Most people want to be healthy. And I would say that a lot of people also try to do their best to live a healthier lifestyle. I know from my own experience that doing “all the healthy things” is not always the easiest path. Sometimes that path can be challenging or even confusing.
What do I need to do to be healthy?
I’m trying to eat well…why do I still feel
exhausted or bloated all the time?
Sure, eating healthy foods is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, but there are other factors at play as well that sometimes get overlooked. That’s what I want to talk about today (in addition to nutrition)!
5 Keys To Health
Of course I need to start with nutrition. Eating a healthy diet is one of the biggest keys to getting energy, weight loss, improved immunity, better digestion, and overall health. But what does “good nutrition” even mean? This is obviously a big topic, and one that can’t be completely covered in a short blog section, but let’s focus on the basics:
- Eat lots of veggies – and I mean lots! Include them with all meals, incorporate them into snacks, fill half your plate with them.
- Make sure you’re getting your protein. Many people lack the protein they need in their diets, especially if you eat a lot of refined carbs. Eat 4-6 oz of protein at every meal, and include protein in your snacks as well.
- Don’t be afraid of fat. Eating healthy fats is a great way to make meals more satisfying and to help you feel full for longer. Plus healthy, less processed fats like olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil, and avocado oil offer a lot of great fats for overall health. Add fats to your veggies – did you know that some vitamins require fat to be properly digested? Obviously you don’t want to drown everything in butter – it should be used smartly just like any other food. Nothing should be eaten in excess.
- Eat your carbs – but choose wisely. Carbs are not the enemy. Yes, low carb diets work very well for some for health & weight loss. But for others, very low carb diets can do the opposite and actually lead to hormonal issues. So don’t feel like you need to be keto just to be healthy. Instead, enjoy carbs in moderation. I like to eat them as a small side instead of being the main feature of a meal. Also, choose more carbs that are complex or whole-grain vs. simple/refined carbs. And remember – vegetables are carbs. Fill up on those and supplement them with starchy carbs as needed.
- Balance your meals & snacks. This is super important and ties together everything above. When planning out your meals, be sure to include protein along with your carbs and some fat as well. The same thing applies to snacks. Make sure your snacks include protein and aren’t just carb centered. This even goes for eating fruit – add some protein and/or fat in along with it. The reason for this is that when you eat just carbs, it can cause a blood sugar spike soon after. And after a spike, comes a crash. This can often lead you to feel low energy and very hungry again in a short time…and have you craving more carbs/sweets. Instead, when you mix in some peanut butter with your apple, the blood sugar hit doesn’t happen so drastically, digestion is slowed down and your blood sugar levels stay more steady…and you stay feeling full longer!
Along with nutrition, drinking water is very important for overall health and feeling your best. Dehydration can cause symptoms ranging from headaches, fatigue, & moodiness to migraines, muscle cramps, and back/joint pain.
The general guideline is to drink half of your body weight in ounces per day of water. So for someone weighing 130 lbs, that would be 65 oz of water per day.
For more details on the importance of hydration, check out my blog post about Why Drinking Water Should Be Your First Health Goal.
Getting good quality & quantity sleep at night is key. Sleep is when our body is allowed to rest and do its internal work. A lot of body repair and detox is done while you sleep. Because of all of these things, sleep is a huge key to health.
If you aren’t sleeping well, you are going to have a hard time, functioning well mentally, losing weight, and feeling healthy in general. Even if you think you do fine with 5 hours of sleep, you may not be doing as “fine” as you think. If you are low on energy every afternoon, craving caffeine and/or sugar, or struggling to lose or maintain your weight, I want to encourage you to get more sleep.
I wrote a blog post about Setting Yourself Up For Great Sleep that goes over ways you can get better sleep and wind down in the evenings to promote great sleep.
“Ugh…now you’re going to tell me to work out?” Well yeah…maybe. 😉 But I would be missing a big part of health if I didn’t talk about the importance of moving your body. In my blog about Finding Exercise Motivation, I talk about the many health benefits of movement:
- Builds muscle & increases strength which…
- helps burn more calories
- stabilizes your body/joints to help prevent injury
- allows you to do more activities & lift heavier things in everyday life
- strengthens your bones
- Burns calories in general but also helps boost your metabolism
- Releases endorphins that make you feel happy & good
- Increases cardiovascular fitness which gives you more endurance & strengthens your heart
- Boosts your energy, reduces anxiety, and helps you sleep better at night
- Improves self-confidence
- Supports healthy immune systems by improving lymphatic flow
Those are all pretty amazing!
So you know movement is important, but how do you incorporate that into your life? Well, it does not mean you have to join a gym or that you have to spend 60 min every day running.
Movement can be many things. It can be hiking, walking, lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, yoga, dance, running, biking, team sports, etc. The most important thing with movement is that you enjoy it. I know that finding time can be one of the biggest obstacles to starting an exercise routine, but I’m telling you – make the time. It’s important and it’s something you need to work into your schedule if you want to feel your best.
5. Stress Reduction
Stress is not all bad. Sometimes it can be an important response from our bodies. But so often, we live with chronic stress, and this is very hard on your body. It can lead to fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, lowered immune response, weight gain, digestive issues, poor sleep (!), and more. While for some, it leads to a decreased appetite, for many it leads to stress eating.
We can take steps to reduce stress in our lives where we can – by reducing commitments (for ourselves & our kids) and simplifying our home. It’s also important to spend time simplifying your mind by reducing distractions, and learning how to focus better and be in the now. Here is a great blog about Quieting and Decluttering Your Mind that talks more about mindfulness.
If you want to simplify your home this year, you can join in my 2,020 in 2020 challenge to declutter 2,020 things this year! You can download the tracker below.
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I want to encourage you to focus on one small change in each of these areas. By making small changes, you will start to see big benefits. And once you have new habits in place, you can add on more small changes. I find that this is a sustainable way to add healthy habits without being overwhelmed. If adding from each category at once is too much, just pick one to focus on for now. Every step counts!