Six Easy Ways to Best-Self
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018. I am so excited for what’s ahead this year. I imagine a lot of you, myself included, are eager to start off on the right foot with a healthy routine and better lifestyle habits, all of which I have some thoughts on.
First of all, “healthy” is such a complicated word these days. So many diets, so many theories, so many food alternatives – what one person thinks of as healthy is completely opposite of someone else’s perspective. As I’ve gotten older, I try to focus on choices that make me feel like my #BestSelf. I love that term because it’s not about dieting at all, it’s just about making one choice after another to become the best version of me!
In all my years of trying to be healthy, and stay on top of food and dietary trends for my clients, I have found a few universal truths which I’ve put into a straightforward list I’m calling “Six Easy Ways to Best-Self”. My favorite aspect about this list is that it is useful for anyone. No matter what kind of food you consume, fitness plan you follow, resolution you make or don’t make, these are simple, healthy choices anyone can make every day.
Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s dive in and see what each of these easy steps look like.
Eat Smaller Portions
As Americans, we have skewed ideas of proper portion size so the majority of us eat more than we need to. This offers an automatic opportunity to eat less just by eating smaller portions. If you dine out often, eat half of what you’re served instead of finishing everything on the plate. For those of you who cook at home a lot, simply shrink the portion size. Consider how much protein you usually prepare for each person. If it’s usually eight ounces, make it six. Six ounces, make it four. Another example – pasta. If you boil one box for 4 people, try cooking half a box instead. Most likely, if you’ve been over consuming, cutting back won’t leave you hungry. Our bodies need much less than we realize to feel satiated.
Eat at the Right Times
I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is when we fuel up and set our course for what’s ahead. I know for myself, if I skip breakfast my energy plummets and I become overly hungry by mid-morning. When I start with something as simple as an egg and toast, however, I have plenty of energy and my good mood lasts at least ’til lunch.
Let’s say you are a breakfast believer already. That’s great! A pretty common issue (for me included) is when we start with a great breakfast and even enjoy a healthy lunch only to lose all discipline at night. This must be common because they even made a Meme about it!
My strategy is to determine a cap time for my last bite of food. Opinions vary on the optimal time to stop eating; some suggest as early as 6pm and others say 2 hours before bedtime. I tend to get a lot of cravings around 9pm, but what good can come from snacking at that hour? Well, I can tell ya’. None! No good! So, I’ve decided to stop eating by 8pm.
Learn to Like Something New
Often times when I cook for a client who has dietary restrictions, the challenge is that they don’t like the foods they are supposed to eat. I get it; kale isn’t for everyone. Yet, if you want to be healthier and you have chosen a path to get healthier, it’s gonna require some change.
When I was in college, I ate Taco Bell all the time. I loved it. Dare I say, addicted. As I grew into adult-hood and tried to pick up healthier habits, I literally learned to like foods such as quinoa, kale, lentils and beets. Food preferences are not set in stone; they can change and evolve. Instead of focusing on restrictions, think consumption – get out there and find something new to love about food!
You can start with my Turkey, Apple and Cranberry Meatball Dinner with Kale-Quinoa and Sweet Potato Mash.
Quit the Alcohol, Juice or Soft Drinks – (Or At Least Take a Break)
Don’t get me wrong, I love my wine. But alcohol and other flavored beverages are just empty calories. Yes, many would advocate for health benefits of red wine, and Thank God for those studies, but if you are trying to lose a few pounds (or a lot of pounds), or sleep better and have more energy, cutting out excess sugar and calories from habitual drinking is a great way to start. Especially if you consume more than one glass or cup or can of any of the above on a daily basis, try good ol’ natural water instead. Simply put, this is a really easy opportunity for change.
Set a Time Frame
I do really well when I know how much time I have to commit to something. When I need to clean the house but absolutely have no desire, I compromise by setting a timer for 15 minutes. I tell myself to clean as much as I can in that time and then I can be done. Seems reasonable, so I get to it. Nearly every time when that timer goes off, I’ve gotten in the zone, seen the reward of the cleanliness and I just keep going until the whole house is done.
The same can be true for following healthy disciplines. Especially if you think you can’t go without something, like wine or soda for example, compromise with yourself to try it for one week. Then, make a little countdown. Six more days, five more days and so on. If it’s hard for you to give up something unhealthy for a week, then all the more reason for you to try. I would bet that all the good feels that come from repeatedly making good choices will serve as motivation to keep up the good work.
Track Your Success
We’ve heard this a million times – write down what you eat. Sure, I see the benefit of tracking my intake, but three meals plus snacks every day is just too much journaling, even for me. With that said, I do enjoy a good checklist! Putting a visual reminder to my goals helps immensely and checking off an important accomplishment for the day makes me feel super proud, like I want to puff my tail feathers all over town. Even if no one else cares, pride in yourself is a powerful thing.
I advocate for tracking your success, but in a much more simplistic way. Like this:
When I hurt my shoulder playing tennis in August, the only way to get better has been daily Physical Therapy exercises. Well, sometimes I am really terrible about doing what I am supposed to do. Weeks went by without me doing a single exercise. No matter how much I hoped to play tennis again, I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to get better. So, I created a 30-day checklist. Every day that I perform my exercises I put a little check. It’s not the check that motivates so much as it is the absence of a check. When I saw the days I wasn’t following through, I realized it was only postponing my return to tennis. When I started to see consistent days I was doing my exercises, I could correlate that to my shoulder feeling better. All thanks to a simple little check.
So there you have it. Six really simple steps that you can implement right now. Craving soda? Drink some water instead. Reading this at 9pm while feeling distracted by the chips in the cupboard? Skip the chips! You can do it! Writing your shopping list with 2 pounds of meat? Change that to 24 ounces. While you’re at it, add a box of quinoa to the list and cook this meal this week. Then, for each one of these choices, put a check on a piece of paper with today’s date. Check, check, check, check….! Feels good, doesn’t it?
If you are like me and tend to go all in for a short amount of time, you can make a commitment to all of these steps immediately. If you are more of a baby-step change-maker pick one or two to try for a few weeks and see how it feels. Then, add another and another as it feels good to you.
If you have other tips that work for you when you are #BestSelf’ing, leave them in the comments below!