Baby Steps To Living A Lasting, Sustainable, And Healthy Lifestyle

Baby Steps to Improving Your Health

I’ve been dabbling in getting healthy for years. I talk a great game. I make solid plans and have a clear vision for what I want to achieve. I get the right workout clothes and comfortable tennis shoes. I buy a new water bottle. I’m motivated and ready to get my healthy living on.

Now before I go any further, let me be honest — I’m not unhealthy. I’ve had blood tests, ultrasounds, x-rays, MRIs, mammograms, annual physicals, and other tests for various reasons and they all come back and say I’m healthy. My blood pressure, cholesterol, and pretty much all other things are normal. But I’m not healthy either — or at least I wasn’t healthy.

My youngest just turned 10, and being able to justify the extra weight as baby weight was an excuse that went down the toilet more than a few years ago. Off and on over the years, I’d get motivated to start eating better and working out, and I did it. I don’t do anything halfway, so I’d jump in head first and eventually burn out, get busy, and stop.

The truth is that while I was seeing the pounds slowly pack on as I sat at my desk working for hours on end — and even 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week for a few years — I wasn’t so unhappy with myself that I was willing to make a long term change. Business was booming. I had a successful career, a husband who loves me, two beautiful kids, a beautiful home, and an overall happy life.

But every once in a while, like when shopping for a bathing suit (painful) or shopping for a new pair of jeans (terrible), I’d have to deal it. And it sucked. I wanted to get healthier. I wanted to lose weight. And I wanted a quick fix because I didn’t want to change my lifestyle. I liked my lifestyle.

  • I love desserts and baking and cooking. Did I really have to give up sweets and dessert?
  • I love curling up with a good book and reading for hours on end. Did I have to cut my reading way back to make room for fitness?
  • I love great food and fabulous restaurants. Was eating out going to become a thing of the past?
  • I was already working long hours. Was I supposed to give up even more time with my children just to hit the gym?

This Year It’s About Sustainable Lifestyle Shifts

Today I’m making progress, taking action, and movingly slowly, not to simply drop the poundage that sitting at my desk for 10 years added, but to create a real, sustainable shift in my lifestyle and that of my whole family to be healthier overall. I’m finally at a point where I am no longer interested in a quick solution that won’t last.

Maybe it’s because:

  • My business is finally structured to give me extra time and space to focus on me.
  • I’ve found that the more I play and get outside, the more productive I am when I am working.
  • The healthier I am, the more fun adventures I can do with my children.
  • I have a tween daughter and I want her to have a happy, healthy role model for finding joy in her work and personal life.

It doesn’t really matter what the reason is. I’m committed to taking baby steps that create long-term, healthy habits that improve my life, and hoping that these same healthy habits will trickle down to my husband and children as well.

If you’re in the same boat; if you’ve been struggling to create a healthy lifestyle change that is sustainable and doesn’t force you to cut out all of the things you love; if you’re ready to get healthy too, check out the list of baby steps I am taking below. And maybe, we can take them together!

Baby Steps to Getting Healthy

Set A Grocery Budget

When you don’t have a grocery budget to stick within, adding all sorts of extra yummy things to your cart becomes really easy. Taquitos? Sure! Potato Skins? No problem? Cookie Dough? Hell yeah! Brownie bites? Yes please! Pop Tarts? Duh!

Do you really need those Oreos? Maybe not. Creating a grocery budget is a great way to not only limit your spending, but to ensure you are mindful about what you are putting into your cart. But even the best grocery budget isn’t going to work for you if you don’t stick to it.

To make it super easy for me to stick to our family food budget, I withdraw our entire grocery budget in cash every two weeks. All of our family’s food, groceries, and eating out is paid for from that cash, and when it’s gone it’s gone. No more money is spent on groceries/food until our next payday.

Trust me, I really enjoy going out to lunch a couple times a week with Brian while the kids are at school, so now I definitely think twice about putting the doughnuts and pop tarts and Taquitos into the cart.

Eat Out Less

I LOOOOOOOVE eating out. I love someone else doing the cooking. I love someone else bringing me refills of iced tea. I love relaxing while someone else does all the work. And because I work at home every day, I do love getting out of my house.

But eating out is not just expensive, it’s often times not very good for you. You may think you’re making a great choice by ordering a salad, but when you account for the dressing… yikes! And don’t even get me started on the fat in those sauces, the huge portions, and the bread.

And it’s not just your waistline that eating out negatively affects. Eating out can sometimes ruin your mood and your wallet too. If you have kids, you’re probably making restaurant choices by what’s most family friendly or where your kids eats. But the problem with those restaurants is that they are loud. All too often have I made it halfway through our meal only to look at Brian and say, “I wish we just stayed home.”

I mean seriously, it is not enjoyable to eat dinner next to a family who doesn’t reign in their yelling kids, lets their kids play iPhone/iPad games at the table with the volume turned up, and doesn’t tell their kids to stop kicking the booth behind them. It’s also not very enjoyable to get poor service, your meal made incorrectly, and never get a refill on your drinks.

So eat out less.

By cooking at home more and eating out less, it be easier to make healthy choices, save you money, and reduce stress. Plus, by eating out less, you can splurge on nicer restaurants with better service when you do go out, making it even better!

Plan Ahead

It’s okay to get dessert if you’re eating out with friends — just plan ahead. If you know you’re going to have dessert:

  • Don’t also get an appetizer, or if the table is getting one, just have a bite
  • Order a lower calorie meal. Skip the heavy pastas and red meat, and instead order a lighter grilled chicken or fish option.
  • Share your dessert

The same logic applies when I’m at home with the family:

  • One junk food/dessert type item a day. So if you have doughnuts for breakfast, no ice cream or cookies later
  • Having a big dessert in the evening or a calorie-dense meal for dinner? Go for a walk in the afternoon and eat light, healthy foods all day
  • Enjoy dessert, just don’t enjoy too much dessert! Have a smaller piece of pie, eat a couple cookies instead of ten, have a Popsicle instead of a giant bowl of ice cream

You see, it’s not about deprivation, but about making smart choices.

Get More Sleep

I know that with thousands of options available through Netflix, Hulu, the internet, and regular TV or cable, the struggle to not binge watch your favorite shows late into the night is very real. But, just as you can watch them all in one sitting, you can also watch them anytime it works for you.

So instead of staying up late watching TV, watch one show and turn out the lights early. Your show will be there tomorrow, I promise, and you’ll get a longer, better night’s sleep, which will translate into a happier you the next day. Getting more sleep will help your body regulate itself and recover from your daily activities, improve your mood, boost productivity, and more.

Shrink Up Portions

Everywhere you turn it seems like people are preaching portion control — and I’m sorry, but that is really hard when every restaurant you sit down at brings you plates full of food that could feed three adults, or when you feel like you’re really hungry, or when you serve your husband and yourself the same meal with the same portions.

Watching your portion size is the fastest, easiest way to still enjoy your favorite foods and maintain whatever shape figure you desire. And, the fastest, easiest way to control your portions is to choose a smaller plate. Grab a lunch plate instead of a dinner plate and immediately, because less will fit on the plate, your portions will be smaller.

A good rule of thumb that a nutritionist friend of mine shared with me is that your eyes are always bigger than your stomach, so you should typically aim to eat half of what you think is the right portion size. So next time you go to scoop a heap of mashed potatoes onto your plate, think about making the heap of goodness half the size.

Drink Lots Of Water

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice: drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day. Dang does that take some work, especially when you factor in other things we drink, like coffee, tea, juice, etc.

I went years not drinking enough water and while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was in a constant state of dehydration, which can drain your energy and make you tired. Once I figured out that several of the issues I was dealing with could all be tied back into dehydration, everything changed: I started drinking more water, I stopped breaking out, I had more energy, I was sleeping better, and I wasn’t as hungry. I can even track my water intake on my Fitbit. If you don’t have one, you can get one on Amazon!

I recently asked some nutritionist friends of mine how much water I really should be drinking a day. They said that how much water you need is different for every person and it changes based on where you live and how much you exercise. But it’s a fairy safe bet to follow these general guidelines:

  • Drink half of your body weight in liquids each day.
  • Aim to have 3/4 of your total liquids be pure water.

So roughly, if you weight 160 pounds, you should be drinking 80 oz. of liquids each day, and 60 oz. of your liquids should be pure water. This amount may go up or down based on climate, amount of exercise, other medical conditions, age, etc.

Put On Your Jeans

It’s easy to feel great about eating that extra piece of pizza, drinking another refill of soda, saying yes to another round of chips and salsa, or mindlessly snacking all day while sitting at your desk working, when you’re wearing baggy, comfortable, super-stretchy, elastic-waist workout pants, yoga pants, pajama pants, or sweat pants. And, if you wear them all the time, like all winter long, you won’t even notice the extra pounds you’re gaining.

So say no to your stretchy workout pants and sweat pants and put on your jeans.

Wash them often for that tight, right-out-of-the-dryer fit and wear them daily. Feel that non-stretchy, non-forgiving waistband against your waist, and let it be a reminder to say no to seconds (or thirds) because you do want to keep fitting into these babies.

Make Simple Swaps

I am never going to not eat, or eat like a rabbit, or cut out all of the delicious foods I love. I’m not willing to live that way. So instead, I am making simple swaps to make my favorite things healthier.

There are tons of swaps you can do, but here are just a few examples:

  • Use avocado instead of sour cream or butter
  • Use applesauce instead of oil
  • Use cashew cheese instead of dairy cheese
  • Swap bread for a tortilla and turn your sandwich into a wrap, and when you can, use a corn tortilla instead of a flour tortilla — or even use lettuce
  • Skip the dip and go for salsa
  • Eat air popped popcorn over chips
  • Eat baby carrots or pretzels instead of chips when craving something crunchy
  • Brown rice over white rice
  • Use a lunch plate instead of a dinner plate

This way I get to still enjoy my favorite foods!

Walk More, Walk Often

My daughter and I recently bought ourselves Fitbits. Sharing my experience with the Fitbit Alta is a post all on it’s own, but for now I’ll share that having a Fitbit Alta has already made a difference in the health of our whole family.

In the few weeks I have had my Fitbit, my husband has lost 5 pounds by proxy, my son is having fun going on more walks and riding his bike, my daughter is more active and she even has lost 2 pounds, and while I don’t weigh myself, I’m fitting into clothes that didn’t fit last year.

You don’t need to get all crazy with exercise. Walking more and walking often makes a difference.

Park in the farthest spot in the lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk any errands that are close to your house. We’re now walking to the bank, the UPS Store, the grocery store, school, and more! Trust me, things that feel far away, are actually much closer than you think.

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It!

If after 10 years of zero working out, eating anything I wanted, and sitting at a desk everyday, I can take these steps to create sustainable habits and work toward leading a healthier life, you can too!

I believe in me and I believe in you.

And because this is an ongoing journey, I’d love to hear what kind of baby steps you’re taking to improve your health and get active in the comments below. Maybe I can add some of your tips and ideas into my healthy lifestyle plans too!

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