Baby Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle

Let’s take it slow.

Changing your lifestyle from eating foods of convenience to eating foods that actually fuel your body is a tough road to travel. Taking the first steps can be like trying to scale a wall or even leaping across a giant chasm. Many of us have been there and continue to struggle with questions such as:

When should I start?
How do I start?
What do I buy?
What should I avoid?
Should I exercise?
What do I drink?

It may seem like there are no “clear” answers, either. Let’s face it, nutrition and health are a science. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. Many of those opinions can lead you astray, however, many of them can get you pointed in the right direction. Who should you believe? The bottom line is that you have to find a program that is sustainable and that works for you! Commitment and consistency are key.

Many people who have heard me speak about health and nutrition know that I am a big proponent of changing your mindset to call your food habits a lifestyle, not a “diet”. There is too much stigma in the world regarding the word diet. How many people do you know who have started a diet and failed miserably? Compare that to the few people you’ve seen who have completely changed their lifestyle when it comes to activity and nutrition. I’d bet dollars to donuts that those on “diets” are still overweight and those who made complete lifestyle changes are now lean and mean! Diets are on and off, whereas lifestyle changes are permanent!

A majority of the reason for this is because when you make a conscious decision to change your lifestyle, you are incorporating a very important component into your overall health goals – your mind! Having mental toughness is paramount to being successful in making dramatic changes in your life because eating right and exercising is not easy! It takes serious effort to keep yourself on track, especially when many of us live social lives of hanging with friends and being out on the town.

That being said, I fully understand how difficult it can be to get started in a new lifestyle. Some want to start immediately and quit the bad stuff cold-turkey. Others would rather start making small changes and learn healthier habits at a slower pace. Either method is a giant step in the right direction, so if you’re at this point, congratulations!

Baby Steps.

Let’s focus on the method of starting slow. What can you do right now to make yours a healthier lifestyle? Here are some quick tips.

Tip #1: Stop drinking soda.

I’m not going to go into the science of this because I’ll likely lose you to a nap. Bottom line, the sugars and dehydrating effects contained in these little cans of death are horrible for you. They are a very large contributor to obesity in our modern world. What do you drink, then? Learn to love water. It’s tough, but when you are interested in losing weight, water is incredibly important and it cannot be underestimated or ignored. How much water? Shoot for clear urine as a good indicator. I, myself, try my best to drink 1 gallon of water per day.

Here are some water tips:

• Drink a 10 ounce glass of water as soon as you wake up and with every meal.

• Drink a 10 ounce glass of water when you are thirsty.

• Drink water according to your environment and situation (hot day, excess activity = more).

• Watch your urine. You want it to be clear. If it’s amber or dark yellow, guess what? You need water.

• Stay away from high sugar juices and sodas. They SUCK for your body.. Even the diet ones.

Tip #2: Eat more vegetables.

I know, you’ve heard it a million times. But guess what? It’s true. More vegetables and less fillers like pasta, rice, bread, cereal is incredibly beneficial. Why? It’s the way these fuels burn in your body. Vegetables are more readily consumed by your body and pack a punch of nutrients, far outweighing that of starchy carbohydrates, especially if you are not actively training. I realize pasta, rice and the like taste amazing! But get creative with your veggies and they will taste amazing too. So to start, try decreasing your normal intake of bread, pasta, rice and cereal by half. Replace that half with vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, leafy greens, asparagus, onions, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, cucumber, kale and the like. You can cook them, eat them raw or chop them and hide them in other foods! But vegetables should be the bulk of your meals!

Tip #3: Be careful how much meat you consume.

I am a carnivore by nature. Hands down, nothing tastes better to me than a smoked brisket or a piece of overly crispy bacon. However, in modern society, we eat way too much meat in one sitting. Lean meat is a superior source of protein, but the body can only absorb so much protein in one sitting. Any excess protein can be stored as fat in the body. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your protein source is about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Any more than that can result in excess calories, fat and cholesterol.

Tip #4: Pass on dessert.

There is nothing that torques me more than watching someone eat a relatively healthy meal and then crushing a piece of cheesecake. A good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats completely obliterated by an injection of sugar and bad fats. Remember, taking the cherry off of a sundae or ordering a diet soda instead of a regular doesn’t do anything. Save these items for your once-a-week cheat meal. Another tip, find yourself an alternative for your sweet tooth. My favorite go-to’s for my sweet tooth are fresh berries with a handful of almonds and a raw honey drizzle or quite simply, a Quest Bar. With all of the flavors, low carb and a perfect dose of whey protein, you can’t beat it to fill up that empty sweet spot.

Tip #5: Decrease your fruits.

When weight loss is a goal, don’t overdo the fruits. Fruits are typically higher on the glycemic index than vegetables. So try to limit fruits to about 2 per day. For example, the size of two apples per day, or one apple and a pear, or a cup of berries and a banana – equally spaced out in your meals (not all in one sitting). A little fruit with every meal is the idea. Also, stay away from dried fruits! They are loaded with sugar!

Tip #6: Limit your dairy intake.

Although dairy items like cheese, milk, yogurt, butter and such do have some health benefits, the detriments in excess can far outweigh the benefits. They are typically loaded with fats, cholesterol and calories. Keep them very limited when weight loss is a goal! You can also make better choices when purchasing them. For example, use grass-fed cow butters or clarified butter instead of margarines. Use white cheeses instead of orange cheeses and in much less quantity. Try Greek or Pro-Biotic yogurt and go with the non-fat choice. Try non-fat cottage cheese instead of the low-fat kind. But overall, limit these items if you’re trying to lose weight!

Tip #7: Decrease your beer intake.

Don’t shoot the messenger, my friends. I love beer too. But beer is an absolute killer when it comes to trying to get lean. It is packed with empty calories and most of us can put a few away easily, especially when sporting a buzz. So save it for your cheat meal. If you must indulge, try mixing a flavored vodka with a low calorie fruit juice. Just remember to not overdo it.

Tip #8: Moderation is key.

Anything in excess will eventually kill you, right? With your food intake, a little here and a little there won’t necessarily kill you. When you’re just starting out with your weight loss, always keep moderation in the back of your mind. If you’re being really good all week, but your kid’s french fries smell too good to resist, have a few and put them aside. Just don’t order your own super-sized bucket. Small amounts of various healthy foods will give you a good balance of nutrients and will be less likely to store as fat.

Tip #9: Divide your plate.

Keep your portions balanced. A good balanced plate will have about ¼ lean protein, ½ vegetables, and the last quarter of the plate should be comprised of fruits, starchy carbs (if you must) and healthy fats like nuts/seeds, olive oils or avocado. Keep as many plates as possible in this configuration and you’ll be well on your way.

Tip #10: Move your blood.

Stagnation is hard on the human body. Get out and move! You don’t need a gym membership to get your heart pumping and get your life blood pulsing through your veins! Remember, a healthy heart is a long-lasting heart. Coupled with a clean food intake, exercise can help transform your body into a fat-burning machine. Regardless of your level of fitness, there are programs available to get you active! You don’t want to be left behind when the zombies show up, trust me.

I sincerely hope some or all of these tips can help you get started on your road to a healthier lifestyle. Remember, these tips are just the tip of the iceberg! There are many tweaks you can implement to really focus on your target areas. If you hate a certain food, there’s undoubtedly a substitute you can use. If you have specific health issues, you may need avoid certain things that were mentioned in the article. So remember to always consult with your physician first. But overall, if you implement these tips into your daily lives, they WILL make a significant difference in the way you feel and look. Consistency and commitment is key!

Now get after it!

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