How to start a healthy lifestyle

If you have lived with bad habits for a long time, you might wonder how to start a healthy lifestyle. Making drastic changes to what you eat, how you spend your time, and how you think about yourself and your life has the potential to make or break your future. Here’s everything you need to know about how to start a healthy lifestyle.

 

Contents

     1.1 - Get to Know Yourself
     1.3 - Enjoy Downtime
     1.4 - Tend to Relationships
     2.1 - Get Informed
     2.2 - Start Small
     2.3 - Make a Plan
     2.4 - Find Support
     2.5 - Do What You Enjoy
     2.6 - Stick with It
     2.7 - Keep Track


 

How Do I Start Living a Healthy Lifestyle?       

Most of us agree, being healthy starts with what we put into our bodies and how often (or not) we move them. But a healthy lifestyle is more than just eating vegetables and getting outside every day. Your mental health, relationships, and goals in life affect your health just as much as what you eat.

 

Get to Know Yourself      

If you feel poorly about yourself, you won’t have the motivation to stick with your healthy living goals. Start on the inside and consider what makes you you. Think about your life goals, passions, and weaknesses.

Many people turn to meditation or yoga to focus on their inner selves, but you don’t have to be a master of positive thinking to understand yourself better. Be honest with yourself, admit what is great about you, and acknowledge the things you need to work on.

If you have past trauma to work through or you lack an adequate support system at home, consider seeing a professional therapist or counselor. Just talking to someone who will take the time to listen can help you feel better, and put you in the right frame of mind to start your healthy living journey.

 

Eat Right and Exercise      

Although you already know that eating right and exercising is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, those terms mean different things to different people. In general, eating right means consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. Exercise means getting your body moving, but consistency is crucial.

When it comes to eating right, there is no shortage of fad diets and even seemingly successful long-term food regimens. But each person has unique tastes, cooking abilities, and budget. Overall, eating more vegetables and fruit will keep you full longer and add the nutrients your body needs to your diet.

Apart from that, avoiding sugary and fatty junk food is another tenet of healthy eating. Treats are acceptable occasionally, because what is life without indulgence? But be careful to balance your indulgences with healthy choices like whole grains, fresh produce, and lean protein.

Exercise is another topic that evokes strong opinions. Some people swear by daily yoga practice to keep their bodies toned and healthy. Others spend hours in the gym with weights only, eschewing cardio activities in favor of bulking up their muscles.

If you have not exercised in a long time, take care to start out slowly. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Alternatively, you can aim for 75 minutes per week of vigorous athletic activity.

The Mayo Clinic also suggests engaging in strength training exercise each week to target specific muscle groups. However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to join a gym or purchase weightlifting equipment. Getting acquainted with the barbell and the squat rack is a worthy endeavor, but bodyweight training will work too.

Enjoying time with friends is a great way to relax

Enjoy Downtime      

You might feel lazy when you take a day off and do nothing, but you shouldn’t. Proper rest and downtime are crucial for a healthy lifestyle, and stress causes problems of its own. If you’re turning toward healthier ways of living, coping with stress should top your list of priorities.

Getting enough sleep, enjoying hobbies, and occasionally whiling the day away in front of the TV is good for you. In fact, the Huffington Post combed a collection of studies and listed ten health benefits of relaxation:

  • Helps prevent your heart from stressing out: Stress increases your blood pressure and puts your heart in a bad place. Staying relaxed keeps your blood pressure normal and your heart rate consistent.
  • Reduces your chances of getting sick: Stress makes it hard for your body to fight off inflammation, and bad bugs take over.
  • Increases your memory capacity: If you tend to forget things while going about your daily harried life, you’re not alone. People who are chronically stressed have a hard time thinking straight. Relaxation relieves some of that pressure so that you can think clearly and remember relevant information.
  • Lowers your risk of stroke: Psychological stress can contribute to your risk of having a stroke. Relaxing, along with exercising regularly and not smoking, reduces that risk.
  • Lessens the odds of depression: While there’s no foolproof way to fight depression, especially considering the potential for genetic influences, people who can’t relax produce more stress hormones and have mood problems. Relaxing can take your cortisol levels down a notch.
  • Aids decision-making: We weigh decisions best with a clear mind, and stress is the culprit again when it comes to poor decision-making. Relaxing ensures that you’re ready to tackle tough decisions when the time comes.
  • Keeps you fit: Binge-eating when you’re stressed out means more calories you don’t need. Taking time for yourself reduces the need for therapeutic junk food.
  • Clears your skin: Acne flare-ups often accompany high-pressure situations. Staying cool and collected avoids them.
  • Increases intimacy: Relaxing can enhance your libido.
  • Slows cancer: Studies have shown that women suffering from breast cancer benefit from relaxation.

 

Tend to Relationships      

Cultivating and maintaining meaningful relationships makes us feel good, but can it affect our health, too? Harvard says yes, noting a body of research that relates healthy relationships to longevity, fewer health problems, and more happiness.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true of people who fail to maintain significant relationships in their lives. One study followed over 300 thousand participants and concluded that people who lacked close relationships had a 50 percent higher risk of premature mortality than other groups.

But how can you avoid a lonely and relatively short life? Harvard suggests focusing on your closest relationships, doing things you enjoy with your loved ones, and quitting activities or friends that cause negative feelings.

 

How Do I Start Eating Healthier and Exercising?      

It’s hard to change unhealthy habits, and food is often the biggest barrier for people who want to lose weight and live a healthier life. But many people wonder how to start a healthy lifestyle when they have spent a lifetime building up bad habits. Here are the top tips for getting started with healthy eating.

Veg...lots of veg

 

Get Informed      

You’ll see plenty of fad diets online, but each body has different needs and preferences. That makes it difficult to recommend one diet over another. Some people are very successful with cutting their carbohydrate intake. Others thrive on a diet higher in protein.

In general, calorie counting would seem to be the way to go. In fact, one JAMA study tracked over 600 overweight adults through 12 months of dieting. Half of the participants followed a low-fat diet, while the other half followed a low-carbohydrate diet.

All the study participants lost weight, but there was no statistically significant difference between each group’s results. The study also examined insulin levels in its participants, but there were no clear differences in insulin secretion either.

Overall, some people will see wild success with a low-carb diet, while others might not. But your priority when working toward a healthier lifestyle is staying fit over the long-term.

An article from the International Journal of Obesity saw better weight loss results when study subjects received informational leaflets with recommendations on healthy eating and promotion of energy balance. The leaflet also included a checklist for people to monitor their progress.

This is good news for those of us who like to research for jumping into a lifestyle change: reading about what we want to do is the first step in actually doing it. It’s also the first step toward a successful life change, according to science.

After you’ve done your research, just make sure you actually take action on what you’ve learned.

 

Start Small      

It might be tempting to jump right into big changes, especially if you’ve struggled with your weight for a long time. We all want quick results, but making drastic changes isn’t the way to do it. In fact, science tells us that slow and steady really does win the race.

One discussion of studies relating to habits and weight loss success examined the relationship between people’s habits and the longevity of their “new” behaviors. The review looked at studies which saw participants setting goals for themselves in the form of habits.

For example, a person might decide that their goal is to drink more water. To make this a daily habit, the person then needs to choose a cue for the habit. Just like we brush our teeth after breakfast, put our shoes on after our socks, and many other daily patterns, so we can create new ones that are just as effective.

To drink more water, you might choose to have a glass after each meal. You may decide to drink two glasses first thing in the morning when you wake up. Or you might choose to drink water at lunchtime before you eat.

Over time, this new habit will become as natural as brushing your teeth every day. Following this strategy can help you maintain healthy habits longer, and it gives you something you can start doing immediately that will earn results in no time.

Low impact exercise is a great way to get started

Make a Plan      

Unless you have a medical condition that makes it unsafe, getting more exercise should be part of your healthier living roadmap. Of course, you know that you need to schedule your active time and make it part of your daily routine. Making exercise another healthy habit, and you’ll stick with it longer than if you just make a new year’s resolution to commit.

Planning is about more than just gym time, however. Deciding what and when you’ll eat, as well as how much, can make or break the healthy new you. Before going shopping and scooping up all the health food you can find, make up a list and meal outline for the week, or at least for a few days.

Once you have a plan for your week’s meals, it’s much easier to avoid the fast food drive-thru or the convenience food aisle. You’ll likely save money, as well, which is a pleasant perk that comes along with meal prep.

It’s always easier to have a meal plan in place so that you know what you’ll be eating and when. But did you know that it’s also better for you? One cross-sectional study looked at meal planning as it relates to diet quality.

In investigating the meal planning habits of over 40 thousand survey participants, researchers found that 57 percent of them planned meals in advance. Those respondents had higher overall food variety and had a lower risk of obesity.

That said, meal prep does not have to involve cooking an entire week’s worth of food in one day and eating the same thing over and over. Simply making a grocery list and loose meal plan can help you avoid repeating meals, keeping your diet exciting and healthy.

Your life is about to look a whole lot greener!

 

Find Support      

Unfortunately, many of us have unhealthy habits surrounding food, and for most of us, it started at an early age. Studies have shown that kids look to their peers not only for social approval but also dietary habits. Kids tend to eat unhealthy foods when their peers are doing so, one study noted, meaning junk food was prevalent.

Even adults succumb to peer pressure in a variety of situations, especially food-related ones. Plus, eating is a social activity, something that people want to enjoy together. That means you need to have a strategy in place for dealing with the junk food your peers may be consuming.

If you live alone, eating healthily is even more challenging. Convenience foods are appropriately named, and you might find yourself reaching for them more often when no one else is looking. Enlisting friends to start making healthier choices with you may help.

You can do more than simply refusing the treats of well-meaning coworkers and family. Invite them over to cook together or host a dinner party so they can sample your new healthy meals.

The more people know about your quest for a healthier lifestyle, the more support you’ll have.

Besides, they may decide to join you more often and work toward better health themselves.

 

Do What You Enjoy      

You might be wondering; how can I change to a healthy lifestyle when I’m so set in my ways? The truth is, any change is hard, but although you may find it daunting at first, you can make significant progress in a short time.

You can start out by doing things that you enjoy. Getting outside always helps you get active, but there are other activities you can start with that won’t feel like “that ghastly exercise thing”. Walking through an art exhibit by your favorite painter is still an improvement on staying glued to the couch.

Playing catch with your dog or taking a swim at the beach counts as exercise. Going for a walk around the block with family or taking a leisurely bike ride with your partner doesn’t take much effort, but both activities burn calories and get you off on a gentle start to a healthier lifestyle.

 

Stick With It      

In today’s fast-paced world, everyone wants to see immediate results. But as with everything in life worth doing, getting healthy isn't an overnight project. It will take time to see the results you’re looking for.

If you’re starting a new healthy living plan, complete with dietary restrictions and exercise quotas to fill, give it at least a month before you start judging your results. Still, the longer, the better. The British Journal of General Practice suggests repeating your new “habit” for ten weeks before expecting it to stick.

The temptation to give up will hit you at times. Don't give in to it.

Keep Track      

Whether it’s your topics of meditation, a food diary, or a rotating exercise schedule, keeping track of your accomplishments can help encourage you on off-days. Knowing that you are already on your way toward living a healthier and happier life will keep you from slipping when it comes to food and exercise.

Reflecting on how far you’ve come is also a good exercise in self-esteem. The more positive changes you make and document, the better you’ll feel about yourself and what you can accomplish.

Enjoy the little things

 

How Can You Live a Healthy Lifestyle?

You can try to go it alone, enlist friends or family, or rely on apps and fitness trackers to keep you in line. Whichever path you take, the rest of your life begins today. Your life is precious, and each day is 100% yours to fill with health and happiness. By starting a healthy lifestyle, and then continuing to live it, you give yourself the greatest gift possible!

There’s a lot to be said for the philosophy of immersing yourself in a new environment to kickstart the process of lifestyle change. Perhaps a fitness boot camp or weight loss camp is just the reset you need.