How to make your healthy habits easier

Ever notice that when people talk about making healthy changes, it’s often about what they’re eliminating?

“I cut out sugar.”
“I stopped drinking wine for the month.”
“I’m on a social media fast.”

None of these are bad. In fact, they may lead to better health and maybe weight loss. But excitement fades. Willpower conks out. It feels hard. And when that happens, it’s easier to fall back into old behaviors. And the same old result.

If you want easy healthy habits, try adding rather than subtracting. Meaning, add something to your routine instead of giving something up. This small shift can help maintain interest in the new habits without feeling deprived. 

My clients find that once they get used to the things they’ve added, two things can happen. One, they have less room/time/energy for the things that they want to eliminate. And two, the momentum from adding healthy habits may create a natural motivation to stop some of the things that felt so hard before.  

Keep the steps as small as they need to be. As they become your norm, it’s easier to add more

Here are my “50 adds” you can use to help build your own set of easy healthy habits:

Food habit adds

  1. Take lunch away from the office (if you eat at your desk daily, start with once a week) 
  2. Diced/riced broccoli & cauliflower – easy to add to salads and bowls
  3. Morning glass of water – rehydrate after a night’s sleep
  4. Smoothie – get lots of fruits & veggies with one “stone”
  5. Flax/chia/hemp seeds – add to smoothies, oatmeal, and use in baked goods
  6. Spiralized zucchini – a veggie alternative to pasta
  7. Spaghetti squash – another “pasta” option
  8. Almonds – I love Trader Joe’s individual packets; I stash them everywhere
  9. Use a mashed banana as a sweetener for oatmeal, instead of sugar
  10. Cucumber and mint to your water – refreshing, without sugar or sweeteners
  11. Ever try nut cheese? Seriously.
  12. Make your own salad dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste
  13. Learn to use flax or chia seeds as “eggs” when baking
  14. Dark chocolate (72% and up)
  15. Eat your last meal three hours before bed
  16. Find one new healthy recipe that you and your household will enjoy
  17. Almond flour – look for a pancake recipe
  18. Turmeric – it has excellent anti-inflammatory properties (combine with black pepper for maximum benefit)
Photo by <a href="">Guillaume Jaillet</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Guillaume Jaillet on Unsplash

Exercise & movement habit adds

  1. Set an alarm to stand up and move every hour (sitting is the new smoking!)
  2. When you sit back down, exaggeratedly roll your shoulders back five times
  3. Two extra minutes of walking when you go to the bathroom
  4. Plan your exercise the night before
  5. A 5-minute back-up (for when something happens to derail your exercise plans)
  6. 30-second plank in the morning
  7. Do 3 minutes of easy movement to work out the kinks each morning
  8. Another two minutes of exercise (once you’ve done 30 minutes, what’s two more?!)
  9. Increase the intensity of your cardio workout once a week
  10. One more strength training exercise
  11. One more rep or set
  12. Increase the weight 10% for one exercise
  13. A stretch for each muscle group you worked out
  14. A new class (virtual or in person)
  15. A new cardio machine
  16. Active rest activity (brainstorm ways to be active during your day)

Workday habit adds

  1. Keep water or unsweetened tea at your desk and drink it by the time you leave the office
  2. Open mail over the recycle bin 
  3. Batch computer tasks, like email, so they don’t overtake your day
  4. Schedule appointments when they fit your rhythm
  5. Say “let me get back to you” when you’re asked to do something, to avoid answering to quickly and overcommitting 

Mindset habit adds

  1. Read your vision first thing, then close your eyes and imagine how your day will unfold
  2. Say “you could be right about that” rather than respond hotly to a heated situation
  3. Assume others are doing the best they can
  4. Assume you are, too
  5. Expect things to go well
  6. Finish the day expressing appreciation to your significant other or close family member

Wellness habit adds

  1. A sleep mask to block out the light
  2. A yearly physical
  3. An uplifting podcast
  4. Massage 
  5. Meditation or breath work 

It’s natural to want to eliminate unhealthy behaviors, and you can. It’s just that when you take extreme actions it can lead to feeling deprived and, ultimately, cause you to backlash. (That’s code for lounging on the couch, elbow-deep in a bag of Cheetos while watching Stranger Things.) 

As you add healthy, positive “things” they may gradually overtake the unhealthy habits you want to quit. You can create a lifestyle of easy healthy habits by focusing on the additions.

Want help in making lasting change that feels a lot easier? Let’s talk.

Are you bored with what you’re eating?

“A few months ago I was on a roll with healthy eating, and I was feeling so good and losing weight. But I got bored eating the same foods all the time, I couldn’t stick with it. Now I’m trying to get back on track…”

But our brain likes routine and is good at creating habits. It desires efficiency and these habits save us time and energy later. 

So why is this such a problem when it comes to healthy eating?

Consider your everyday routines. Some are so automatic you do them almost without thinking, like brushing your teeth, driving a certain route to work, brewing coffee, or saying grace before a meal. You probably think of these as necessary, not boring.

Other habits require more planning but because you’ve made it part of your routine, you don’t need to exert a lot of effort. This is the case if you exercise regularly. You never ask “should I?” You simply schedule it and do it. Likewise, getting dressed in the morning is automatic, but depending on the degree of pre-planning it may take more or less time. Again, boring isn’t a concern.

Then there are habits we want to stop, but because we’ve been doing them for so long it takes time and effort to undo them.  For some, coming home every night and drinking wine fits that category. You get home from work which triggers the thought “it’s been a busy day and wine relaxes me.” No planning needed. And I’ve never heard someone say “I’m so bored with drinking wine.” 

So why, when implementing a new routine of healthy eating do we use the “boring” excuse? 

healthy eating
Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

Because when you start on the path of planning, preparing and eating healthy food, it takes more time and energy. And maybe you’re not eating many of the foods you used to eat that give you a dopamine high, and you miss that.  

Understand this: your primitive brain will use any means it can to seek pleasure, avoid pain and create ease. A new healthy eating routine is the opposite! It’s  just the thing your toddler brain doesn’t want you to follow through with.

When this thought about the food being boring comes up, pause and sit with it. Remind yourself that your routines are FOR you. They are not punishment. Of course you want your eating plan with healthy foods that you enjoy. When you do that, the adult part of your brain can calm down the toddler and follow through, as planned. I like to think of routines as brilliant, not boring. It’s how I get so much done everyday and achieve my most important goals.

Daily self care practices that might surprise you

What comes to mind when you think about self care practices? A mani/pedi? Massage? A Netflix binge with your bestie?

How about discipline? 

Not so much? Stay with me. 

I see discipline as the foundation of our self-care. When we’re disciplined, we make good decisions for ourselves. We treat ourselves well.

Discipline is doing things FOR yourself. It’s not something you do to make yourself miserable. 

The lack of discipline breeds misery

Like not planning your food for the next day when you know you’ve got 12 hours of work. So instead you grab Starbucks on the way into the office, skip lunch, and drive-thru Dairy Queen on the way home. 

Then you compound that with kicking yourself the next morning, promising you’ll “be good today.” 

Disciplines keep us healthy and make our lives better. Like with kids. We don’t let them play in the street or watch Carmen Sandiego until 2am because we love them and want what’s best for them. Not because we want to spoil their fun.

self care practices

Self-care is not always visible to others 

Self care isn’t about the big things like vacation and spa days. These are important, but we can’t exhaust ourselves and expect a few days or a week to make up for neglecting our needs day-in and day-out.  

It’s more about the daily, sometimes unseen, self care practices that contribute to the quality of your life. 

  • Small reminders that you’re doing the best you can.
  • Choosing foods that you enjoy and that nourish your body.
  • Taking a moment for fresh air between back-to-back meetings.
  • Not thinking you have to pick up every phone call or answer every text right away.
  • Opting for stretches and breathwork over a glass of wine on a Tuesday night.

You can have all the massages and things. Weave them into your schedule. But to create a life you love, looking and feeling your best, it’s the discipline of following through on daily decisions to take genuinely good care of yourself that make the difference.

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