Here’s a secret: It’s easier to outsmart human nature than to overcome it. To do that, try these easy-to-adopt habits to help you live healthier every day.
Pack your workout clothes
Keep a grab-and-go set of workout clothes or walking gear nearby at all times. That makes it easy to be spontaneous about working out whenever you have a moment. When you have a pair of sneakers in the car, you can take a walk around the sports field while watching your kids play soccer, baseball or other outdoor sports. Ask others to join you, and you have the beginnings of a walking club.
Adjust your portions
Fill half of a 10-inch plate with vegetables or fruit, a quarter with whole grains and the remaining quarter with lean protein, such as fish or chicken. Downsizing is an easy way to cut calories; you can still eat all of the foods you love, but you just eat a little bit less of them.
Relax your forehead
Your forehead is like a mood ring, immediately displaying whether you are relaxed or tense. Long-term stress can affect your health in all sorts of untoward ways, so it’s worth it to work on chilling out. Try breathing slowly and deeply. Close your eyes and pay close attention to your breath going in and out. Relax the muscles in your forehead and around your eyes. Then, allow your concentration to move to your cheek and jaw muscles, relaxing them too. Continue to move your concentration down along your neck to your shoulders, focusing on letting go of any tightness and pain you feel. Remember to keep breathing slowly and deeply. Practice this twice a day for about five minutes each time.
Take a healthy cooking class
When you have the skills — and recipes — available to you to make healthy meals, it can have a significant impact on your health. Learning how to cook at home is a skill worth adding to your repertoire, as eating out is far more expensive (and almost always costs you more calories, too).
Stop “all or nothing” thinking
For example, you might think, “since I don’t have a free half hour, I’ll skip my walk today.” Or, “since I ate fried chicken for lunch, my diet is blown and I might as well eat whatever I want for supper.” It’s far better for you to say, “I don’t have a free half hour today, but I can walk for 10 minutes.” And if you fall off the good-food wagon, just hop back on again.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.