By Kristin Spak
For many people, eating right and getting healthy seems like such an elusive task. I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s too difficult, nothing works for me, I don’t know which diet to follow… the list goes on. But I’ll let you in on a little secret — getting healthy doesn’t have to be hard! It simply requires a willingness to make some basic lifestyle changes that will set you up for success.
Here are my top five tips for getting, and staying, healthy:
- Drink More Water. Yes, I know, this sounds too good to be true, but in fact, most of us are chronically dehydrated without even realizing it. Drinking plenty of clean, preferably filtered, water daily is essential for the functioning of a healthy metabolism and the flushing of waste products and other toxins from our systems. On average, our bodies are comprised of over 60 percent water. We need to continually replace that water so we can effectively transport nutrients to our cells, regulate our body temperature, and keep our organs functioning properly. Staying adequately hydrated also contributes to a feeling of fullness, which naturally results in us eating less. How much water, you ask? Recommendations vary, even among experts. My customizable advice is to halve your body weight in pounds and drink that numerical result in ounces daily — no metric conversion needed.
- Eliminate The Junk. When it comes to toxic substances in our food supply, one need look no further than the aisles of the supermarket. All those colorful boxes and bags of pre-packaged foods and food-like products are among the most lethal substances out there for sabotaging our health. Processed foods, sugary cereals, and snack foods are generally loaded with chemicals, preservatives, artificial dyes and flavorings, and refined carbohydrates devoid of nutritional value. They also tend to be full of added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy saturated fats, all of which work to thwart our efforts at maintaining healthy weight and metabolic balance. But forewarned is forearmed. I’m here to tell you that probably the single most beneficial change you can make for your health is to “just say no” to processed food.
- Eat More Vegetables. Yes, it’s true! Adding a couple of vegetable servings to every meal is an incredibly powerful way to transform your health. Just as most Americans are chronically dehydrated, so too are we undernourished. But so many of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy are found right in our own back yards – or at least, at the local Farmer’s Market or produce section of our supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables are among Nature’s most perfect foods, and our bodies are biologically programmed to thrive when we include a variety of colorful plant foods in our daily diet. The phytonutrients they contain are essential for healthy immune function, blood sugar balance, heart and brain health, bone integrity, and warding off age-related degenerative diseases. What’s more, when you fill up on veggies, you leave less room for the junk. Please do yourself a favor and eat more vegetables. Your body will thank you for it.
- Build Strength. We all know that exercise is important, but with our busy lives, it’s not always easy to fit that in. So, in the spirit of keeping things simple, my suggestion would be to focus on the most efficient way to achieve maximum benefit with minimal time investment: strength training. Believe it or not, just 20-30 minutes of slow motion, high intensity weight training once or twice a week is all you need to build lean muscle, which can reap tremendous benefits in terms of your metabolic health. Not only does it rev your metabolism for more efficient calorie burning, but it also strengthens your bones, boosts your immunity, and elevates your mood. Of course, adding a variety of other physical activities to your weekly lineup is helpful as well, to include some form of cardiovascular exercise as well as practices like yoga that improve balance and flexibility. But if you must narrow it down to just one thing, I say go for the strength.
- Sleep. If you’re looking to improve your overall health, one of the best things you can do is catch some zzzzz’s. Sleep plays such a vital role in our physical health and wellbeing, yet more than one third of Americans is chronically sleep-deprived. Sadly, in today’s fast-paced world, sleep has become a precious commodity. It’s no wonder we’re seeing rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease skyrocket, since sleep deficiency increases the risk of all these health problems, and more. Studies have shown that people who sleep less also produce increased amounts of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, meaning they usually end up eating more than they normally would during the day. Making sleep a priority can truly be a game-changer then, for your health as well as your waistline.
If doing all these things at once seems daunting, try implementing just one change at a time and see how it goes. Your body works hard for you every day. Isn’t it time that you showed it some love?
Nicole Gustavson, CHC, brought InForm Fitness to Northern Virginia and is owner of both the Leesburg and Reston Studios. Her qualifications include a degree in Health Coaching from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Metagenics First Line Therapy, and extends this developing expertise in the areas of Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching to better serve her clients.
Kristin Spak, CHC, and Integrative Health and Lifestyle Practitioner, shares InForm’s passion to guide and assist their Clients in achieving optimal health and wellbeing through a combination of nutritional counseling and inspired lifestyle changes. Kristin is a strong advocate for local and organic farming, soil sustainability, and humane treatment of the animals we raise for food. She has three grown children and resides in Leesburg.
[Ask The Expert is a promotional program sponsored by Loudoun Now. The writers have held out that they have experience, training, education and/or certifications to qualify as experts in their fields. Although shared on Loudoun Now‘s online platforms, the writers are solely responsible for this content.]