The importance of habits
What most people don’t realize is that living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t require a tremendous amount of willpower.
In fact, I LIKE my healthy lifestyle.
But how? Why is it so easy for some people and so hard for others?
That’s a loaded question, but I can tell you one answer: habits.
If you think about it, there’s a lot of healthy people who aren’t always scrambling around, will-powering their way to try to make their healthy lifestyle stick.
The secret sauce is, they’ve figured out what works for them (which takes some experimentation). They know what helps them to live a healthy lifestyle, and they create habits that help them to maintain that lifestyle.
For example, food. It’s a lot easier to make toaster waffles in the morning than to make a veggie egg scramble and a smoothie. And yet some people do, and some people don’t.
The people who DO probably get their veggies ready for the scramble the night before. They’ve made this breakfast enough times that it barely takes them ten minutes. The repetition helps them to master it. It becomes non-negotiable, and they love the way healthy eating feels.
Similar to that is sleep. Someone has a bedtime-- say, 9:30. Someone who’s just starting to get to bed at 9:30 isn’t gonna have as easy a time as someone who’s been doing it for a year.
The person who’s been doing it for a year knows what they have to do to make it work. They have to let people know in advance that they can’t stay up late, they have to get their work done before dinner-- whatever it is. You get the idea.
The point is, a healthy habit is just an action repeated over and over until it becomes easy. It’s like working out: the more you lift that 20 pound dumbbell, the less heavy it’ll feel.
If you want some healthy habits that you can start implementing TODAY, you’re in the right place.
While many people think about a healthy lifestyle as just healthy eating, there’s a lot more to it than that. However, getting down the food basics and creating consistency in your diet is important.
Unfortunately, I think it’s often the hardest change to implement because unhealthy food is more convenient and more delicious (although I think you can learn to like healthy food just as much).
You’ll notice a pattern in the following habits: the name of the game is to be prepared. If you aren’t prepared, you won’t know what to do when you get yourself into a sticky situation, and those poptarts in the pantry are gonna look awfully appealing…
If you’re not prepared, you’re not gonna do it. Don’t rely on yourself to always have the energy and motivation to prepare healthy foods throughout the week because you probably won’t always be up for it. Pick a time near the beginning of the week when you non-negotiably do your food prep.
The two things that I like to do are 1) roasting vegetables if I know I won’t have time to make them later in the week, and 2) cooking ground beef. Ground beef is my go-to healthy meat because we always seem to have some in the fridge (and it’s sooo yummy). I also like to have some cooked quinoa around, and often cook it in large batches.
Food prep ideas:
Weekly shopping trip
My family goes to the store an average of ⅔ times per day. Seriously, we eat lots of food with four active teenagers in the house.
Buying healthy food from the store is the first step to actually eating healthy food. Buy healthy, yummy food, and if you’re willing to, purge your home of unhealthy food, or keep it in a small cabinet downstairs.
Take healthy snacks
When you go somewhere without snacks and you’re hungry and there’s beautiful cookies just waiting for you to eat them, the odds are not in your favor.
Come prepared. Find healthy snacks you love like RX Bars, Larabars, beef sticks, raw veggies, and fruits, like apples.
Drink water right away
I typically drink about 24 ounces of water upon waking. Since I already wrote an in-depth article on hydration, I won’t go too deeply into it, but drinking right away in the morning can definitely help.
Get your cup or water bottle filled the night before so you can just wake up and drink up!
At the beginning of the week, I plan out all of my workouts so that it’s not a big question of, “what am I doing today?”
I can’t say enough good things about Sydney Cummings's workouts. She’s so upbeat, the workouts are challenging, and they’re fun! I pick out five or so workout videos that I want to do at the beginning of the week.
Also, know when you’re going to do it-- in the morning at 9:00? Later in the day at 3:30? And where are you doing it?
Know the details so you don’t even have to think about it.
Doing your workouts in the morning can really help you to be consistent. If you let it become a part of your morning routine, you’ll be able to “get it over with” right away.
I also recommend that you have a morning routine that prepares your mind and energizes you for your workout.
Sign up for classes/sports
If you sign up for it, you’re less likely to ditch it. I don’t just “decide I don’t want to go” to volleyball practice. I go on days I don’t particularly want to. If you’re signed up, you’re more likely to just go.
Have a bedtime
There’s no use trying to be consistent if you don’t even know what you’re being consistent with. Know when and why you want to be in bed. Check out this article for more on getting to bed on time.
Set an alarm
I like to set an alarm for about 30-45 minutes before I want to be in bed so that I’m aware of the time. It also serves as a reminder that I need to get to bed soon, so that it’s at the front of my mind.
Have a nighttime routine
A nighttime routine will prepare your mind and body for sleep, and will help you to not get in bed at the very last second before you want to be asleep since you know you have more to do than just get in bed.
Tell people in advance
Let people know in advance that you’re a person who goes to bed early so that it’s not a shocker. I tell people that I don’t want to do certain things like starting a movie at nine o’clock because I feel my best when I’m well-rested. It lets them know in advance so they’re prepared, and it will make your cutoff more graceful so you don’t have to stress about it.
When it comes down to it, the way you handle a situation is about your thoughts. Two people could go through a busy period of their lives, but only one of them gets stressed about it. Managing stress through habits is a great way to stop stress from getting in the way of living a healthy lifestyle.
Have solid morning and nighttime routines
If your routines are sloppy, you’re more likely to feel disorganized and -- you guessed it -- stressed. Have a morning and nighttime routine in place that you can rely on and that will help you to manage stress and anxiety.
Combine stress management with other healthy habits
Use exercise as an opportunity to manage stress and take some thinking time. Before your (early) bedtime, do some journaling to wind down (check out this article for some journal prompts). Listen to a podcast that helps you manage stress while doing your food prep. Combine your stress management with other healthy habits.
Do it at a certain time of day
This goes along with the first one, but the time of day that you do your stress management needs to be consistent for it to become a habit. I do it right away, after my post-workout shower, and before bed at night.
Recognize when you need it more
You're going to go through phases of your life that are more or less stressful. Adjust the time you spend trying to manage stress based on how much stress there is to manage.
Healthy habits are a cornerstone of living a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living doesn’t have to be exhausting and require gallons of willpower. Rather, you need to create the habits that help you to live your best, healthiest life.
It won’t be easy at first, but the more you stay consistent with your habits, the easier it will become. It’s going to take some experimenting to figure out what helps you stay consistent in your life. Try to look at it as a process, because that’s what it is! It’s all going toward helping you take care of your body.
You’re going to have times in life when you don’t come prepared, when you’re going to eat that cookie and you’re going to go to bed late and take a few days of rest from workouts. Don’t stress about it. You have to find a balance where you’re taking care of your body but also enjoying the less-healthy things in moderation. Find balance and let it become your friend.