If you are interested in healthy living, you have probably given some thought to how to go about it. This might mean cleaning up your diet, trying juicing or getting in some exercise. These can all be important parts of the puzzle, but if you really want to get lean and healthy and stay there for as long as possible, you need to look at the big picture. Are you doing everything necessary?
People tend to get a bit concerned about the time it will take to get in shape and adopt a healthy lifestyle. It seems like a full-time job sometimes! Between sourcing organic produce, food prep and then exercise, you might be worried that you won’t actually have time for anything else!
A bit of forethought and planning will go a long way however. Let’s see what it really takes.
Diet-It All Starts Here
As you might expect on a site called Eat Clean Eat Real, we aren’t fans of fad diets, whether for weight loss or to fight against chronic diseases. If it seems extreme then it probably isn’t a viable long-term solution to good healthy habits. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother-far from it, in fact. Just that there are some simple ways to eat well. The first step is to base your meals around natural, whole food from quality sources and avoid sugar and saturated fat. What does this mean?
As far as possible, avoid anything that is packaged, processed or otherwise transformed. Anything that has been treated with chemicals should be off your shopping list. Of course, this is easier said than done. Unless you have an unlimited budget and time to spare, you are probably going to struggle to stick to this sort of plan for healthy eating.
There are some ways to make this easier. The first is to make meal plans before you go shopping. Make a list of the things that you need for a week’s worth of nutritious eating and then buy that and only that. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry and you won’t be tempted into buying snack food to satisfy an instant craving. The result is that you will eat better because you will only have good food choices available in the house. If there aren’t any sweets and chips in the cupboards, how can you eat them?
The next thing to do is to set aside a couple of hours to cook in bulk and then freeze. Make several portions and then all you have to do is heat them up rather than reaching for the phone to dial for takeaway. Between this and having healthy snacks like nuts and fruits, there isn’t a lot of space for eating junk.
You Are What You Drink
One area where people could really make a difference is what they drink. I have seen people eat salad and chicken breast and then wash it down with a coke! What’s the point? For me, this should be the complete list of what you can drink:
- green/white/black tea
- juice from a juicer
- green smoothies
There is nothing wrong with a glass of red wine now and again either. Anything else should be exceptional not regular. If you start you day with a fruit and vegetable juice and a coffee and then drink nothing but water, you are on the right lines.
Invest in Your Kitchen
If you really want to keep things healthy in the kitchen, two pieces of equipment can make a difference:
- A juicer. Whether you just go for a basic model or something a little more upmarket, a juicer is the perfect way to make sure that you are consuing all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need. It is so much easier to drink your five a day in one glass than munch through them.
- A slow cooker. I am always surprised that slow cookers don’t get more press as a key part of healthy cooking. Not only do they make it easy to produce nutritious food, they also make it taste great and save so much time. What could be simpler than putting your meat and veggies in the cooker before work and finding a delicious meal when you get home?
Exercise-make the most of your diet
It is often said that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Whilst this isn’t always true for younger athletes (who stay in great shape through inferno metabolisms and copious exercise despite living off fast food), for most of us, this is wise advice. If you have got everything in order with your eating habits, it is foolish not to get your physical activity done too.
Befor you have visions of an hour a day gasping on the treadmill, don’t think this will take up all your free time. There are many ways to exercise and few really bad choices. However, one thing to do is to make exercise part of your daily routine. This can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the lift or walking to the next bus stop. Over time, this adds up.
Of course, doing some real exercise makes sense too. Everyone needs to do something that builds or maintains muscle mass. As we age, this loss of muscle is perhaps the biggest physical problem we face. You don’t need to be in the gym every day, but doing bodyweight moves like push ups and squats is really important. It burns fat and improves muscle tone. The great thing about this is that it can be done in just few minutes in your living room. If you spend 30 minutes three times a week working on as many different bodyweight exercises as you can think of, the results won’t take long to be visible. Here are a few suggestions:
- bodyweight squats
- chin ups
- pull ups
- Handstand (and handstand push ups)
- glute raises
- Pistol squats
If you really want to look and feel great, why not invest in a single dumbbell or kettlebell and do some swings or turkish get ups too? Once again, this only needs to be 30-45 minutes of hard work 3-4 times a week.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
So that’s it. Diet and exercise. Actually, not quite. There is one more side to this healthy triangle and it might just be the most important of all. What happens between your ears is going to define everything else. I’m not talking about motivation or willpower, all though those could be considered important. The real key to mental health is relaxation.
How often do you complain about stress? Overwork? Feeling tense and unable to sleep? If that is you, then whatever your diet and exercise habits, you aren’t healthy. Your body needs to relax and regenerate. You can’t use all those nutrients if you are constantly in a state of stress. It is time to learn how to let go.
There are many different ways to do this and actually exercise and a healthy diet will already make a difference. One thing that you might like to try is meditation. This doesn’t need to be spiritual, it can simply mean learning some techniques to rid your mind of all the stress that accumulates in our hectic day-to-day lives.
Make this time part of your daily habits. For example, set aside 15 minutes every day when you know that you won’t be disturbed. This could be first thing in the morning, in your lunch break or even when the kids are asleep. At first, it can be very hard to let go for more than a few seconds but as you go on, you will find that you can fall into a genuinely relaxed state in a very short time.
The great thing here is that a relaxed mind will make your diet and exercise far more effective. Rather than fighting against all the trials and difficulties you meet every day, you are able to set them aside.
True good health comes about when you integrate all facets of your life. The key is to make diet, exercise and relaxation an essential part of your daily routine. It doesn’t need to take hours and with proper planning actually takes very little time at all, but will lead to a truly healthy you.