack full of protein and healthy fats helps to regulate blood sugar levels and providing you with sustained energy instead of an energy high followed by a crash.
Some options for quick and healthy snacks and light meals include: egg muffins, chia seed pudding, overnight oats, Costco Kirkland Signature Protein Bars (low in sugar, high in protein and fiber), ½ avocado, ¼ cup nuts and/or seeds, nut butters on apples, smoothies, and protein shakes.
Move your legs
How often do you move from one chair to another throughout the day without doing much in between? What are some ways to add in more steps?
People who spend most of their day sitting down have an increased chance of developing a low metabolism, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, pain and muscle degeneration, and varicose veins and weak bones. You don’t have to be an athlete or go to the gym to incorporate the advantages of movement into your life. Take a walk to the furthest bathroom, park far from the door, go for a walk at lunch. Do some calf raises when you’re brushing your teeth, making dinner, doing the dishes, or watching TV. Go for a walk around your house during commercials. Stand up or walk around for a phone call. Take the stairs!
These simple changes have the potential to enhance your mood, diminish your risk of disease, increase your productivity, and improve your energy levels. Over time, these simple changes will become habits and a lifestyle, and will only continue to compound into more beneficial choices to improve your health and overall quality of life.