My Top 10 Tips for Healthy Living
"Create healthy habits not restrictions."
From the age of 17, my own "health and fitness journey" has been a compilation of ups, and plenty of downs. From thinking I knew it all when I was 18, and attempting all types of diets, to realising that no matter how much knowledge I gain about health, there is still so much more to learn.
I've tried the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, low carb, low fat, HIIT five times a week, running six times a week, weight lifting, and there are probably lots more. Some of these diets and routines led me to body image issues, and massive learning curves relating to my mental and physical health.
However, the good thing is that I feel at peace now, more than ever, with my own health, as I have learnt it's not about being perfect, it's about enjoying every single day as much as you can. So here are a few tips to help you find your own calm and happiness, enjoy!
My physical progress from 2016 to 2019
1. No diets
Diet trends are the biggest issue. I see so many different advertisements online for a "7-day ab meal plan," and "low-calorie doughnuts." At the end of the day, food is meant for enjoyment and nutrition, and diets that restrict your calories, or that give you strict rules to eat by, aren't the way to sustainable fat loss, and getting the body that you want.
The best "diet" is one where you eat when you're hungry, and enjoy food, rather than obsess about it. My own diet includes plenty of whole foods, fruits, veggies, and oily fish, but beyond that, I eat what I want. If you fancy chocolate, have some, guilt-free, and enjoy it. Basically, I try to eat nutritious meals, which leave me feeling satisfied, and which taste great too.
Water is so important for you to feel good, and we literally cannot live without it. I personally drink around 3/4 litres a day, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night, especially if I've exercised. Plus it's good for your skin, and if that's not enough of a reason then I don't know what is! In terms of losing weight, if that's your goal, water makes you feel full, and makes you less bloated too. If you struggle drinking it, add squash or berries, or lemon, and try to up your intake gradually, and spread it throughout your day.
Meditation is something I've done on and off, and in the past year, I have made an effort to make it a habit as part of my morning, and sometimes even my evening routine. My favorite guided meditation apps are "simply habit" and "headspace," and I really feel it now when I miss out on even just a 10-minute meditation. It also helps with anxiety, mental clarity, and after waking up, I honestly feel excited to meditate, so my advice is—don't knock it till you try it!
This goes along with the meditation/zen/green juice vibe, but I find yoga so effective for my flexibility, decreasing stress levels, and also for my strength too. I love watching youtube, especially "Yoga with Adriene," and "Cat Meffan" who both have a massive variety of videos for any mood or anytime. If yoga isn't for you, stretching each day is something I highly recommend to prevent future injury, and maintain your mobility. It fits in well after meditation, leaving you feeling like a Buddhist monk by nine AM.
5. Daily walking
10,000 steps a day doesn't have a magic power where you suddenly live forever, but it's a brilliant goal, especially if you're someone who doesn't really exercise, or who sits at a desk for most of the day. Plus for your brain, there's nothing better than fresh air, and the endorphins that come from a brisk walk.
6. Exercise however you want to.
Bouldering, running, lifting weights, swimming, zumba, gym classes, gymnastics, hiking, and whatever else you can think of; it's all great exercise. The best form of exercise is something you enjoy, and want to do every single week consistently. What's the point in hating every second of the 40-60 minutes you spend in the gym if you can't wait to leave? You won't put in your max effort, and you'll dread exercising as a whole. My best advice is to find something/several activities you like, especially if you can do it with other people to keep yourself accountable.
We are recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, we all know that. But what also matters is a) actually getting that much sleep—not just taking "Buzzfeed" quizzes in bed until you fall asleep for maybe six, maybe more hours, and b) the quality of your sleep. I use a "Fitbit" to track my sleep, but I mainly note how I feel after I wake up. Am I tired? Did I sleep through without any waking up? Will I manage to survive until bedtime without falling asleep? You may need to reduce screen time before bed, or avoid food right before bed, or even try night time meditation, all of which have helped me to sleep more deeply, and wake up feeling more refreshed.
A good night's sleep will help you be your best self the next day, recover fully from the day before, and boost your mood for that day—what's not to like?
8. Do something creative every day.
Creativity is something I found myself neglecting until very recently. I would use reading/writing/colouring as a last minute "I'm feeling anxious, and need to think about something else" activity. But more recently I have thought more about how to maintain good mental health all the time, rather than just when crisis strikes. Whatever you enjoy doing, if it gets your creative juices flowing, then popping it in your routine every day, might benefit you more mentally than you'd think.
9. Make it a habit.
Habits make consistency possible. We all have them, some bad and some good, all of which we don't really think about doing, yet we do them throughout our week. All of the suggestions I have made for a healthy life can be made into little habits, which all add up to make a much bigger impact on your physical and mental health.
10. Positivity, not perfection
I am such a perfectionist. It has led to me having eating disorders, being far too hard on myself, and being way more stressed than necessary. But all these habits, which I have included in my lifestyle have helped me more than I can express. Hopefully, you'll find some of them useful, but if you fall off the bandwagon, don't worry! Staying positive, and focusing on small wins make a world of difference, rather than striving for the perfect body/mind/life.
Lots of Love.