Easy Steps to Jumpstart Your Health Goals
Easy Steps to Jumpstart Your Health
Written by: Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN
Is 2022 the year to jumpstart your health? Perhaps you’ve faced a health challenge, want to prevent disease, or are learning to prioritize yourself after becoming a parent. Maybe you desire to increase alertness, energy, or stamina, or want to feel better in your skin.
Whatever your health goals, today’s articles will give you some ideas and inspiration for where and how to start. And spoiler alert: it doesn’t need to be a quick fix or total overhaul. Small habits, practiced consistently, build health and resilience over time.
Building New Habits
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: building new habits is hard work.
We all have coping strategies and lifestyle habits leftover from childhood. These habits likely served us at some point. As we get older, however, we become aware of specific behaviors working against our health goals and set out to change them.
Old habits can be hard to change because they are so ingrained. That’s also why building new health habits feel awkward and uncomfortable at first.
For example, perhaps you want to start walking to help manage stress. When you feel stressed, you know you should go for a walk, but eating cookies, like you always have, is much easier and more satisfying. Going for a walk isn’t as rewarding and is much harder to do in the moment. At first, it takes a lot of effort and awareness to go for that walk.
But the more you practice new habits, the easier they become. And eventually, the fresh, healthy habits become automatic.
When the old habits creep in, understanding that developing new behaviors is hard at first helps you keep going. The goal isn’t perfection; the goal is to feel good, make progress, and enjoy your life along the way.
If you know you want a natural approach for improving your health, but aren’t sure where to start, here are five areas to explore.
Step 1: Nourish with Nutrition
Good nutrition lowers your risk for chronic disease, makes it easier to manage weight, and helps you meet your fitness goals. People who have healthy eating habits not only experience better physical health but are happier too.
We all know the benefits of eating well, but why is it so hard to do so?
So many factors play into our food choices, but we must consider the environment. We live in a sea of processed food that is nutrient-poor, cheap, and designed to be addictive. Add to that the diet culture messages we’ve received for our whole lives telling us to manipulate what we eat to mold our bodies into an unrealistic standard.
No wonder many of us have a complicated relationship with food!
It takes awareness, education, and often a dose of rebellion to break free from what has become the cultural norms around food. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know what is true and true for you.
Let’s make it easy: choose real food most of the time. This means food in its whole, unprocessed state. Within that framework there is plenty of room to explore and discover what works for your unique body.
Small habits, to begin with, might include:
- Add one extra serving of veggies each day – a handful of spinach in your scrambled eggs or sauteed onions on your burger
- Add a high-quality protein powder to your morning or post-workout smoothie
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day
- Upgrade your snacks
Step 2: Move Your Body
Exercise is a practical science-based approach for depression, supporting the body through pregnancy and postpartum, and managing stress. Not to mention it’s vital for muscle growth and maintaining muscle mass throughout life.
Again, we know the benefits, but lack of time and energy often get in the way of consistently getting to the gym.
The good news is that exercise can take many forms and doesn’t have to mean hours of endless cardio or self-punishment. The key is to move your body in ways you love and find a practice that brings you joy.
Movement ideas to begin with:
- Go for a 15-minute walk after dropping the kids off at school
- Add one 20-minute strength training session to your week, work up to three
- Join a community for inspiration and accountability
- Stand up right now for a dance break
Notice how you feel – in your body and mind – after moving your body. Use that feeling as motivation to continue.
Step 3: Sleep
It seems so obvious, but often getting back to the basics is the best recipe for reclaiming your health.
Lack of sleep, poor quality sleep, and sleep disorders are pervasive in our society. Sleep habits continue to decline because of work and productivity demands, increased screen time, stress, and overstimulation.
Just ask a new parent how lack of sleep bleeds into every aspect of their life, and it isn’t hard to see how important sleep is for health.
Lack of sleep leads to:
- Poor food choices and overeating
- Increased stress hormones
- Increased inflammation
- Decreased motivation for exercise
- Decreased work productivity
- Changes in memory and cognition
All that to say, it’s going to be hard to make headway with nutrition and exercise without enough quality sleep. When sleep is in place, other things fall in place too.
If your sleep habits could use some TLC, consider:
- Setting (and sticking to) a regular bedtime
- Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool, and dark
- Limit the use of screens before bed
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual
Step 4: Supplement Smart
Supplements don’t replace a nutritious diet or positive lifestyle habits, but they can certainly enhance the benefits and produce faster results. In addition, supplements offer a bridge while you work on putting other lifestyle pieces in place.
There is a supplement for every health and fitness goal. Collagen egg protein powder, whey protein, or vegan protein offers amino acids that target joints and muscles to help you build strength and meet your daily protein needs. Electrolyte powder supports hydration, mineral balance, and recovery time. Multivitamins are your micronutrient insurance policy.
The truth is that all supplements are not created equal. You’ll find a wide range of quality and integrity between different supplement companies.
Laws are in place to ensure supplements are manufactured in a clean facility, but there is no surveillance of what is actually in a product compared to what the label claims. This lack of standards leads to products in the marketplace with low amounts of active ingredients, harmful additives, hidden sugars, or contamination.
When choosing vitamins, protein powder, or any other supplement, look for a company that sources quality ingredients, tests its products for purity, and is transparent about its processes.
Then, be sure to read supplement labels, just like you do with food. Ideally, you want to see:
- No artificial sweeteners (like sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame K)
- No artificial fillers or excipients (such as silicon dioxide, carrageenan, and potassium sorbate)
- No artificial dyes (like Blue No. 1, Red No. 40, and Yellow No. 5)
- No added sugars (such as high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, or dextrose)
Founded on high-quality ingredients, transparency, and health, Twenty2 Nutrition continues to be a trusted brand when it comes to these issues. Read the story here.
Step 5: Show Yourself Kindness and Compassion
So many of us are on the diet or off. We start a new exercise program, fall off course, and give up. We are good about getting to bed on time but then are back to scrolling at night a few days later.
All-or-nothing thinking and perfectionist tendencies creates overwhelm, overthinking, and stress. It pulls us out of the body and out of the present moment.
Remember that creating change is challenging. So instead of throwing in the towel when things get hard, practice giving yourself a big dose of self-compassion. Showing yourself kindness brings you back into your body and relaxes the nervous system, allowing for healing to happen.
When it comes to health, it’s okay to live somewhere in the grey area. It’s okay for your new habits to be good enough. Then, you can add small pieces to make it just a little better.
The next time your impulse is to throw in the towel, consider not beating yourself up. Acknowledge that you are only human and pick up where you left off.
Pro tip: If self-compassion is a challenge, pretend you are speaking to a child or your best friend as they are trying to learn something new. Speak to yourself the same way.
Whether you’ve been a health nut for years or are just beginning to make changes in your life, start small. Pick one area from this list and start with a tiny habit or goal. Then, work on making it consistent. Notice how you feel as the habit builds and what happens if the habit drops. Let go of perfectionism, trust your body, and know that each moment is new opportunity to make a healthy choice. Enjoy the journey!
About Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN
Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN is a functional nutritionist, writer, and recipe creator. Through her private practice, Ryah helps women use a natural, food-as-medicine approach to improve fertility, hormone balance, autoimmunity, and discover a healthy relationship with food and body. Learn more about Ryah at econutrition.co.