Did you start January full of health resolutions, determined that this would be the year that you ate better, lost weight and exercised regularly?
If you’re back to your usual habits – skipping breakfast, grabbing chocolate to get you through that afternoon slump, neglecting your fruit and veggie intake and chugging down mug after mug of coffee – don’t feel guilty about it. Your problem isn’t that you lack willpower – it’s that you tried to change too much at once.
Instead, try making some of these very easy changes to your eating, drinking and exercising habits. Once you’ve got used to a few of them, add in more. You’ll be making huge strides towards your health goals, with hardly any conscious effort. Sound good? Read on...
Easy Changes to Your Eating Habits
- Eat a piece of fruit before lunch
Get into the habit of eating an apple, banana, pear or other piece of fruit before lunch each day. It’ll take the edge off your appetite – making you less likely to dig into greasy fast food or bag or crackers. You’ll also be one step closer to hitting your five-a-day.
- Don’t use vending machines
Let’s face it, have you ever bought anything healthy from a vending machine? They’re overpriced and full of sugar-and-salt packed stuff that your body doesn’t need. Plus, they’re open all hours (unlike your corner shop) and they won’t look at you funny if you buy ten candy bars at a time. Make a pact with yourself not to buy anything except bottled water from vending machines.
- Go vegetarian one night a week
Most nutritionists agree that we eat more meat than we need to. Have a meat-free dinner once a week – it’s a great opportunity to try out some new recipes that are packed with vegetables and flavours. You’ll also save yourself some money.
- Switch to wholegrain bread
If your lunchtime sandwich or sub is always on white, switch to wholegrain. The extra goodness in the grains (including lots of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, and various minerals) helps keep your heart healthy and cut your risk of cancer. Plus, fiber-rich foods make you feel you full for a longer period of time – very helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
- Switch to skim milk (1% or less fat)
Do you drink whole milk or put it on cereal? If so, switch to skim (less than 0.5% fat) or 1% milk. It might seem odd for the first few days, but stick with it for a week or so: your taste buds will quickly adjust. You’ll be getting just as much calcium and protein as before, but cutting fat.
- Keep a bottle of water on your desk
Many people mistake slight thirst for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking. Keep a bottle on your desk and drink it whenever you get a little mouth crazing. Getting sufficient water also helps prevent you from becoming constipated. Note: Save money by using a refillable thermos or water bottle instead of purchasing bottled water.
- Switch half your cups of coffee to herbal tea
How many coffees (or regular mugs of tea) do you drink in an average day? Try having just half of your usual amount – and make the rest a herbal, caffeine free tea. Many government health authorities recommend that we limit caffeine intake to 400mg per day, which is the equivalent of four cups of brewed coffee, or seven cups of instant.
- Avoid milky drinks from coffee outlets
Do you have a giant latte every morning? You could be clocking up over 300 calories in just one drink, and chances are, it doesn’t fill you up at all. And don’t assume that being caffeine-free means you can get away with this: a hot chocolate with whipped cream has over 400 calories...
- Have four alcohol-free days per week
If you go out drinking every day after work, or split a nightly bottle of wine with your partner over dinner, your habits are putting your liver under pressure. They could also be stopping you from losing weight: alcohol makes you peckish, and contains calories (around 200 calories in a bottle of beer or a medium-sized glass of wine).
- Swap soda for water
Are you addicted to soda? Even diet sodas aren’t great for you – they generally contain a lot of additives. Try swapping some of your sodas for plain water (add a slice of lemon, or a dash of cordial, if you don’t like your water unflavoured). If it’s the fizz you miss, try carbonated water.
- Go for a twenty minute walk every lunchtime
If you’re struggling to fit exercise into your day, get away from your desk for a twenty-minute walk each lunchtime. It’s a good way to force yourself to take a break from work, and refreshes your mind and your body.
- Walk (some of) your commute
Can you walk all or part of your commute? That might mean jumping off the subway a stop earlier, or even just leaving your car in the furthest part of the car park.
- Take a gym class once a week
Wherever you live or work, chances are that you can find a convenient exercise class somewhere nearby. (Many gyms have quick pre-work slots and lunch-time classes, as well as several evening options.) Find one class you can do, once a week – and stick with it.
- Make Sunday afternoons active
As Monday looms ever closer, you might find that your mood and energy levels take a dive. A great way to counter this is to do something active on Sunday afternoons. Mix this up from week to week: how about a long walk, a swim, ice-skating, having a kick around in the park...?
- Exercise during commercial breaks
Whenever you’re watching TV and adverts come on, get up off the sofa and do some exercise. Fit in a few stretches, some jogging on the spot, or some weight lifting. You might only fit in a few minutes at a time, but over the course of an evening’s TV viewing, that could easily add up to half an hour. And if it stops you grabbing yet another snack, it’s definitely helping...