The path to health and fitness is a lifelong lifestyle commitment. It is about creating and sticking with good habits, no matter how big or small. Here are some little tips and tricks that can make a big difference in your overall health throughout the marathon of life.
1. Choose the ‘small plate’
It is not a secret that when it comes to eating, most people struggle with portion control. I have noticed two psychological influences for this. The first is that many of us, from the time since we were little kids, we are trained to finish all of the food on our plate, no matter how much was on it. The other is that moving on to the ‘big plate’ is associated with finally being a big kid. Choosing the small plate for your meals is one easy first step to controlling the habit of eating too much.
2. Take smaller bites and chew more
People often inhale their food when they eat! This bypasses the first step of the digestive process. When this step is skipped, the rest of the digestive system has to work harder to absorb food. The time food spends in your mouth allows for it to be broken down into softer and more manageable pieces. The longer your food is in your mouth, the more time your saliva has a chance to add enzymes and further soak your food.
If your bites are too big and you do not chew enough, all of this is skipped. The digestive process is much more efficient when your food is eaten in small amounts, moist, and thoroughly broken down. Cut your normal bite in half and be sure to chew each one about 30 times. Also, remember that the longer it takes for you to eat, the better chance your body has to tell you that you are full before over-eating.
3. Eat your veggies
The vegetable portion of a meal is usually, incorrectly, the smallest amount on the plate. You should be eating just as much, if not more, vegetables than anything else. For me, I really enjoy the protein aspect of my meal, and sometimes, finishing that first fills me up before finishing my veggies. To combat this, I’ve made a personal rule that I have to finish my vegetables before my protein. This ensures that I do not miss out on all the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables.
4. Drink a lot of water
Water makes up about 60% of your body. It is an especially high percentage of your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and muscles. This should give you an idea of how important it is to drink a lot of water.
The classic recommendation is 8 glasses of water in a day (64 ounces). I see this as the bare minimum, not the goal. I typically recommend 100 ounces of water a day. High amounts of water can help decrease muscle pains, headaches, dry skin and lips, and improve digestion. Try reaching for a couple of glasses of water instead of a pain killer next time you start to notice aches and pains.
5. Ditch the soda and alcohol
Soda and alcohol are two of the least productive things you can put into your body. They are full of worthless calories, high amounts of sugar, and alcohol is horrible for your liver and digestive system (and basically your entire body). Both of these also cause bloating, which contradicts everything you are trying to accomplish in the gym. If you go through a pathology class you will notice that most health conditions start, or made worse, by alcohol and soda. By simply skipping these two, I have seen patients decrease a few belt sizes.
6. Say no to drugs
It is no secret that drugs are bad for you. Drugs that require inhalation (smoking, vaping, etc.) are more common and a point of public controversy, so I’ll break it down and make it simple. The tissues that make up the lungs are made for oxygen and are extremely sensitive. They can be severely damaged if they are forced to process other chemicals or deal with high temperatures. In a nutshell, if it is not oxygen, it does not belong in your lungs! Whether recreational drugs are inhaled or taken in other forms, they have no place in a healthy person’s life.
7. Go on a walk, take the stairs, and park at the back of the parking lot
This step is all about placing a higher physical demand on your body with things you are already doing throughout the day. Walking after dinner is the best free “medicine” you can get. Studies show that as little as 15 minutes of walking after a meal can lead to significant health benefits relating to digestion, metabolism, weight loss, blood sugar, mood, and sleep. Taking the stairs and parking at the back of the parking lot are easy ways to increase the number of calories you burn without costing you more than a couple of extra minutes.
I am frequently asked what is the best form of exercise. My answer boils down to the best form of exercise being the one with which you can be consistent. Even if it’s just 20-30 minutes a day, committing to exercise can have lifelong health and longevity benefits. Exercise in ways that address all of the muscle groups throughout the body. Remember to gradually increase your intensity as well. You can always add more, but if you do too much too soon, you may find yourself dealing with an injury. This can force you to take some time off. I also recommend adding variety to your workout routine.
9. Get more sleep
Getting enough sleep is about more than just being rested and ready for the next day. Sleeping allows for efficient digestion, information to be processed and stored as memories, physical repairs to be made, and provides more energy for the following day. Make sure you are getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to maximize these benefits.
10. Start your day right
Think of willpower like a muscle. You can exercise it and over time, it will get stronger. That said, just like a muscle, when you frequently use it (as you would when trying to develop new good habits) it can get tired. We all know that there are many situations throughout the day that require willpower.
Dealing with difficult co-workers, managing kids, even simply not hitting the snooze button 5 times before getting out of bed. If you wait until the end of the day to implement your new lifestyle goals, chances are that you will have already reached your ‘screw it’ stage and convince yourself that you will start next week instead. Avoid this problem by implementing your new goals during the morning hours when you have the most energy and patience to stick to it.
Sum it all up
If you find that you are having trouble reaching your health and fitness goals, implement these simple tips to help you get a few steps closer to your goals. It may be difficult at first to makes some changes, but it will get easier as you stick with it. Remember, it takes time to substitute a good habit for a bad one. But the journey starts with that first step. Work at it and you’ll reap the rewards of better health and fitness.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.