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
- Take lunch away from the office (if you eat at your desk daily, start with once a week)
- Diced/riced broccoli & cauliflower – easy to add to salads and bowls
- Morning glass of water – rehydrate after a night’s sleep
- Smoothie – get lots of fruits & veggies with one “stone”
- Flax/chia/hemp seeds – add to smoothies, oatmeal, and use in baked goods
- Spiralized zucchini – a veggie alternative to pasta
- Spaghetti squash – another “pasta” option
- Almonds – I love Trader Joe’s individual packets; I stash them everywhere
- Use a mashed banana as a sweetener for oatmeal, instead of sugar
- Cucumber and mint to your water – refreshing, without sugar or sweeteners
- Ever try nut cheese? Seriously.
- Make your own salad dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste
- Learn to use flax or chia seeds as “eggs” when baking
- Dark chocolate (72% and up)
- Eat your last meal three hours before bed
- Find one new healthy recipe that you and your household will enjoy
- Almond flour – look for a pancake recipe
- Turmeric – it has excellent anti-inflammatory properties (combine with black pepper for maximum benefit)
Exercise & movement habit adds
- Set an alarm to stand up and move every hour (sitting is the new smoking!)
- When you sit back down, exaggeratedly roll your shoulders back five times
- Two extra minutes of walking when you go to the bathroom
- Plan your exercise the night before
- A 5-minute back-up (for when something happens to derail your exercise plans)
- 30-second plank in the morning
- Do 3 minutes of easy movement to work out the kinks each morning
- Another two minutes of exercise (once you’ve done 30 minutes, what’s two more?!)
- Increase the intensity of your cardio workout once a week
- One more strength training exercise
- One more rep or set
- Increase the weight 10% for one exercise
- A stretch for each muscle group you worked out
- A new class (virtual or in person)
- A new cardio machine
- Active rest activity (brainstorm ways to be active during your day)
Workday habit adds
- Keep water or unsweetened tea at your desk and drink it by the time you leave the office
- Open mail over the recycle bin
- Batch computer tasks, like email, so they don’t overtake your day
- Schedule appointments when they fit your rhythm
- Say “let me get back to you” when you’re asked to do something, to avoid answering to quickly and overcommitting
Mindset habit adds
- Read your vision first thing, then close your eyes and imagine how your day will unfold
- Say “you could be right about that” rather than respond hotly to a heated situation
- Assume others are doing the best they can
- Assume you are, too
- Expect things to go well
- Finish the day expressing appreciation to your significant other or close family member
Wellness habit adds
- A sleep mask to block out the light
- A yearly physical
- An uplifting podcast
- 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.