Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers can be largely prevented or improved with lifestyle changes. This is encouraging! We can take some control of our health and quality of life with how we treat our bodies. We only get one body, so let’s treat it well! Let’s treat it the best way we know how.
Where to start:
Change your mind. What I mean by this is change how you see your health. Is your health important to you? Are unhealthy, processed foods the best you do for yourself? How much are you willing to invest in your health? Into your family? Is a better quality of life worth it to you? To get started on this journey you have to know that you will be creating a new lifestyle, a normal for your family. Foods will be different. How you eat and prepare meals will be different. How you prepare for the day will be different. Life will be different, but positively different. You have to give it time to become normal, and it may not take much time. When we first started, I wondered how I would do this without chocolate candy. How can I get by without being able to grab a candy bar from the checkout when I’m hungry at the grocery store? I love chocolate. At this point, I literally do not even look at the candy bars at the checkout. It’s no longer a struggle between willpower and urges. The thought does not even cross my mind. It surprised me because I didn’t even notice the transition from controlling urges at the checkout to bypassing it becoming a normal part of life. It just suddenly dawned on me one day that I didn’t even care about the candy at the checkout anymore. Just like that. When I’m hungry at the store, I’ll just buy a banana. It’s a healthy, no prep, easy and delicious grab and go snack. I changed my mind. My mind no longer thinks a candy is the fix that I need. I changed my mind about my body. Once I learned better, I decided to do better. I deserve it. My kids deserve it. My husband deserves it. You deserve it.
Eat a healthy diet. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables. Get adventurous. There’s so many varieties and ways to eat them. With junk food out of the picture, fruit is the go-to snack in my house. The kids enjoy apples, oranges, grapefruit, clementines, bananas, peaches...the list goes on. Smoothies are a great way to get fruits and veggies into the little ones as well as adults. I like to put fruits and vegetables that I may not necessary like in smoothies. I do not care for the textures of blueberries or mangoes. However, I use frozen blueberries and mangoes in smoothies, and I love them. Smoothies are also a great way to sneak in vegetables that the kids may not want to eat. I get lots of spinach in my kids that way. I also use chia seeds and flax seeds as vessels of other nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, protein, and iron. The great thing about smoothies is that you don’t really need a recipe, you can add things that you like and play around with the ingredients. I use a book called The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page. This book is awesome, and I highly, highly recommend it. The book is organized alphabetically. Choose a food then you are welcomed with a list of other foods that pair well with the food in question! It’s amazing. It really allows your creativity to start flowing because you have a guide. There is also a version for non-vegetarians called The Flavor Bible. Ok, back to healthy eating. Grains should be whole grains. Look for whole to be listed in the ingredients list. White pasta, white rice, and other enriched carbohydrates are not healthy for you. You should cook whole grain pasta to al dente meaning it’s still a little firm. Al dente pasta is actually healthier for you as it maintains more nutritional value. If meat is consumed, lean, skinless poultry and seafood is encouraged over red meats (muscle meat from mammals) and processed meats (bacon, hotdogs, sausage, deli meat, etc). Red meats and processed meats are associated with increased risk for colon cancer. Meat and other animal products are the dietary source of cholesterol. We do not need to consume cholesterol as our bodies make all the cholesterol that we need. The fat in meat is also a significant source of saturated fat. Begin to minimize your meat intake. We have been conditioned to think that meat has to be a part of each meal. That a meal is not a meal without meat. It’s completely untrue! You have a healthier meal without it. Plants like fruits and vegetables are a meal. You can get protein from whole grains, nuts, and legumes. It will become your norm.
Get active. Meeting your activity goals does not mean you have to go to a gym and use exercise equipment. You can be active doing everyday tasks. For example, playing a game of tag or kickball with your kids is a great activity. You can go for a speed walk in the evenings with the family. Turn on some music in the house, dance! That counts as activity as well. For all of us that have to do chores and lawn work, guess what? It counts too! Get the entire family involved in these activities, and you have both family time and physical activity tied together. It builds relationships and also demonstrates the importance of physical activity for your kids. It will become a normal part of their lives such that they will not even have to think about it like we do. Full disclosure here, I feel like I can work on increasing my own physical activity. Right now, I always take the stairs, which is great activity. I love to dance. I dance in the car and at home with the family. I carry my groceries from the store to my car to give my upper body and core a task. Where I feel like I can improve is doing more activities. I would love to walk every evening or morning. Bike ride, roller skate (although I’m a little apprehensive about this one), and activities to strengthen my core. After 4 babies, my core could use some more tightening. I am not the gym type. I do not like the idea of people watching me workout. I do not like using equipment that other sweaty people have been using (although my husband tells me there’s resources to clean the equipment). I do not know how to use much of the equipment. I have a bunch of gym nuances. I need to integrate more activity into my daily norm and routine. I’m working on it. Trust me. It’s really important to me that my kids know the importance of physical activity. Although, I am not sedentary, I feel like I can do much better. I will. We will. My advice is to find activities that you really enjoy and do them. Do them often. For those with families, find activities that you all can do together. Make games that are inactive, more active. For example, maybe a game of Scrabble involves doing jumping jacks for the number you score for a word. Or Monopoly involves doing crunches for the number you roll. The possibilities go on. I just thought of these and haven’t tried them yet, but I’ll let you know how it develops. Basically, to meet our daily activity goals, we all just have to get up and move. Move as much as we can and as vigorously as we can throughout the day. The more we do it. The more it becomes a part of us, and we no longer have to think about it. Have fun doing it, and that transition will happen even faster for you!
Stick to it. Do not be swayed by the opinions and pressures of others. Do this for you, for your family. Yes, you will have a cookie or ice cream from time to time. Yes, you will have days where you lounge around, and do nothing. That’s ok. You’re still on track. Do not be tempted to revert to your old unhealthy ways just because you took a moment to indulge. It is not a way out. You deserve to treat yourself well. Good healthy food and physical fitness are what you deserve. It is worth the hassle that it may seem to be now. In the long run, it will not be such. You will have learned how to live healthy more efficiently. Healthy will be your lifestyle if you put the work in now. Invest in your health. Invest in your family’s health. We can begin to turn these unhealthy trends around for ourselves and future generations.
Always striving to help,