Cook meals from scratch as often as possible
Cooking is neither rocket science nor hard labor. There are plenty of recipes that are easy to follow and require little effort or skill. What matters most is the nutritional quality of your ingredients and also your cooking techniques.
Healthy cooking does not mean your meals have to taste bland or boring. A few small adjustments can make all the difference. In fact, the best way to stay on any healthy diet is to make the food as tasty and as interesting as possible.
Develop a strategy for dining out and special occasions
Even the most health-conscious lifestyle must be able to incorporate special occasions every now and then. Having lunch or dinner in a nice restaurant should be a pleasurable experience, unspoiled by guilt or regrets.
Of course, you have less control over the chef’s cooking techniques and styles when you eat out. But with a little know-how, you can easily identify the better choices on the menu. In most places, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for certain modifications when you place your order, such as lighter salad dressings or certain dishes to be omitted or served on the side. Overall, however, you should feel confident that a little straying from your dietary routine will be graciously tolerated by your body.
Make time for eating and savor the moment
In our fast-paced culture, it can be hard to spend much time on preparing and enjoying food. That is a shame, because rushed eating is not only bad for your health, it also deprives you of one of life’s greatest pleasures.
So, if you are a fast eater, force yourself to eat more slowly. If you eat too quickly and absentmindedly, you won’t be able to keep track of your actual food intake. Don’t eat while you work, drive or do other things that distract you. Always watch your portion sizes, even when you are having a really healthy meal.
Find better ways to handle your stress
Stress is a major contributor to lifestyle-related illnesses and a major cause for eating disorders and obesity. When coping with acutely stressful situations, our bodies use up nutrients much faster than when we are relaxed and at ease. While stress increases the need for fuel consumption, it simultaneously depresses the ability to absorb nutrients because normal digestive functions are largely suspended.
Stress and eating disorders have a tendency to build on each other in form of a vicious cycle. If the digestive system remains in a stress-induced state for too long, it will eventually suffer from serious malnutrition.
Instead of muddling through with a “whatever-it-takes” attitude, taking regularly time off for some personal TLC is a much better idea. When you take breaks, however, you should not simply become inactive but rather engage in some health-promoting activity, like physical exercise, yoga, meditation and the likes.
Maintain a healthy sleep routine
Sleep ranks among the best defense mechanisms we have to stay healthy. Getting enough sleep is just as important as good nutrition, exercise and stress management. Unfortunately, more and more people find it necessary to cut back on their sleep hours.
Long-term sleep deprivation can contribute to many lifestyle-related illnesses, among them obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Other potential consequences are weakening of the immune system and risk of a variety of chronic illnesses as well as negative psychological effects, such as memory loss, mood swings and depression. Persistent sleep deprivation may also have a significant impact on one’s life expectancy.
Schedule regular breaks into your busy day
Before you fill up your day planner and compile your to-do lists next time, make sure you schedule in your breaks, as if they were appointments. Actually, they are important appointments you make with yourself for the benefit of your health and well-being.
If you work in an office environment and are required to sit for hours, your breaks should always involve some moving and stretching exercises. Go outside from time to time for a little sun and fresh air. Your work place may or may not have a gym. If so, use it often! If not, take the stairs, walk around the premises or to a nearby park. Use your lunch break for walking, running, Yoga, Tai Chi or whatever you can do to take your mind off work for a little while. Join your colleagues or invite them to team up with you for some R&R. Many companies encourage and facilitate health and fitness programs for their employees. If yours doesn’t yet, come up with a proposal and talk to your personnel department.
On your days off, do something special, instead of letting the time slip away with little chores. Have a change of scenery. Go hiking or bicycling, walk on a beach, visit a museum, go dancing, go bowling, attend a county fair or music festival. Join a sports club. Make physical activities a regular family event or become part of a group that shares your interests.
Learn the facts before you decide to detox
Given the sheer onslaught of environmental and diet-related abuse, supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes with a little extra help now and then makes sense. Properdetoxification can help the body to restore its optimal health and vitality by strengthening its natural cleansing and healing processes.
I would advise against fasting in combination with detoxing, though. The primary purpose of enhanced cleansing from toxins is to promote healing and recovery. Weight loss may result incidentally, but it should not be the predominant motivation.
Stay motivated and get support
Staying committed and motivated is often the hardest part of a healthful lifestyle. Getting support from family and friends can be difficult as well. The people closest to you may not always be your best advisers. It is not unheard of that loved ones play a counter-productive role in people’s efforts to improve their lives.
If you encounter resistance from relatives or friends, deal with it right away. Listen to what they have to say and then explain patiently your actions to them in ways they can hear and understand. Good communication is key. But what matters most is that you get your health needs met in the end.
Caution yourself not to become too dependent on outside support. The changes you make in your life are foremost for your own benefit and your own well-being.
Making changes requires a position of strength. Both your physical and mental health are part of that. If you feel dispirited, depressed or exhausted, you will not be able to muster the energy necessary to turn things around. When you are unhappy, staying focused on the positive can seem impossibly hard. Be ready for these moments of doubt.
Try to be grateful for what you have and make peace with past disappointments. Focus on what still can be, not on what could have been. If you allow negative thoughts to linger, you won’t be open for new experiences.
Include forgiveness in your healing process. Forgiving those who have wronged you in the past does not mean you forget about what happened and move on. You forgive for your own benefit and for the sake of your own healing.
As I said in the beginning, it doesn’t really matter what your situation is or was and what exactly motivates you now to take action. All that matters is that you move in the right direction and continue on your chosen path – hopefully for the rest of your life. Any approach you choose can work, as long as it is right for you.