Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the information out there on nutrition & well-being? Don't know where to start? Feeling discourage by it? I get you. We all have a different starting point but changing is hard for EVERYONE. We are creatures of habits. We like what we know and fear the unknown.
The trick is to just start by doing something. One step at a time. If you try to change everything at once you will inevitably fail (Been there, done that!). So let's start simple. This is not a race; changing your lifestyle takes time, consistency and a ''big-picture'' mentality. Here are 5 easy way to START being a healthier and happier you.
REMEMBER: One step at a time. Make sure you master the first step before moving on to the second one. After you consistently do the first action for a 7 days, only then should you continue to number 2.
1. Sleep 7 to 8.5 hours a day - NO MORE NO LESS
Sleeping is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. It has so many benefits on your health and I believe it should be the first area of focus. Studies show that adults who regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep per night have the lowest risk and incidence of cardiovascular diseases(1-2-3). Not enough sleep (less than 7 hours) can lead to many health risks. Recent studies showed that healthy young adults who are sleeping less than 7 hours per night were more likely to be glucose intolerant, have higher levels of cortisol, have reduced leptin levels (satiety hormone) and increased levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone).(4-5-6) This means that your body does not digest sugar properly, it is under higher amount of stress and you feel hungrier and less satisfied after consuming food. The hormone imbalance (less leptin and more ghrelin) could possibly explain the increase in BMI in short sleepers.(6)
HOWEVER, more is not better. Both shorter and longer sleep durations (less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours) are associated with higher BMIs.(7-8) Moreover, type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance is more prevalent in long sleepers (>9hours/night) (7).
Clearly sleep is important for your health and it should be a priority. Here are my practical tips on how to get the right amount of sleep.
Figure out what time you need to get up at and count back 8.5 hours. By this time you must be ready of bed
Example: I wake up at 6am everyday so I aim to be in bed by 9:30pm
This does not mean that you need to be sleeping by then, but you are settling down and getting ready for bed.
Assuming it will take you 5-30 minutes to fall asleep this will allow you to get all the sleep you need
ATTENTION if you are not use to going to bed early, or sleeping that much/little, this will be difficult at the beginning. You might not be tired when it's time for bed or you might not be able to get up in the morning.. Force yourself to do it & stick to it. Train your body to go to bed and waking up at the same time. It will get easier and your health will benefit from it.
SLEEP MUST BECOME A PRIORITY.
Bonus: Stop drinking 2 hours before you go to bed so you don't have to constantly get up and pee throughout the night
2. Drink 3L of water daily
I know you've heard this message a million times before & might be rolling your eyes at me right now. However, HYDRATION IS KEY! According to a study conducted in 2012, mild dehydration can lead to a degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration, and headache symptoms in females.(9) Other studies demonstrated that dehydration increases tiredness and alertness in both men and women(10). Knowing this, we can easily resolve the issue by drinking enough water. Here is my practical tip to start drinking more water everyday.
Buy 3 bottles of water (1L each) *I like to buy fun colours or cool looking water bottles to motivate me to drink more*
Make sure to drink your 3 water bottles EVERYDAY! (Morning, mid-day & evening)
If you are working out and sweating a lot- make sure to increase your fluid intake. (I drink an extra water bottle whenever I workout)
Bonus Always carry a water bottle with you, you are more likely to drink water if it's right infront of you
3. Eat vegetables at every meal
Add a portion of vegetables whenever you have a meal. Even with breakfast? YES! Adding vegetables is an easy way to boost your nutrient consumption. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals & fibre. They have many beneficial properties like being antioxidants and antiinflammatory (#naturalmedicine). It doesn't matter what vegetable you eat. Pick your favourite one and add it to your meal. To get the most benefits, make sure you switch it up and add variety.
PS: FRIED VEGETABLES DO NOT COUNT!!!!
Bonus: At the beginning of the week (or on meal prep day), wash and cut up all your vegetables so they are ready to go! Place them at eye level in your fridge so it's the first thing you see when you open it.
4. Move your body 30 minutes everyday
Did you know that you have 1440 minutes in a day? Let's say you spend 8.5 hours sleeping that leaves you with 930 minutes! You HAVE the time to move your body for only 30 minutes! This step will be different for everyone. We are not all at the same physical level and that is perfectly fine. Move your body in a way that feels good for you. Here are a few examples: walking, jogging, stretching, swimming, resistance training, yoga, biking, etc.
Schedule time in your agenda to exercise. This is an appointment with yourself every day.
If you know you are likely to cancel on yourself.. get an accountability buddy! Someone who will go on walks with you, train with you or simply motivate you.
As the weeks go on, change it up! Try something new to keep it exciting!
Bonus Make sure this is a 30 minutes you take for yourself, do something you enjoy. This is your sacred time.
5. Be grateful
This might be the most difficult step yet. Be legitimately grateful and feel joy from all the things you have. This skill will bring your life to the next level. Being grateful will allow you to attract more positive energy and release the negativity.
Everyday write 5 things you are grateful for.
Focus all your energy on each statement one at a time.
Expand on why you are grateful. (I like to do this out loud so i can here myself say it)
Let the gratitude sink in and fill you with joy
Example: ''I am grateful for my thirst of knowledge. WHY? Because it has enable me to pursue my graduate studies and find my passion. it allows me to grow every single day and learn more about myself and other. It allows me to teach what I have learned to others and help them live a better, more fulfilling life.
Bonus I recommend doing this upon rising to put yourself in a positive state of mind first thing in the morning.
I hope this helps you get started on your healthy lifestyle! Remember, this is a process and not a race. The ultimate goal is to live a better and happier life :)
1- Buxton, O.M. and Marcelli, E. (2010) Short and long sleep are positively associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease among adults in the United States, Soc Sci Med. vol. 71:1027-36.
2-Cappuccio ,F.P. et al. (2011). Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and metaanalysis of prospective studies, Eur Heart J. 32:1484-92.
3-Knutson, K.L. and Van Cauter, E. (2008). Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1129:287-304.
4-Buxton O.M. et al.(2010). Sleep restriction for 1 week reduces insulin sensitivity in healthy men. J. Diabetes. 59 : 2126-33.
5-Faraut B et al. (2011). Immune, inflammatory and cardiovascular consequences of sleep restriction and recovery. Sleep medicine reviews. 16. 137-49.
6. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), 62.
7- Gottlieb DJ, Punjabi NM, Newman AB, et al. . Association of sleep time with diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance, Arch Int Med , 2005. 165:. 863-7
8- Spiegel K et al.(2005). Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, J Appl Physiol. 99 :2008-19
9- Armstrong, LE. et al. (2012). Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women J. Nutr. 142: 382-388
10- Szinnai, G. et al. (2005). Effect of water deprivation on cognitive-motor performance American Journal of Physiology. 289(1).