Like many Americans, I have been on a journey toward improving my health this year. Now, that means different things for everyone, but I will let you in on five steps I have improved my health this year and that has worked out for me.
1. Switched to diet, caffeine free soda.
I know there is much debate over the sweeteners in diet soda and the fact that there isn’t anything redeeming, nutritionally speaking, about soda, but I had to come down from regular, caffeine free sodas. First of all, I know that my body cannot handle the regular sugar in soda. Secondly, I have intolerance to caffeine. I am one of those people for whom caffeine makes me sleepy after it puts my stomach in knots. While I’m still making an attempt to cut down on total soda intake, for now, when I do have a soda, it’s diet and caffeine free.
2. Made an effort to reduce stress levels.
I do confess that I am a Type A person with perfectionist traits, but I never really knew a panic attack until earlier this year. Without going into the dirty details, at the beginning of the year I had such a severe panic attack at work that I thought I was having a heart attack and had to be taken to the hospital. Knowing that I could not keep going in that manner, I resolved to find ways to reduce stress. Much of my stress reduction had to do with rethinking my perspective on some issues. Knowing when to actually let something bother me was key to keeping myself out of the emergency room. So far, so good.
3. Scheduling in exercise.
I love schedules and lists. That being true, until recently I had never gotten around to scheduling my workouts. The great thing about scheduling your workouts along with everything else in your day is that you make a conscious effort to make it a part of your day. This tells your mind that exercise isn’t a chore – that it’s just a normal part of your day. Believe it or not, having the exercise built into my schedule gave me more motivation to get it done. Two thumbs up for scheduling workouts.
4. Making more of my own food.
Did I turn into a five star chef overnight? No. Even though I do have culinary skills, the most important thing for me was to remember that it is cheaper and healthier to bring my own food to work and when I go other places throughout my day. When you do that, you save money and you are in total control over what you are putting into your mouth. Whether you are trying to control carbs, sodium, sugar, etc., you are going to give yourself a big boost in the health department (and your wallet) by making things ahead of time at home. Even if it’s just a simple, healthy sandwich, that’s better than a fast-food burger. My best advice; make a lot of food ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry about cooking when you are short on time (unless you happen to be Rachel Ray!).
5. Read/Learn more about health, wellness, and nutrition.
Even though I am a certified personal trainer and spent years in the military, it is always important to keep learning. Learn about new foods, new ways to prepare foods, new types of dishes, just getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new helps a lot. As I learn more about food and nutrition and its affect on the body, I have found that making the right choices in the grocery store contributes to my overall health. I have checked out various magazines and books. Magazines include VegNews and Food Network, while books include Jillian Michaels’ Master Your Metabolism and Rachel Ray’s Big Orange Book.
The bottom line is that although these were just some of the changes I have made, I have learned over this year that it takes time and patience to put these ideas into action that will make a difference. I have also learned to deal with the days when my plans are not going as I would like. That’s just part of life (not fun for a Type A, though). As I move into the next year, there will be more steps to take, more learning, and harder workouts. Despite all of that, I’m confident that my efforts will make a difference and that I’m on my way to being the healthiest I’ve ever been. Hopefully my steps have inspired you to take your own steps to being healthy. Don’t wait until the New Year start and the next week or the next month. Start now.