With winter fading away and spring coming fast, people are scrambling to get back on track with their New Year’s health and fitness resolutions, get back to the gym, and get back to healthy eating because they want to be beach-ready. The trouble with this method is that the yo-yoing makes people lose and gain weight and have to start all over time after time. It’s far better (and easier) if you develop healthy habits and commit to a healthy lifestyle that you can stick with year-round to avoid the ups and downs. Check out these two year-round healthy habits to develop now to get you started.
- Change Your Diet
You may have heard that you can’t out-exercise an unhealthy diet, and it’s true. Most doctors, nutritionists, and health experts agree that getting healthy is 80% based on what you eat and 20% based on what you do to exercise. For many people, this is the opposite approach to health; we often think that we can have an extra piece of cake if we spend more time in the gym. The truth is, we need to fuel our bodies with healthy, whole foods and stop eating junk food that is processed, full of chemicals, and has little to no nutritional value.
But, changing your diet will not happen overnight. That’s why it’s sometimes easier to commit to healthy eating if you make a few small changes that eventually will add up to a whole new way of eating. For the first few days, commit to drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Then, start cutting out added sugar. Put unsweetened almond milk or coconut oil in your coffee instead of sugar and creamer. A few healthier eating choices will soon make a big difference to your health and fitness.
Help yourself by creating a weekly meal plan, throwing away or donating foods that don’t fit your plan, and stocking up on healthy foods. The more real the food that you include in your meal plan, the better it will be for you. Whole foods like apples instead of apple juice, oatmeal instead of cold cereal, and sweet potatoes instead of French fries are better choices. Plan for snack attacks with whole, natural almonds or a handful of grapes instead of a sugary granola bar. And, make it a goal to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables each day.
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- Reduce Your Stress Levels
One of the reasons that people eat junk food and skip workouts is a high level of stress. When you have a high level of stress, you turn to sugary, processed foods because sugar does relieve stress; the result is a cycle of high stress levels, poor nutrition, and more stress caused by poor nutrition. Healthy diets have a stronger, positive effect on physical and mental health, and people more successfully reduce their stress levels when they avoid foods and drinks with caffeine, high-fat concentrations, and sugar.
If you reduce your stress in other healthy ways, such as exercising, you will help reduce your cravings for sugar. Some exercises that are known for reducing stress include high-energy activities like dancing, calming activities such as yoga, and going for a long walk outside.
Studies also show that spending time with a dog reduces stress. When you pet and play with an animal, your level of the love hormone oxytocin increases. Whether the animal is yours or someone else’s, you bond with it, relax, and your stress level decreases. You can double the stress-reducing effect of spending time with animals if you combine that time with exercising. So, for example, you might become a dog walker or you could simply take your own dog to the park for some fetch.
Developing healthy habits takes time and effort, but, if you begin by making small, positive changes, you’ll start to see a significant difference in your health and fitness levels. Change your diet by adopting a healthy lifestyle and reduce your stress by exercising and spending time with your dog, and you’ll find that you have developed healthy habits that you can maintain all year long.
*By Paige Johnson from Learnfit.org
*Photo by bijutoha