Are you as healthy and toned as you want to be? If not, here are 20 proven methods for improving health, wellness, fitness and body composition.
In the early days of the New Year morale and willpower is high, however, after 4-6 weeks motivation drops. So be ready with new strategies!
1. Think positive
Forget about previous negative experiences, unhealthy habits and what you want to escape. Instead visualize the new you, having health habits and the body shape and the weight you desire. Positive thinking facilitates the process.
Tip: If you are on the cross trainer and your weight is 155,6 lbs, do not enter 156 lbs, but 155 lbs and keep that thought in mind.
Positive thinking may not come all that easily, you need some ‘practice’: Start by smiling, this radiates inwards and outwards in all directions.
2. Focus on the important things
Think about feeling better and having fun. Forget about counting, measuring and weighing – the food and you!
Exception: It is a good idea to perform a small test: measure and weigh yourself today, so you have a starting point.
Write down one or more smaller goals and some target dates, the first date in 2-3 months time. At that time repeat the test, measure and weigh. But not on a daily basis!
3. Think before you eat
Be conscious about your choices in food; consider why, what, how and how much you eat? Do you need to eat right now? What is a healthy (sensible) choice for health as well as pleasure?
E.g.: Decide to have one serving of moderate size, before you fill the plate.
4. Think when you eat
Concentrate on your meal. Be present in the now. Do not work, read or watch television at the same time; it is stressful and disturbs enjoyment and digestion. Do sit down – by a dining table – so you sit comfortably with a good posture. Avoid slouching … physically and mentally.
5. Think after you have eaten
Reflect: pay attention to how you feel after you have eaten a meal. Are you full, satisfied and energized – or are you overfull, queasy and tired?
Listen to your body and gradually design meals to make you full, happy and energetic.
6. Enjoy your meals
Enjoy every bite – even the unhealthy ones! And enjoy your meal with all of your senses; sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Let it be an experience, a feast; make meal time appealing with napkins, flowers and candlelight (avoid too much CO2, though!).
7. Eat slowly
Eat slowly, chew your food 35-50 times per bite. Oh yes, it is easily done, when the food is coarse (versus soft, white bread). You also get an extra sensory experience by chewing more, eating slower.
Remember: It takes some 15-20 minutes, from you start eating, to the brain registers satiety . If you eat too fast, you eat way too much.
Bonus: Eating slowly reduces anxiety and stress.
8. Choose small plates
Using large plates leads to eating more without thinking about it.
Choose a smaller plate (the serving will look bigger); it will automatically reduce serving size and help you lose weight.
9. Avoid buffets
Buffets in general increase the risk of overeating; you eat too much; too large and too many servings. Even if you try to be good, a buffet is a risky choice.
If it is unavoidable, then 1) choose small plates, 2) have lots of vegetables and soup for starters and 3) eat slowly, so you are full, before you get to wanting dessert!
10. Eat dietary fibres
Vegetables, whole grain produce and fruit are good sources of dietary fibres; they improve digestion, satiety, weight maintenance and reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
This healthy habit is easy; you just have to choose coarser foods.
11. Avoid candy and cookies
Sweets are like drugs, they are addictive, so stop eating sweets and cookies every day. Save it for parties. When you do not eat sweets on a daily basis, the desire to eat them diminishes. So avoid them for a couple of weeks and notice the positive improvement.
As a snack during weekdays eat a handful of almonds or walnuts; they are healthy, they taste good and they are filling.
12. Avoid all sugary beverages
There are large quantities of sugar in soda, coke, juice, fruit syrup and alcoholic drinks. By reducing consumption of liquid sugar, you cut out a massive amount of calories and will quickly become healthier and better looking without any special effort.
Bonus: You avoid cavities and save a lot of money on dental care. Sugar is addictive, so you may feel you cannot do without it. But do cut it out for a couple of weeks, then you will notice, that you can go without it without (hardly) missing it.
Strategy: Go from soda to diet soda (still bad for you) to mineral water with lemon or other taste to mineral water to plain water. And from day one, drink water before you drink any other drink.
Instead of orange or apple juice, eat 1-2 oranges and apples. Fresh fruit tastes better, have less sugar and more vitamins.
Spirits (including wine)? No, it is not healthy. Alcohol is a.o. cancer-causing. So enjoy spirits in moderate amounts for the taste of it. Pay attention to every mouthful, ‘chew it’ so you prolong enjoyment and reduce/keep your intake at a healthier level.
No matter if you are young, adult or senior, take good care of your health – and maintain a healthy weight: Enjoy spirits in moderation.
13. Drink water throughout the day
Start by drinking two large glasses of water in the morning. It wakes you up. Drink 2-3 litres of water during the day and more, if you sweat a lot, e.g. during exercise.
14. Avoid temptations at home
Do not stock up on sweets, cookies, chips, bread a.o. for potential guests. If you keep temptations away from you, you minimize the risk of thinking about them and eating them!
Also: Find healthier alternatives – for you and your guests.
15. Minimize temptations away from home
Bring a lunch pack (and extra snacks) for work or school to keep you full and happy during the day. If you are hungry, more often than not it results in impulse buying of unhealthy foods and snacks.
16. Make a meal plan and a shopping list
Make a plan for the meals of the week, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 1-3 snacks if needed, so you have a strategy for healthier eating. Then make a shopping list to follow, so you avoid an impulse buying.
A meal plan is also advantageous from an economical point of view and helps in reducing wasting food.
17. Do not shop, when you are hungry
When you are hungry, you also fancy something less healthy, and it is too easy to buy too much and too unhealthy foods.
See to, that you are full and health-motivated, when you do your shopping. It does make a difference.
18. Enjoy fun recreational activities
Engage in sports and exercise, that motivate you. There are so many fun activities, opportunities for getting stronger physically and mentally, all while becoming more healthy.
Choose something you like. And do include activities with a moderate to high level of exertion 2-3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes. This improves health and performance and increases fat burning.
19. Move about and maintain your weight and good health
Keep moving during the day. Move at any opportunity, get up, stand up, use the stairs, ride your bike. Avoid sitting down for more than an hour at a time.
Research has shown, that any kind of extra movement during the day improves health and fat burning.
Increase your NEAT: Non-exercise activity thermogenesis: The energy consumption during all kinds of activity apart from sleep, eating or exercise. E.g. tapping your fingers, moving your feet, gardening, riding a bike to work etc.
20. Sleep well
Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Relax for one hour, before you go to bed. Avoid coffee, tea, soda and alcohol before bedtime. Do not go to bed hungry or overfull.
Sleep in a dark, cool room with no noise or distractions. Daily exercises improves your sleep, but avoid exercising within 3-4 hours of going to sleep.
If you sleep too little, it will increase hunger. Poor or minimal sleep slows down fat burning, diminishes insulin secretion and increases blood sugar level, all of which increases the risk of diabetes and gaining weight.
Too little sleep also impairs concentration, performance, during work, every day life and sports and results in a bad mood and stress.
Be positive. Look forward. Do it now; do yourself some good.