By: Dylan Foster
Everyone wants to be the healthiest possible version of themselves, but making that a reality is hard to do. In a world where convenience rules and spare time is hard to come by, it’s so much easier to cruise through a drive-through than spend an hour cooking dinner. But if you choose easy over healthy too often, you’ll pay for it later in the form of poor health. For a healthier, richer life, start making these changes today.
Fix Your Diet
Supermarkets are full of foods that are highly processed and lacking in nutritional value. As you push your cart past colorful displays of junk food, it’s hard to reach for fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Not to mention, those vegetables are probably weeks old, shipped in from farms thousands of miles away—not exactly the most appetizing option for your dinner plate. One of the easiest ways to fill your cupboards with healthier choices is by avoiding temptation in the first place. Instead of doing the rounds at the grocery store, buy your vegetables from local farmers at a farmers market, through a CSA, or via another locally sourced marketplace. Not only will you not find any mystery ingredients, but the fruits and vegetables you purchase will be as fresh and nutritious as it gets.
Farmers know that vegetables alone don’t complete your diet. That’s why an increasing number of small farmers are expanding their product lines with artisan foods made from produce, meat, dairy, and other products raised right on the farm. These barn-raised foods pack a huge flavor punch, and unlike mass-produced goods, they’re not made with questionable preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients you’d rather avoid.
The first few weeks of a diet change are always the hardest. But stick it out, and you’ll be amazed at how this new way of eating becomes second nature. After foregoing store-bought junk foods for a few weeks, those screaming cravings for greasy chips and sugary snacks will be reduced to a whisper. Now, fresh berries taste as sweet as candy, and crisp raw vegetables become your snack of choice.
Move Your Body
Once your body is running on premium fuel, you’ll notice you have a lot more energy throughout the day. Use that energy boost to increase your level of physical activity. If you’re like most Americans, you’re not quite hitting the physical activity guidelines recommended by the CDC. Even if you’re not ready to start hitting the gym, you can lead a more active lifestyle. Find little ways to be more active throughout the day. Set a timer to get up and move every 30 minutes during your desk job, park at the far end of parking lot, and ride a bike to destinations close to home.
If you have a dog, use your pet as motivation to increase your fitness. According to NPR, dog owners are already more active than people without dogs. However, if walking is the only activity you do with your pooch, you’re missing a big opportunity. Dog owners can do a variety of fitness-focused activities with their pets, from hiking and trail running, to canine yoga, to workouts that double as training sessions.
Improve Your Sleep
Making healthy choices is easier when your body and mind are well-rested. Feeling tired not only reduces your willpower, it also increases your appetite so you’re more prone to mindless snacking. A consistent sleep-wake cycle and good sleep hygiene are the foundation of healthy sleep. By going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, you get your body into a rhythm so you’re less likely to wake up feeling fatigued or lay in bed awake at night. Sleep hygiene practices like maintaining a cool, dark bedroom and avoiding electronics before bed improve the quality of your sleep by removing factors that disrupt circadian rhythms.
However, it’s important to not rely on sleep aids such as Ambien and over-the-counter medications. Some sleep aid are habit-forming, putting you at risk of addiction. If you feel you’ve become reliant on medication to fall asleep, consult your doctor.
Change is never easy. There will be days your willpower falters, and you stay up too late, binge on snacks, and barely move from the sofa. Rather than worrying about being perfect, aim to make healthy choices most of the time. When it comes to your health, every little change is a step in the right direction.
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris