A common misconception is that being healthy means taking EVERYTHING to the extreme. It’s like people think that in order to reach an optimal state of health and happiness, you have to eat bags of kale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and do yoga 24/7. It’s much easier and pleasurable than that, peeps, I promise! (And what a relief.)
As I already said on my about page, my health has not always been as important to me as it is now. Yes, I’ve been vegan for about two years now, but there were another 22 years of my life where I over-indulged in everyone’s favorite fixes: coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, and looottssss of meat and cheese.
People often ask me how I started to change my lifestyle. “Oh, I could never do that,” they say, “I enjoy coffee way too much.” Or, “I want to be healthier, but I just don’t have the time or money.” Trust me, I understand! Though I currently live a non-traditional lifestyle that isn’t a 9 to 5, I did for a long time. And guess what? I was vegan when I did. I was healthy when I did. I prioritized my health and happiness when I did.
So, how did I do it? I’ll start by saying that I surely didn’t wake up one morning and become the person I am today. First, I decided what “healthy” meant to me, both physically and emotionally. Then, I started to make small lifestyle changes that eventually made big lifestyle changes easier (like becoming vegan or quitting smoking), and later, they became a part of my everyday routine. If I went a day or two without doing these small things, it felt like I was forgetting something important. Kind of like if you forget to brush your teeth or put on D.O.
Heads up! Being “healthy” looks different for everyone, and though it’s a lifestyle change, your changes can be small at first. In my experience, it was easy for me to start small and THEN figure out what my big picture was. Just because it was veganism for me, doesn’t mean it has to be for you.
If you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle, first and foremost, take this moment to feel good about that. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be relieved to know that there are lots of very small changes you can make that’ll make your transition way easier than you’d think.
8 simple things you can do to be healthier
1. drink more water
I’m always shocked to hear people tell me that they “have to try” to drink more water. But then again, I realize that I react this way because drinking water has become such a huge part of my day that I can’t imagine going through a day without constantly drinking it. Over half of your body weight comes from water, and without it, your body suffers. Staying hydrated at all times can help relieve bloating, curb cravings, clear your skin, and give you energy. Here are some ways I hold myself accountable and drink a shit ton of water:
- always carry a water bottle with you. EVERYWHERE you go! (Preferably reusable! Hydroflask is my favorite brand.)
- Use fun apps/markers to keep track of how much water you’ve had in a day. A lot of my friends use the app Plant Nanny. I use colorful rubber bands to keep track of mine! Every time I drink a bottle, I put a rubber band on it.
- Take a sip of water between each/every other bite of food you take. Not only will this help with hydration, it will also help you SLOW DOWN when you’re eating your food, which will aid the digestion process.
- Cut out the sugary shit: soda, old school juices (ones that have a lot of sugar and aren’t natural), sugary alcoholic drinks, etc. Even if it’s a hot summer day, you’re craving a soda, and you feel SUPER hydrated after drinking it, guess what? You’re not craving it because it quenches your thirst, you’re craving the sugar. Also, it’s not hydrating you, it’s dehydrating you. Smh.
2. add lemon to…well…everything.
Squirt it into your morning cup of H2O. (I try to have AT LEAST 8oz of water + lemon every morning, first thing.) Drizzle it onto your salads. Add it (with the skin!) to your juices. Anywhere you can sneak it in, doooooo ittttt. To name just a few benefits of these bad boys: They aid digestion, they’re a great source of vitamins, they help with clear skin and bloating, and control high blood pressure. When I first quit drinking coffee, I swapped out my morning cup of Joe with hot water + lemon every day. It was way easier than I thought.
3. only eat when you’re hungry and take note of cravings
Ever crave something out of nowhere and feel the need to eat it, without even thinking about whether or not you’re actually hungry? Each craving represents a lack of a specific micronutrient in your body. Example: If you’re craving carbs, you need more B vitamins. Next time you find yourself craving something, google it and see which micronutrient you’re lacking and give your body THAT instead of cavin’ to the cravin’.
4. listen to your body
Seems simple, but very few people ACTUALLY go through with it. I’m a victim of this, and I have to make an effort to do so because I tend to push myself too hard sometimes. Tired? Sleep. Hungry? Eat. Not hungry? Don’t eat. Feeling overworked? Slow down! Stress is SO detrimental to our overall health. Your body is a magnificent force and it’s on your side; whenever it needs something, it TELLS YOU. So, listen up!
5. sneak in greens anywhere you can
The traditional American meal consists of carbs, proteins, and sometimes grains. If greens are included, they’re often the side attraction, and they’re prepared in an unhealthy way. If you’re in the mood for a savory breakfast, sautee some veggies and have them on the side. If you’re having a sandwich/salad, choose veggies that are SUPER high in essential vitamins and double-up! (Kale, spinach, arugula, etc.) I sneak greens into everything; soups, casseroles, pasta dishes. In my opinion, they make most meals taste even better. Next time you whip up a bowl of spaghetti, throw in a few handfuls of spinach and see how you like it.
6. don’t skip breakfast
I could go on and on about this. Managing blood sugar levels is ESSENTIAL for a healthy lifestyle. If you skip a full breakfast and start your day with a cup of coffee or a sugary bar of some sort instead, you’re sending your blood sugar levels on an emotional rollercoaster that will cause crashes, fatigue, cravings, and more not-so-fun things later on. If you don’t like to wake up early to sit down and enjoy a meal, just try this: Upon waking up, have 8oz of water and be sure to eat within 70/90 minutes of waking up. Pay attention to your sugar intake as well. (Added sugar.) The difference in your mood will shock you. It did for me!
7. make lunch your biggest meal
Think about this for a second: Why is dinner usually the biggest meal of your day? For me and many others, it was for a few reasons. First off, I wasn’t feeding/fueling myself enough through the day, which would make me STARVING when I got home from work or when the day was ending. Second, it was a mental thing for me. I did a good job, I worked my ass off, so I deserve a big flippin’ bowl of pasta, right? Sometimes, yes, but as soon as you begin to make food a reward, it can also quickly become a punishment. “You didn’t work out today, so you don’t get to eat x, y, or z.” This is a very unhealthy way to look at food, for our bodies NEED IT to survive. If you really think about it, it doesn’t make sense to save our biggest meals for the end of the day, because soon after, our bodies are going into sleep mode. They’re inactive. It makes so much more sense to fill your body with energy-filling foods in the middle of the day because THAT’S when we need the most energy! After lunch, we still have over half of the day to be active. I’m not saying make your dinners small, I’m just saying rethink the way you make each meal. If there’s going to be a meal you “go big” on portion or carb wise, make it lunch.
8. meal prep
Meal prep changed my life. If you’re frantically trying to figure out what your lunch is going to be ten minutes before your mid-day meeting and you have nothing in your fridge when you get home after working late, you’re definitely more likely to order in Chinese takeout rather than prepare a beautiful, veggie-filled meal. Duh. But what if the meal was already prepared for you, waiting patiently for you to enjoy right when you got home? If so, you’d be much more likely to choose the healthier option, because it’s already there. This is why I take one day out of my week (usually Sundays or the weekend) to prep a majority of my meals.
Here are some things I always have ready in the fridge:
- Green juices/smoothies (I make them the night before and keep them sealed in a mason jar. It works! I just shake before enjoying. Here’s my go-to recipe.)
- Ripe avocados
- A large tub of quinoa, rice, buckwheat, or farro. (I cook about a cup or two and keep it in Tupperware throughout the week. LIFESAVER.
- Pre-cooked legumes; they’re an easy add-on to any meal: kinds of pasta, salads, bowls, etc.
MORE TIPS FOR MEAL PREP:
- Pay attention to what will get soggy/settle weird after a few days. Example: If you are meal prepping sweet potato fries for the week, have them for dinner Monday night and make a big batch for Tues-Fri. Don’t make a big batch Sunday, not eat any that night, and then expect them to be perfect for Friday’s lunch or dinner. A day in the fridge makes a big difference.
- Make it a ritual, or something to look forward to. Before I meal prep, I look up fun, new recipes that make me excited to try. During, I blast music and pour myself whatever I’m feelin’ at the time. (Sometimes matcha, sometimes wine…balance, am I right?)
- Afterward, I take that opportunity to clean my kitchen. It is such a great way to start the week!
If all of the above things don’t seem “small” to you, that’s OKAY. Everyone has to start somewhere. You don’t have to do all of them at once or none of them at all; pick and choose what seems easiest for you and gradually build. Again, everyone can get there differently, but YOU decide what your first step to healthy will look like. Even if it’s just starting your day with hot water and lemon, that’s something!
In good health,