Making the move towards a healthy lifestyle can be very intimidating, especially as you want to make changes that are effective yet sustainable. Sometimes going all in and overhauling your entire lifestyle overnight can lead to falling off the wagon and losing progress as well as motivation. When I was at university I attempted to cut out certain foods altogether and go to the gym for at least an hour every time, but these were such huge changes that they were completely unsustainable, and I would give up.
I have found the most effective method for me has been to make small, subtle changes in various areas of my lifestyle that are sustainable and flexible. This means I stay focused on my goals and motivated to achieve them, but don’t feel hard done by. These may sound so obvious, and you may have heard them a million times, but it’s because they work. A balanced diet isn’t a fad. It’s a lifestyle change that brings rewards in abundance. Here are five healthy habits that I have tried to make the basics of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The main thing to remember: Balance is key.
- Eat whole foods – This sounds so obvious, but it’s honestly such an effective way of making small changes to make your core diet healthier. Switch white pasta for wholewheat; white bread for multigrain or seeded; you can even get seeded tortillas. Brown rice or quinoa is a great alternative for white rice. Not only will these alternatives contain less sugar, but they are higher in fibre, keeping you fuller for longer. Avoid packaged and processed foods where possible, and get to know what’s on the back of the label. Foods that are labelled as ‘low fat’, are often packed to the gills with sugar instead, because fat is delicious and taking it out makes food taste like cardboard. I have started using full-fat mayonnaise and creme fraiche, but making sure to keep my consumption in moderation. Healthy fats such as coconut oil and ghee are great for cooking, but I do like to use olive oil as well.
- Sweat every day – Again, sounds obvious. But there are so many days I can get through and barely move at all. It can be tough to be active day to day, especially if you have an office job. I like to get my blood pumping by taking a brisk stroll on my lunch break for around half an hour, or at least getting up every hour and moving around a little. And of course, if you can get yourself to the gym or for a long walk, even better. Just get moving and get sweaty.
- Drink less alcohol – Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that alcohol is good for you, I’m certainly not one to want to cut it out of my life completely. I can happily go for a while without a drink, but I certainly am able to relax more when I know that I can have that glass of wine or gin and tonic if I want it. However, I try not to make a habit of a few too many sparkling wines and a trip to KFC at the end of the night. Balance is key. My go-to tipple recently has been gin, fresh lime and soda. So refreshing with a low sugar content.
- Drink more water – I think the only time in my life I have truly been hydrated day to day was when I was in India – I was drinking 3 litres a day pretty much without fail. I love water, so its easy for me, but it can still be a challenge to remember to keep drinking. I keep a large bottle on my desk and see how many times I can finish it throughout the day. If water isn’t always your thing, try adding some lemon wedges for some flavour.
- Follow the 80:20 rule – As I said, balance is key. Eating healthy all the time can sometimes feel restrictive, and lord knows I get a wild Krispy Kreme craving from time to time. For myself, I try to eat healthy 80 percent of the time, and let my hair down 20 percent. Sometimes this takes the form of a cheat meal, other times a night in with some cheesecake and a movie, sometimes a night out. The point is to have variety and flexibility, to keep it fun.
Now, I try and do all of these at the same time, along with going to the gym regularly and making myself look somewhat presentable day to day. But sometimes, something slips, and the most important thing to remember is that it’s OK. If that Malteaser bunny is really calling out to me, you know for damn sure that I am going to eat it. We are all only human, and can’t live perfectly perfect all the time. If I need to go to work with no makeup on for a week so I can sleep a little longer and have my lunch prepared, so be it. As long as I am striving for a healthy and balanced lifestyle for the most part, and doing things for my body that make it feel strong, I’m happy.