How can we make healthy eating pleasurable and indulgent, and how can we make physical activity inviting, inspiring and fun? We can start by changing the word “diet” to “healthy eating”, and changing “exercise” to “physical activity”. Research and other science suggest that people are more likely to sustain behaviors that are essential to their daily lives in immediate and noticeable ways. There is no greater trap than thinking that the accomplishment of some goal (such as losing weight) will change your life. There are many fitness and wellness pundits who want you to believe that their new fitness routine or gadget or the latest fad diet will transform your body and health in a few months. What WILL change your life is who you become on your journey to living a healthier lifestyle.
To embark on your journey, it helps to have a guide or coach to help you overcome obstacles that will impede your way. Below are guidelines that require a mindful approach to changing your behaviors relating to eating better and getting more movement during your day. On paper, these guidelines seem simple, but they are not easy because it takes a conscious effort to overcome the pitfalls of our sedentary culture and unhealthy food environment.
- Eat Real Food: Food writer Michael Pollan suggests that real food is not processed food and it’s usually not advertised on TV. Real food is a variety of wholesome food that your great-grandmother would recognize because she probably planted, prepared, and cooked it herself. I tend to favor Mediterranean dishes for the wonderful ethnic flavors of Italian, Spanish and Greek cuisines, plus the nutritional benefits.
- Not Too Much: This might be the most difficult behavior to change, because it requires us to go against the grain of our consumerist culture and environment, which encourage the belief that we need more, not less! When it comes to food, again we need to practice mindfulness: we need to limit our portion sizes, slow down our eating, and try not to eat alone or in front of the TV. This should help us to slow down and enjoy our meals more.
- Mostly Plants or Whole Foods: Pollan urges us to eat a variety of wholesome foods that we can either grow ourselves or buy in the produce section of our grocery store. He doesn’t say not to eat meat, but to eat less of it and better quality. The other benefit from buying whole foods is that we have to prepare and cook the foods ourselves!
- Make it enjoyable, necessary and with plenty of variety: We often forget what it felt like to be ten years old, skipping carefree on the playground. To make movement enjoyable, play a game with others that encourages movement, or engage in a recreational activity that is pleasurable and restorative. To make it necessary, find a friend or a group fitness class to hold you accountable. To build in variety, take every opportunity to move, in as many ways as possible, at whatever speed you like, for any amount of time. Do what makes you feel good, and stop doing what makes you feel bad. Find a sport, recreational activity, or hobby that you enjoy, preferably with like-minded others, and make it a weekly routine.
- Sometimes hard: Fit in periods of exertion throughout your day. That could mean picking up something heavy off the ground, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or momentarily picking up the pace of your walk or run. In order to make progress with our health, we have to practice leaving our comfort zone. “The worst thing you can do [for aging] is to never get out of breath!” – Author and Longevity Scientist, David Sinclair, PhD. For more on this topic, please read https://www.beresilientproject.com/stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone/
- Every bit counts: Mindfulness and practice are required to make movement habitual. This might be getting up from your chair more often, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking/bicycling to run errands, or sitting on the floor to read or watch TV. Whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking, practice bringing more awareness to your posture and breath, which will lead to less pain and a more positive outlook on life.
If you feel you need help making lasting lifestyle changes, please inquire about our new personalized Health Coaching program.