In my field I hear a lot of people ask questions like:
What’s the number one thing I can do to improve my health? Going cold turkey on these foods and behaviours is too difficult, so what’s the first step? Everything is so overwhelming. What are the basics? Where do I even begin?
It’s tempting to dive in to the 10 million little things I feel could change their lives, and I get so excited about it that I have to hold myself back from overwhelming them. Sometimes I do get clients who want to go cold turkey on their old life and dive right in to a life full of health and wellness. They see things in black and white and they make decisions this way – no moderation. But most often my clients choose the slow and steady path, beginning with the basics and slowly edging out their less healthy choices and replacing them with better ones. Although I strongly believe that a quick, short term cold turkey approach can be extremely effective and rewarding, I don’t believe in manipulation or forcing my clients to do something they don’t feel ready to do or aren’t comfortable with doing, so I’ve come up with some baby steps.
Here are five basic things you can focus on to begin improving your wellness. Tackle all five at once if you wish, or introduce one new concept each week, or each month. Listen to your body, find out what approach works best for you, and dive in.
One of the most basic but life changing things you can do is sleep more, and sleep well. Everything is affected by how long, how well or how poorly you sleep: your metabolism, your weight, your ability to make decisions, your energy, your ability to focus, and so much more. As much as it is in your control, aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, with 8 hours of solid sleep in between. No screen time for an hour before bed. No caffeine after noon. Sleep in a completely dark room, with no digital clock or computer or light showing. To the young mothers and others who don’t have full control over your sleep habits: do the best you can with what you have. It won’t always be this way, I promise.
2) Less Sugar
Fat doesn’t make you fat. Sugar makes you fat. It also causes spikes and crashes in your energy levels, and contributes to almost every disease known to man. Sugar suppresses your immune system making it much more difficult to fight off a common cold or flu. Basically, sugar is trying to kill you. If you make only one change to your diet, cut out the sugar or cut back on it as much as you can. I advise cutting out sweeteners altogether but this is about baby steps, so try using more natural sweeteners like organic maple syrup, organic raw honey, or coconut sugar as a substitute. Be sure to read the labels on the food you buy and watch for any added sugar. You won’t believe the kind of foods they sneak it into.
3) Move Your Body
As often as you can, move your body. You don’t have to be a runner or Crossfitter. There are so many ways to move your body: swimming, walking, hiking, paddle boarding, yoga, rowing, skipping, weight lifting, kayaking, canoeing, playing sports, bootcamp, and many more. Exercise should be enjoyable, not a form of torture, so find something that you enjoy and do it often. Outside is always best, but work with what you’ve got. Aim for at least 20 minutes per day of movement outside and you will feel an incredible increase in energy and mental alertness and you’ll sleep much deeper. The combo of fresh air and healthy movement wins every time.
4) Make Space for Veggies
It’s truly crazy how much bread the average North American consumes in a day. Bread, rice and pasta take up so much space on our plates. Rather than cutting out gluten altogether (baby steps), try replacing bread, pasta and rice with vegetables as often as possible. Try wrapping your hamburger in lettuce, try eating your sandwich fillings on a salad. Skip toast in the morning and have eggs instead. Have roasted yams with your chicken dinner instead of rice. It feels strange and unfamiliar at first, but after awhile you won’t miss it, and you’ll love the affect it will have on your waistline. You’re killing two birds with one stone: taking in more much needed nutrients from the vegetables and skipping out on the extra sugar and intestinal inflammation from the gluten. Watch your stomach bloating go down (you may not even have noticed it until it’s gone), and feel your energy level rise. (A little tip: roasting vegetables makes them taste so much better than eating them just raw or steamed plain. Basically any vegetable tastes fantastic tossed in coconut oil, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven. Even brussels sprouts.)
It’s pretty straight forward and you’ve heard it a million times: your body is made of water and needs water to function properly. Less wine, more water. Less coffee, more water. Less juice, more water. Less soda, more water. Find a water bottle that you really like and that you feel comfortable drinking out of (maybe you prefer a straw versus a wide mouthed bottle) and carry it around everywhere with you. Every time you have a craving or feel like wine, coffee, soda, or whatever else you’re wanting, stop and make yourself drink 8oz of water first, and then decide if you still want that other drink. Try squeezing some lemon in your water or fresh fruit. If you stay properly hydrated you will have more energy, less cravings, and increased mental awareness. Gulp, gulp, gulp!
Good luck with your baby steps, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like me to coach you through these one on one!