Welcome to my first blog post.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the ‘50s, first noted that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But subsequent research has indicated that it may take much longer (2-8 months)1. It is no wonder then that many people struggle to continue past any 30 day exercise and diet challenge. Consistency is absolutely key for its success.
But how can one get started without feeling overwhelmed or defeated before beginning? Below I have listed 10 small steps that you can take to gradually make a shift towards a healthier lifestyle.
- Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity everyday. For example, park in the furthest spot in a parking lot away from the entrance of your destination so you have to walk a longer distance; take the stairs over the escalator or elevator; if you have kids, you can double up with quality bonding time by playing sports or going for walks with them.
- Increase your daily water intake. If drinking water is a hard task, start with a small goal of 2 cups a day and then work your way up to more. If you can, invest in a good water bottle. I personally love the Swell water bottles because it keeps the water cold for hours. But any glass water bottle works well, especially if it has an infuser! (You can buy one for less than $10 at Winners or Walmart). Filling the infuser with fruits and herbs are a great way to also increase your water intake. Some of my favourite combinations include: cucumber and mint; oranges and cranberries; rosemary and blueberries; lime and strawberries; basil, ginger and lemon.
- Shop along the periphery of the supermarket. For the bulk of your shopping, try to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and poultry. Reduce the amount of processed and packaged items you are purchasing. Notice I wrote ‘reduce’, and not ‘eliminate’ as this can be a difficult task for many and not a realistic goal right off the bat. You have to crawl before you can run.
- Replace processed items with a more natural substitute. For example, replace sugar and stevia with more natural forms of sweetener such as honey and maple syrup; replace white flour with almond meal or quinoa flour.
- Drink your greens. If broccoli and kale aren’t your friends, then you can try a couple other options. There are so many commercially available cold pressed green juices that have additional flavours like ginger, lemon, cayenne pepper, pineapple and so forth that makes green drinks taste yummy. Some of my favourite brands to try: Raw Juice Guru, Live , Buda Juice and Greenhouse Juice Company. If you can’t get to a juice store, most supermarkets carry cold pressed juices in the produce section. Also, you can try adding powdered greens to your water. One of my recent favourites is from Progressive called “VegeGreens” in the pineapple coconut flavour. It tastes like a Pina colada!
- Increase your fruit and veggie intake. In addition to your green drinks, you can increase your veggies in the following ways: in your omelettes (e.g. adding mushrooms & broccoli); as a pasta base (e.g. zucchini noodles aka zoodles, spaghetti squash) ; in a stir fry to compliment your protein (chicken, lean beef, ground turkey). Also adding fruits to your salad- berries, apples, peaches all make great additions to a kale or arugula salad.
- Prepare! That expression “failure to prepare then prepare to fail” can ring true for meal preparation. Reducing the amount of times you eat out will be beneficial for a healthier lifestyle, and probably help you to save some money. Prepare your lunch for work the night before along with any snacks especially for when you are on-the-go. Some of my favourites include apple with peanut butter, carrots and hummus, plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries. I always keep a protein or energy bar in my bag for when those hungry cravings creep in. My favourite bars are from Vega or Genuine Health (try their dark chocolate almond).
- Vitamins. We MAY not be getting the appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals from our food sources, so supplementation can be a great idea. Before deciding which ones to take, it is always best that you consult with your pharmacist or family doctor. Personally, one of the main supplements that I advocate for and take daily is Omega-3 fish oils. I also take a multivitamin, magnesium and calcium along with Vitamin D (Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption).
- Reduce alcohol and soda intake. Yes, I had to include this. Sorry guys! But it is true. Alcohol and soda can really have a negative affect your body. While it may be difficult to give up these items, reducing the intake may be of benefit. For example, if you are used to drinking 2 cans of Coke a day, try to limit consumption to 1 can.
- Breathe. Yes you read that correct. Not that one would ever forget to breathe, but we live in a world where we are constantly moving and being stimulated. Stress levels can be all over the place. Sometimes we need to take a moment and just do some focused deep breaths. I usually do 10 second counts for inhale, then another 10 seconds to exhale about 3–5 times when I find myself feeling stressed. Almost immediately I feel much better.
I hope some of these suggestions may add some value to you. Thanks you for taking the time to read this post.
Please feel free to comment below or send me an email if you have any questions.
1 Lally et al. (2009). How habits are formed: modelling a habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology 40 (6): 998-1009.