5 Little Tweaks To Help You Maintain A Healthier Lifestyle
Sometimes my nutrition clients are surprised at first when we discuss non-food topics, but healthy living isn't just about what you're eating: There are so many other factors that affect our health and well-being, and while it might not seem like they affect our eating on the surface, it's all part of the same big picture.
What I've found throughout my work in clinical, corporate wellness, my private practice, and through media work is that the struggle is usually not about not having enough information about what's healthy and what's not—it's about staying consistent with those healthy habits when life becomes busy and hectic.
That's why I've packed my new book, The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety, with the tools that have helped my clients meet their goals and maintain their success even in the face of challenging situations.
Here are five of my favorite little game-changers to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Get real with yourself about what truly feels good.
Often I see people trying to follow a diet or exercise plan that may sound great on paper but doesn't quite work for them. Either it's too restrictive or demanding, or it's built around foods they don't enjoy or activities they can't maintain in their day-to-day.
So to start, be honest with yourself. You could try a food-mood journal or simply pay attention to what foods you gravitate toward and why. Notice your natural energy and appetite ebbs and flows. And resist the urge to get judgmental, even if it's different from what you see around you! The information will give you valuable clues about what you personally need to thrive.
Sometimes the word "routine" has a negative association or conjures up images of 5 a.m. alarm clocks, punishing runs, and chalky smoothies. It doesn't have to be that way at all! Having a consistent but flexible routine (for example, an at-home and a travel version) with little habits that help you feel grounded and keep you on track can make it easier for you to stay consistent with healthy habits.
I'm a big believer in starting small with just a few things and reassessing if you want or need to build in more. For myself, I like to start my day with a workout, drinking lemon water as soon as I'm home (or a green juice powder mixed with water if I'm traveling). No matter where I am, however, I need a few minutes of journaling time to clear my head for the day.
Schedule yourself in.
One of the most powerful tools I use with my clients is this: Put your own name on your calendar.
This becomes extra important if you have a calendar that others can book time on. Yes, you're blocking out that time for your own self-care, but it also reminds you that your well-being matters just as much as those other "priorities" in your life. Again, this doesn't have to be huge. Even 15 minutes can make a big difference in how you feel.
We need to graduate from glorifying "busy" schedules (something I've certainly had to work on!). Setting boundaries with our time and energy allows us to devote more to what truly serves our bigger picture and helps us feel more present.
It also helps us make more clearheaded decisions about food, especially if we take into account the times we naturally feel hungry or prefer to work out. It's possible to say no—without feeling like a jerk—to activities that are not essential and will take away time and energy you need for yourself.
Make a loneliness game plan.
Feeling lonely can be extremely triggering, leading many of us to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Come up with a plan of concrete things you can do when that loneliness starts to creep in (and be honest with yourself about your weak spots—mine is online shopping and trying to buy the experience I wish I was having), so you don't revert to your usual crutches. Be it mindlessly snacking in front of the TV, eating in front of the fridge—whatever your coping mechanism might be.
We all get lonely sometimes, but having a list (mental or physical) of things we can do when we get that urge can help us stay on track. A few of my personal favorites are going for a walk or saving an errand that gives me an excuse to take a walk, cleaning, or organizing. Yours might be totally different! The only rule is that it should be something you truly find soothing—not just something you think you "should" do.
Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping people streamline their wellness routine and establish a balanced relationship with food and exercise. She received her Masters of Science in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, and a dietetic internship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Her writing has been featured in Forbes and Shape. Her book, The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety, offers simple hacks that help her patients and clients reach their goals and nurture their mental, physical, and emotional health, even when life becomes hectic.