Starting a healthy lifestyle can be both confusing and overwhelming if you don’t even know where to begin. I am a firm believer that anyone can live a healthy lifestyle with the right knowledge and mindset. So here are some steps to get you going in the right direction!
1. Be Honest With Yourself
Ignorance is bliss. Many people incorrectly assume they are at their optimal health by downwardly comparing themselves to others (comparing themselves to people who live extremely unhealthy lifestyle or are sick). You really need to open your eyes and take an honest look at yourself in the mirror. Do you like what you see?
Questions to ask yourself
- Are you overweight? If you cannot judge this yourself by looking in the mirror, you can calculate your BMI here. If your BMI is 25 or higher, you are overweight; if it is 30 or higher, you are obese.
- Do you have chronic health issues such as IBS, chronic fatigue, depression, arthritis?
- Do you suffer from skin conditions such as acne or eczema?
- Are you happy with how your body feels physically?
- How would you rate your daily energy levels and mood on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most energy and happiest mood)?
Your answer to these questions will tell you if you are at your optimal health. If you are not at your optimal health a change in dietary and lifestyle habits is necessary. However, there is no one size fits all diet to get you healthy. Some people do better on high fat diets, and others do not; some people feel better eating vegetarian while other people won’t; you are unique and you must find what is right for you.
2. Educate Yourself
The internet is an amazing place to get tons and tons (and tons) of free information on health. But first you need to figure out which diet/lifestyle is right for you. Some diets that I think are awesome include the paleo diet, autoimmune paleo (AIP), clean eating (as a introductory diet), and traditional diets. Here are some articles and books that are helpful.
- Determining the best traditional diet for you by the Healthy Home Economist
- What is Clean Eating? by the Gracious Pantry
- The Paleo Diet by Nutrition is Medicine
- The Autoimmune Protocol by Nutrition is Medicine
- TEDtalks minding your mitochondria (must watch for those with autoimmune condition!)
- The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno
- The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
- Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel – for sufferers of chronic dental cavities
- The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
- The Hidden Plague by Tara Grant – for sufferers of chronic skin conditions
To sum it up, the paleo diet eliminates refined foods, dairy, grains, and legumes in the effort to mimic a hunter-gatherer diet. A traditional diet is more specific to your ancestry and there are some grains included, but they are fermented or prepared in a way that is uncommon in society today. Both these diets are great because they take you back to your roots and eliminate all the modern day junk that is making us fat and sick. The eat clean diet is great for someone starting out but it has some downfalls due to the fact that it doesn’t really eliminate any food groups. This can cause problems for people with intolerances and/or digestive issues.
Writing your plans down in a journal will help you remember and keep track of your plans.
3. Stop Buying Junk
Now that you have a plan, you need to transition. Not buying junk may seem really obvious, but it’s harder than you think. Next time you go to the store skip the snack aisles, stock up on produce, and ingredients to make some awesome home cooked meals. Some people think that to start a healthy lifestyle you have to throw out all your junk food, but you don’t necessarily have to. If you stop buying it, you are eventually going to use up whatever junk food was immediately in your house, and then you will be free of it; no wasting of food required.
If you want to get rid of it faster, give it to a friend or family member. That might seem kind of cruel, but most of my friends have been happy to get a bag of oats or whatever else I wasn’t going to use; just because you are going to be eating healthy doesn’t mean the rest of the world will join you (unfortunately). If you need to get rid of non-perishable items, you can even donate them to a food bank.
On the other side, sometimes it is a good exercise to throw out a few things. I do not advocate wasting, but when I throw out something, I remember! If I have actually thrown something out, I will be especially strict to not buy more. Throwing things out means that you mean business!
4. Rearrange Your Priorities
Your body needs nutritious foods; it doesn’t need more clothes, a bigger TV, or a case of pop. Some people go shopping every weekend, and buy little things they don’t need; new clothes, furniture, pictures, trinkets, etc. Yet when it comes to their food, they will insist they cannot afford to buy healthy food. It’s not that they can’t afford it, its that they don’t want to spend money on it.
Rearranging your priorities to free up some extra food money is a good step before you start buying healthy food. Learning to be happy with what you already have is a great accomplishment in life. I’m still working on this one myself! Rearranging other priorities such as TV watching can also be helpful for freeing up time for exercise.
5. Start Shopping at a Health Food Store
You don’t have to buy all your groceries at a health food store. The most budget friendly method is to shop around at different stores. For example, certain items such as organic, pastured meats can usually only be bought at a health food store or a local butcher, while organic local produce may be cheaper to buy at a farmers market as opposed to the health food store. There are a lot of things at health food stores that are quite economical; you just have to investigate your local store.
The main problem here is that shopping around requires a greater effort on your part. This is why people don’t like it; its so convenient to just go to a big store like Walmart and grab everything you need and be done with it. Bottom line is that you have to stop being lazy. Shopping around will save you money and bring you the most nutritious food!
Cooking your own meals is a very important part of healthy living. Making your food from scratch is the easiest way to avoid common unhealthy ingredients such as sugar, wheat, and soy. You can eat healthy without cooking but I do not recommend it because it severely limits what you can eat. Also nothing beats a home cooked meal in nutritional value or taste. Nothing. Cooking allows you to get creative and adapt your old favorite recipes into healthier alternatives. This is another one of those things that takes effort, but its definitely worth it. Cooking is a life skill! People will be impressed with your ability to cook amazing meals out of very few ingredients. If you are only cooking for yourself, you may only have to cook a couple times per week because you can save lots of left overs. In addition to this, cooking your own meals is a money saver because food in its unprepared state is the cheapest kind of food. There is a vast oasis of free healthy recipes online. I frequently post my own recipes which can all be viewed under the “recipes” tab. Healthy living books and magazines also contain great recipes. Stalkerville is a great resource for paleo inspired recipes and desserts. Work that search engine!
7. Make up Your Shopping List
Once you have decided on which health food store you want to shop at, and found some good recipes you would like to try, its time to make a list of ingredients you will need. Having a shopping list is a great tool because it will give you something to go by when shopping. Shopping without a list often ends up containing a lot of snacks and things you don’t really need. Also try not to shop when hungry, because we all know what happens then!
9. Don’t Over-plan it
Another thing to watch out for is holidays. Don’t let holidays stop your diet. There will always be holiday excuses to eat junk food. If you really don’t want to miss out on the holiday feast, eat well up until that day, then indulge for a day or two before going back to your healthy eating. Don’t plan to eat junk for the entire month of December because its “Christmas time”. Starting a healthy lifestyle is something you kind of have to jump into. It is helpful to plan a little bit, but in the end you just have to do it. Everybody starts somewhere; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Anything is better than nothing! Don’t have too high of expectations for yourself right away.
What type of healthy lifestyle do you want to start?
What healthy lifestyle are you currently following?