* This article first appeared in Panorama Community Magazine in November 2023
Too many folks put off implementing healthier habits in favor of waiting till the new year. When this article comes out November 1st, we will have 61 days, about 8 ½ weeks left in the year. A person can make a tremendous improvement in their health during this time. I will share with you free habits you can start to practice and develop NOW versus waiting till the new year. If you implement even half of these during these next eight weeks, you will experience a significant improvement in your health well before those who wait till January 1st.
Let’s discuss 8 habits, one for each week, that you practice one week at a time and build upon each week.
Habit 1 – Walk! Take a look at your step data from your watch and get an idea of how many steps you are walking each day. A generalized goal is to be upwards of 8-10,000 steps daily. If you are significantly lower than that, consider adding in just 500-1000 steps each week as you work towards your goal.
Habit 2 – Drink more water! A general guideline is to drink approximately 50% of your bodyweight in ounces of water daily. (*Please discuss with your primary care provider if you have a medical condition requiring you to monitor your fluid intake). Too many folks “drink” their calories which can subsequently contribute to overeating. You likely will also see your energy levels increase as you are more properly hydrated.
Habit 3 – Eat more fruits and veggies! Fill up about half of your plate with some fruits and veggies. Level up your goal by striving to “eat the rainbow.” This means you strive to eat a variety of colors (red, orange, yellow, green, etc.) to maximize your micronutrient intake. You incorporate this habit into your nutritional intake and you will certainly feel the difference!
Habit 4 – Eat more protein! How much protein one should consume varies depending on their age, activity level, and health goals. The range of recommended protein intake can be from around 0.35 grams to upwards of 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Working with a dietitian or a nutritionist can help you gain more clarity on how much protein you would benefit from eating. Regardless, make a habit of eating more protein and you will notice that you are fuller longer and may find yourself wanting to snack less.
Habit 5 – Put your fork or spoon down in between bites. This is a great place to start for those who may not be ready to change what they eat and can start by changing how much they eat. The practice of putting your fork or spoon down in between bites helps you slow down your eating. When you slow down your eating, you are more likely to recognize your body’s cues that you are full.
Habit 6 – Get more sleep! A general recommendation is to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. To improve your sleep, be mindful of caffeinated products past your midday. Going to bed around the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day, regardless of the day, will help you develop a routine of falling asleep and waking more naturally.
Habit 7 – Get some sunlight! We were not meant to stay inside all day. Even though we don’t receive the most direct sunlight this time of year and in the upcoming months, it is still beneficial to have sun exposure on our face for at least 15-30 minutes a day. Sun exposure in the morning and in the evening can also aid in improved sleep. Given our challenges with getting enough sun exposure, it could be worth it to incorporate a vitamin D supplement into your routine; however, discuss this with your primary care provider first.
Habit 8 – Take the time to rest, mentally and physically. Our lives have started to move much faster. With screens at work and screens in our personal life, we are almost always stimulated. Take the time, even just 15-30 minutes daily to allow yourself to wind down and let your mind and body relax. Use this time to read, journal, or even just have a conversation with someone.
Reinforcing what I mentioned above, I dare to say that if you start incorporating even half of these habits into your daily life in the upcoming weeks, you will recognize how good it feels to feel good. You will be happy that you started now versus waiting till the new year.
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