Many of my clients tell me they want to live in a healthier way. They know they need to overhaul their eating, but don't know where to start and often they feel more than a little overwhelmed. Does that also describe you? Does the prospect of a major lifestyle change seem a little overwhelming to you?
Making healthy lifestyle changes does not have to be overwhelming. The key to incorporating healthy positive changes in your lifestyle is to break the changes down into do-able actions. As you gradually make positive changes in your lifestyle and consistently repeat them, they will become new healthy habits.
Before you start making changes I would suggest you keep a journal while you are instituting changes into your lifestyle. Write about how you feel about making changes, the difficulties, as well as the successes you have along the way. What changes might you make? Here's a suggested (but not all inclusive) 8 week plan to get you started on your new healthy lifestyle:
Week One: Instead of drinking soda drink water. Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Does this sound like a lot to you? Get yourself a 32 ounce mug. It's much easier psychologically to drink two mugs of water rather than 8 - eight ounce glasses. I would suggest getting a good water filtration system for your home or drinking spring water which you can find in any grocery store. Do not drink tap water! You may add lemon to your water to enhance taste.
Week Two: Eat a salad every day. I would not recommend the "chemical ridden" salad dressings in your favorite grocery store. Rather, you may use a little orange or lemon juice as a dressing or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. Olive oil makes a good salad dressing especially if you add a little minced shallot, Dijon mustard, garlic powder or minced garlic to it. You might also go to your favorite library, bookstore or online vegetarian website and look-up a recipe for healthy salad dressings. Don't use the commercial brands.
Week Three: In addition to the salad you're now eating everyday, resolve to eat five more vegetable servings per day. This isn't hard when you stop to realize a serving is only ½ cup. Be sure to eat vegetables of different colors. Make your plate colorful! The more colors in your plate of food, the more nutrients you are giving your body.
Week Four: Stop eating all fast and processed foods. Yes, it's really convenient to pull into the nearby fast food place or to nuke something in the microwave. But these foods are lacking in nutrients and are high in both calories and the wrong kind of fat. Use the rule -- 'if God didn't make it, I won't eat it'. Think of it this way: every cell in your body is made from the food you eat. If you eat less than healthy food, your body will enjoy less than optimal health.
Week Five (for coffee drinkers): Cut down on coffee! Resolve to have only one cup in the morning. If you are a heavy coffee drinker you may consider having one cup of caffeinated coffee and remaining cups 50/50 caffeinated and non-caffeinated. Gradually change over to just 50/50 and then slowly decrease the number of cups you have until you're only drinking one cup. You might even consider booting coffee out of your life. Perhaps, switch to green tea for its antioxidant qualities.
Week Five (for non-coffee drinkers): Have a cup of green tea every morning. For added health benefit, add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.
Week Six: Begin eating four fruits a day. If you haven't been wild about eating fruits up till now then start with eating two a day and work up to four. Oh and fruit juices don't count! Your body needs the fiber from whole fruit.
Week Seven: Incorporate some form of exercise into your daily regimen. If you have been mostly sedentary for some time, do check with your physician before starting an exercise program. Your exercise regimen could be as simple as walking. Get a pedometer and work up to 10,000 steps per day.
Week Eight (for smokers): With the issuance of the recent Surgeon General's report, don't you agree it's clear how bad smoking is for your health? Here it is if you haven't read it: (http://surgeongeneral.gov/) . There are many ways to quit smoking, however, there is no one way which works for everyone. You might try hypnotism or auricular therapy. Some folks go "cold turkey" and just stop. If you are a heavy "nervous" type smoker I recommend you talking with your doctor about how to quit and be sure to look-up an area support group. You can find a smoking cessation group in your area by contacting the American Lung Association or by calling the respiratory care department of your local hospital.
Week Eight (for everyone): Go through your kitchen pantry and refrigerator and throw out anything containing high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda).
Give yourself a pat on the back. You have worked very hard for eight weeks. The changes you have made in your lifestyle have gotten you started on a healthier path. You may have even lost some weight during these eight weeks. Your consistency with these changes will change your life. You will find you'll have more energy, less aches and pains and a healthier frame of mind. Congratulations!
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