That title feels a little click bait-y, but I promise it’s legit. Making health changes can feel so intimidating! We try to take on a lot of changes all at once, and when some or all of those changes are hard or don’t work out we go back to what we know. If you’re nodding along, I’m right there with you!
Drink more water.
When I’m at my “day job”, I like to break down big projects into manageable pieces. This helps me stay on track and motivated because as those small “wins” add up I’m able to see the progress I’ve made, and how they’re having a positive impact on my progression through the project as a whole. So today, let’s talk about a few small changes you can make to improve your health and put a few “wins” on your checklist.I feel pretty confident in saying that a large majority of the American population is dehydrated. In fact, many of the early signs of hydration have become the norm for our culture: depression, fatigue, anxiety, cravings, headaches and more. Of course, I’m not saying that dehydration is the only cause of these symptoms, but there’s a good chance it’s a contributing factor.
So, how much water should you be drinking? The classic “8 glasses per day” suggestion may be good if you weight 130lbs, don’t drink any caffeine, and don’t exercise, but for everyone else; you’ll need to add a few more ounces to that number. Hydration needs are specific to each individual. If you drink a lot of coffee, soda, juice, etc. then you’ll need to account for that by drinking more water (all of those beverages are diuretics and will dehydrate you), and if you work out and get your sweat on, you’ll need to replace that water and electrolytes!
To get you started, here’s a basic formula:
Your body weight in pounds / 2 = ounces of water needed
So, if you weigh 200lbs, your starting point is 100 ounces of water each day. There are, of course, additional equations to take diuretics and physical activity into account, but to keep it simple, just add more to that goal if you’re drinking coffee or going to a crossfire workout.
Start by aiming to reach that hydration goal, and adjust as you learn your body. If you eat a lot of water-heavy produce like watermelon or squash, you may need less; if you drink 3 cups of coffee every day, you may need more.
A few more tips about drinking water:
– Sip throughout the day, don’t chug it all at once.
– Add a pinch of high quality sea salt to your water to improve absorption (especially if you tend to get headaches).
– Don’t drink more than 4-8 ounces around meal times (30 minutes before, during or 30 minutes after) because it will negatively affect your digestion.
– Add some lemon or lime wedges to sparkling mineral water if you need to spice things up, as long as the majority of your water intake is flat (not bubbly).
Eat more veggies.
I feel like this one is probably obvious, but still important! If you were to write down everything you eat in a day, or even a week, chances are it’s very routine, and doesn’t contain too many veggies. Fruits and vegetables are an important source of vitamins and minerals, and because they each have a variety of nutrients, we need to eat a variety of produce to benefit.
The next time you’re at the grocery store, look for a new-to-you vegetable that looks interesting, and Google ways to prepare it. I just did this the other week and discovered the honey nut squash (butternut squash’s little brother) and I was not disappointed. Of course, not every new adventure will be a win (I’m talking to you, edamame) but you’ll be getting new and interesting veggies on your plate, which means more nutrients in your body.
Another way to get more veggies on your plate is to eat them at all three meals- yes, this includes breakfast! Roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato make an amazing breakfast hash (top it with some fried eggs!) Or simply sauté your green of choice with lemon and garlic, and add them to your plate. Getting a serving of (non starchy) veggies first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day – it’s an easy “win” that get’s you started on the right foot.
Get in the kitchen.
The better you are at cooking, the more you’re going to want to eat what you make, which means you’d be less likely to eat out. Eating out is not ideal for your health because you don’t always know how something is prepared, you’re more likely to overeat because of the portions they give you, you’re more likely to “treat yourself” to dessert or foods that don’t support your health, and it’s EXPENSIVE.
Cooking is absolutely a skill anyone can learn. It takes practice, and patience, but it is so worth it. I grew up watching cooking shows with my dad and my mom’s family was Italian, so you know we were rolling those meatballs and making our own “gravy” as soon as we were big enough to help in the kitchen, but a lot of the skills and techniques I use today were self taught thanks to cookbooks, cooking shows, and the internet.
If you don’t know how or don’t enjoy cooking, start by watching some cooking shows – I love watching Bon Appetit on YouTube for new ideas and techniques, and “Chopped” on Food Network will give you a confidence boost and teach you some basic skills.
My other tip is to google everything. Google recipes (I start with “paleo + whatever I’m looking for” to find recipes that are more in line with my diet preference) and just give it a shot. The worst thing that can happen is you ruin your meal and end up ordering that take out that you would’ve ordered anyway, right?
Move your body.
Another obvious one, right? Being physically active can have an incredible impact on your health, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Park farther away from the entrance when you go to work/shopping, put on some music and dance around when you’re cooking/vacuuming/folding laundry/etc., get up and do squats during commercial breaks. Find simple ways throughout your day to move your body and you’ll feel the difference, I promise!
Read a book.
A real book (or e-reader that isn’t backlit); give yourself a break from technology and look at something that doesn’t have a screen. We are surrounded by screens, and stimuli, and blue light all day whether we want to be or not, and it can have a seriously negative affect on our energy levels, ability to sleep, even our mood and appetite. How many times have you reached for a snack “just because” while watching TV? Set aside an hour or two each night, ideally right before you go to bed when it’s darker outside, and read a book. Don’t like reading? Find yourself a non-computerized hobby – get in touch with your artistic side by painting, drawing, knitting, scrapbooking, whatever! You could also pull out a board game for some family time. The point is, you’ll feel better; and who knows – you may even save some money on your next electricity bill 😉
What do you think? Let me know in the comments which of these small wins you’re most excited about!