At the end of the year we reflect. Lately I’ve tried to notice all the small things I do that add up to a bitchin body – both health-wise and aesthetically. This is tough for me because these habits are so ingrained. They seem inconsequential to my daily life, but even missing one of them screws up my day.
I’ve come to expect an energetic, pain-free body, happy digestion, and a positive attitude. Barring illness or injury, everything hums along well and I don’t have to think about it too much. My healthy habits are not only second nature, but integral to my being.
A healthy habit is something other people may see as rigid. I sometimes wonder – are others so flexible and easy going that they can simply live with pain or lack of energy year after year? Or have they just become accustomed to feeling less than wonderful?
Even if you’re not completely happy with your body and health, you have little habits that you know are good for you. The question is do you carry them out day after day or do you let them slip? Here are the ones I fulfill without fail.
Eat a big breakfast
A big breakfast for me is about 400 to 500 kcals (one-quarter or less of my daily calories). Breakfast manifests in a rather limited way: a large bowl of oatmeal with Greek yogurt, blueberries, and walnuts; cereal and Greek yogurt with toppings; or simply Greek yogurt with toppings and toast.
What it does for me: Breakfast gives me calories and protein that I’d otherwise be trying to get later in the day in who-knows what form. I believe eating breakfast helps regulate my weight as well. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast (particularly a high-protein one) gain less weight than those who skimp on breakfast . Plus my body has come to expect food first thing the morning. My big breakfast fuels me for about two hours, then it’s time for a snack of dry roasted, unsalted almonds and red grapes.
Eat the same basic foods
If I were to list all the foods I eat on a regular basis, it would be relatively small. That’s not to say I eat only five foods, but the variety is fairly low. I eat the same things for breakfast and have a repertoire of about six or seven things I rotate for lunch, with small variations. Snacks are always basically the same. Dinner has more variety but revolves around the same basic ingredients of lean proteins, whole grains and starches, and vegetables. I’m happy with the small variations instead of constantly changing foods at restaurants, etc.
What it does for me: I’m able to stick to a very clean, healthy eating lifestyle by changing small variables in my diet instead of big ones. This works well for me because I’m very busy and don’t enjoy thinking about food very much. If you love cooking and variety, great; you just need to spend more time on finding healthy recipes. However, I believe that for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing food, control over variety is needed to eat healthy day in and day out.
Drink a ton of water
You hear about this all the time. You know you should drink 64 to 72 ounces of water per day, depending on your size and gender. But do you actually do it? I’m compelled to drink a lot of water – I’m just very thirsty. I attribute this to my very consistent workout schedule. I never leave the house without a bottle and keep a refill on my desk.
What it does for me: If a client tells me they’re low on energy, I check their water consumption first. Once they increase it they always feel better, unless they’re just not getting enough sleep. So copious water equals energy to me, and of course quenching that thirst that never seems to go away.
Stick to a plan
This pertains to anything really, but in this instance it means a workout plan. And yes, having a plan assumes you are working out consistently (another rather obvious one of my healthy habits). Haven’t seen results with what you’re doing, you say? My question is how long have you really done that program consistently? If you’re constantly switching your workouts you will not see results or progress. If you don’t know where to start, contact me. My clients belong to the “I’m Getting Results” club.
What it does for me: I’ve done the same shoulder plan for over a year now. That doesn’t mean it’s the same workout every session; it means I rotate the same workouts with small changes – it’s a plan. Sure, it’s probably time to switch things up by now! But I’ve had great results and I’m happy. I’ve also been doing the same basic leg exercises for several months and have seen the best development ever. Variety can be your enemy when it comes to workouts. You need a structured plan and you need to stick to it for at least three to six months to see results.
Get enough sleep
I’m going to make this one short – it’s self-explanatory. I will say, however, that I believe the reason I get seven hours of sleep every night is because I exercise so regularly and go to bed at the same time every night.
What it does for me: If you don’t get enough sleep night after night you will never feel your best. When I don’t get enough sleep I’m off my game – and that’s a huge understatement. I might as well just sit on the couch and veg out. I’m not willing to live that way.
Don’t ignore aches and pains
I can’t understand people who ignore pain. “It’ll go away” is a common thought pattern when you feel pain or an annoying ache in a muscle or joint. And many times they do. That’s all fine, but if you have pain that recurs when you walk up stairs, or raise your arm, or turn your head, well, that’s a problem that’s not going away – it’s going to get worse. It might take awhile – years, in fact – but pain that recurs is your body’s way of saying there’s something wrong. Even if you’re willing to ignore pain, it’s affecting your life. You avoid certain movements and possibly activities you enjoy as a result. You have to be “careful.”
When I feel pain I either (1) keep an eye on it for a short time then act or (2) act right away. If it goes away, fine. But if it lasts longer than a day or two, I foam roll, stretch, ice, take ibuprofen, or whatever I have to do to address it. I DO something. I’ll guarantee that nine times out of ten your aches and pains are due to tight muscles in some way, shape, or form.
What it does for me: I nip pain in the bud (hopefully) before it becomes a problem that could take away what gives me joy and health – my workouts. For you that might mean running, or skiing, or lifting your kids. Even if it’s a slight pain in my heel when I wake up in the morning, I know that could be the beginnings of plantar fasciitis!
Will I change a single one of these habits in the new year? Nope! Happy New Year to you and your healthy habits. Start now and in one year, you will also have the health and body that makes you feel wonderful every day.