We need to find a way to talk about health that isn’t all-or-nothing.
But so often when we hear advice on how to get healthy it requires a complete overhaul of everything in our lives overnight.
I think most of us would agree that yes, in an ideal world we would all eat perfect, organic food and work out multiple times a week and be regimented with our health. But the reality is that for a lot of us, life is really really busy!
This month we’ve been talking about how to make daily life easier. We’ve covered figuring out the causes of stress in your life; figuring out kids’ schedules; figuring out what’s getting in the way of having sex; even how to get dads more involved with the kids. So since we’re talking this month about just getting real with our daily routines and how they affect us, we thought we’d end off the month with a discussion about healthy habits.
We didn’t include any of the typical ones that are usually said like eat more vegetables, stop drinking soda, because those are ones you’d normally hear from a personal trainer, nutritionist, or doctor. Instead, we wanted to give you a few ideas for small tweaks you can make that aren’t so commonly talked about because, frankly, not all of them are 100% “healthy.” But changing our lifestyle is about steps in the right direction, and a small step in the right direction is always better than staying still!
So let’s ditch the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to health and talk about some small, easy changes that can get us going in the right direction!
Note: if you currently struggle or have ever suffered with eating disorders, this is likely not the post for you. Instead, we’d recommend talking to a professional who has experience working with eating disorders to help find a personalized and safe way for you to approach fitness, food, and health.
1. Have frozen meals on hand
Having some ready-made meals in the house can actually help many people get healthier by having a safety net for when the planned meal just isn’t going to work out. Then, instead of going to a restaurant or getting take-out food, you can just throw the frozen meals in the microwave or the oven. No, it’s not the healthiest option, but this is about the lesser of the two evils here!
Rebecca and Connor like to have pre-made stuffed chicken breasts in the freezer they can just pop in the oven and then eat with microwaved frozen veggies. It’s cheaper than buying individual frozen dinners (which can run $6 a person) and is just as filling, all while making it easier not to order in pizza when you just don’t feel like making dinner.
2. Don’t immediately jump to intense gym workouts
Often when we decide to get healthy that includes a very strict workout regiment.
And what happens? You go for a week and then, somehow, it’s 5 months later and you haven’t been once.
When we start working out or getting active it’s tempting to go all-out from the beginning. But what often happens is that we get really sore, or really tired because–frankly–going to the gym is often a big time commitment at inconvenient parts of the day!
What can work better is starting with focusing on increasing activity level in general through easy first steps. Just start taking walks as a family after dinner (or, better yet, if you’ve got teenagers or preteens, let the teens clean up after the meal while you and hubby get a quick walk around the block to reconnect and hold hands!). Start to go to bike trails once a week to just ride bikes or roller blade as a couple. It doesn’t need to be a “work out” when you’re starting–just get in the habit of being active through achievable, easy steps.
3. Instead of working out, join an activity
Take ballroom dancing lessons together, or join a rock climbing gym! Rebecca started doing highland dance in an adults class two years ago and can’t wait to get back after she’s recovered from having the baby!
Having activities instead of gym time can help those of us who don’t enjoy the gym stay active by turning it into a fun, social activity where you are learning new skills and can be proud of what you achieve. Seriously, even if it’s just bowling as a family that doesn’t burn a lot of calories, if it keeps you from sitting on the couch all night, it’s worth it!
4. Wear clothes that are structured
When trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, one of the most frustrating things is to step on the scale one day and realize that you gained 10 pounds and didn’t even realize it.
Solution? Wear tailored/structured clothes. It’s easy to gain weight and not notice if all you wear is yoga pants or sweats with loose tops! But if you’re wearing structured clothes like jeans and tailored shirts, at least occasionally, those extra pounds aren’t going to creep up in the same way and it’s easier to nip unhealthy habits in the bud.
5. Have a full length mirror
Similar to the tailored clothes tip, if you have a full-length mirror it’s easier to see when bad habits start taking a toll. This isn’t about standing in front of the mirror and pointing out all the bad things about our bodies–not at all! This is about deciding to become empowered about our health and giving ourselves the ability to notice potential issues while they’re still easy to nip in the bud.
6. Try meal plan kits like Hello Fresh
We’re not sponsored by Hello Fresh, we just really like them and use them ourselves! 🙂
Pretty much, if you order a Hello Fresh box it gives you all the ingredients and the recipes you need to cook the dishes you select earlier in the week. The ingredients are fresh, the meals are healthy, they whip up quickly, and they taste amazing. You pretty much get home-cooked gourmet food for not that much per person, especially when you consider the price of eating out even just at a cheap family-style restaurant.
What we’ve found is that having some healthy options sent to our door is a huge treat once in a while that breaks up the monotony of meal prepping and cooking. And also, if you have fancy meals you’re excited for that you have to cook this week sitting in your fridge, it’s really easy to skip the take-out!
If you want to give it a shot, you can use Rebecca’s code for $40 off (plus she’ll get some Hello Fresh credits, too) your first box. Again, we’re not sponsored by Hello Fresh–we just really like it and find it helpful when trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle!
7. Keep your kitchen clean
One of the biggest predictors of whether or not I will end up throwing in the towel and ordering in is whether or not my counters are clear.
Having a messy kitchen makes the already time-consuming task of cooking even more of a hurdle. If you want to make a big stir fry but the cutting boards are all dirty and you can’t see the counters due to dishes and clutter, you’ve got to clean for 20 minutes just to get to a point where cooking is even possible.
If you want to get healthy, make cleaning your kitchen a priority. It doesn’t need to be spotless–but it needs to be usable if you want to use it! You’d be surprised how much less of a burden cooking is when you have a clean kitchen ready.
8. Instead of changing your whole diet, swap one thing
It’s easy to go all-or-nothing with food. You want to get healthy, so you decide to go vegan/keto/paleo/low-carb. But often this can be overwhelming and when we “cheat,” we feel we’ve ruined our streak and it’s easy to fall back into old ways. Plus, many of these diets are not feasible long-term.
Instead of changing everything, look at where you have one area you could make a big change. A few years ago, Sheila swapped Diet Pepsi for iced tea and having that substitute instead of just quitting cold-turkey made it possible for her!
9. Work WITH your cravings not against
Here’s the thing with cravings: some people get cravings that go away if they ignore them for a while. If you’re that kind of person, don’t keep your cravings foods in the house! Don’t buy potato chips, don’t buy the ice cream, just keep them out of the house so that when the craving comes you can distract yourself and it isn’t just sitting there, ready to be eaten.
If you’re the kind of person, though, where the craving simply doesn’t go away and you get them to the point that you’re willing to get in the car, drive to the store, pick up the junk food, and then come home and eat it all, look for foods that can curb your craving but aren’t so unhealthy.
When Rebecca was cutting down on potato chips, for instance, she found having pickles in the house helped curb her salt cravings. Figure out if there’s anything that’s a healthier alternative that can curb the cravings that just don’t seem to quit and keep those on hand!
10. Consider intermittent fasting
Obvious disclaimer here: this is not medical advice. We are not medical professionals, and any major diet change should be discussed with your doctor.
Intermittent fasting has been a huge success in our family. Four different members are doing varying levels of fasting and it has made a big difference for all of them. If you’re really serious about getting healthy but you’re having a hard time shedding weight, do some research into intermittent fasting to figure out if it is an option for you. My mother (who lives with us) started first. She’s lost about 40 or 50 pounds, and looks awesome! Keith started next, and he’s dropped 30. I’ve done it off and on to get rid of the excess menopause weight. We do the Intermittent Day Fasting, where one day you eat normally, and the next day you restrict your diet to 500 calories (well, I do 600, but you’re supposed to do 500). That way your body never actually thinks that it’s in “fast” mode, so it doesn’t try to conserve fat, and so it doesn’t slow your metabolism down like dieting.
Other forms are to eat only between the hours of 11-7, to give your body time off of eating. That’s what we do to maintain the weight once we’ve lost it. Again, please talk to your doctor. But a lot of people are trying this with some success, and for my mother and Keith, anyway, it does seem sustainable over the long run.
11. Don’t focus on your “end weight”–focus on your “new normal” and take it in steps
The hard part about getting in shape is that if we lose a bunch of weight really quickly our bodies don’t always adjust as well as we would like them to.
If weight loss is a goal for you, instead of focusing on your ultimate end-goal, set mini goals for yourself and then take a break to work on maintaining your new weight. Focus on losing 5, 10, or 15 pounds at a time and then stay at that weight for a time so your metabolism can catch up to what you’re doing. As well, this will make it easier to build the kinds of habits you will need not just to lose the weight but to maintain a healthier weight long-term.
Severe calorie restriction in order to lose a bunch of weight quickly is not a healthy, long-term solution and doesn’t help you build those long-term habits. Instead, let’s focus on how to be healthy in smaller steps to ensure that the healthy decisions you are making stick with you long-term through adjusting our habits and lifestyles in along the journey!
So there you go–some ideas to help you get healthy that are doable for normal people. And getting healthy is going to help your sex life and marriage, too! So that’s our To Love, Honor and Vacuum marriage challenge for this week:
To Love, Honor and Vacuum Weekly Challenge
Start a healthy habit today!
Talk with your spouse and together choose one healthy habit you want to start together. Select one from the 11 above and write out 3 specific ways that you and your spouse will work to make it a habit in your home.
Have kids? Make at least one of those 3 action steps one that the kids are involved with! Kids need healthy lifestyles, too, and you as their parent can help equip them with simple tools to stay healthy!