Spring is coming and many of us feel the renewed energy that comes with it. This is a great time for people to let air in through open windows and clear out unwanted junk. Maybe you’ve been Marie Kondo-ing your life too since watching her Netflix show or reading her book. Like your home, your body needs attention to keep it a fit and tidy place for you. It’s always a good idea to assess what our body is trying to tell us and give it the best care possible. Let’s spring clean our health habits and get us in our best shape!
The dreaded diet talk. It’s not always the most fun to talk about but it’s an important topic. It’s number one in this case because eating is an everyday need that can have a very direct impact on a person’s health. An easy way to start for many will be to aim for a balanced diet while learning more about nutrition needs and then to make adjustments from there depending on independent nutrition goals. Some will do best doing a complete overhaul, while others may prefer a step-by-step approach but always tell your physician about any big diet changes to make sure they align with any health conditions.
A good beginning point is to re-frame what a diet is: fad diets, quick fixes, and pills rarely work in the long-term and in some cases can have negative effects. Avoiding those potentially dangerous options can minimize disappointment, unnecessary money spending, and wasted efforts. Instead, focus on long-term sustainable eating habits that fuel the body healthfully. Complete elimination of certain foods isn’t always necessary, and in fact, some believe that it drives people to binge on unhealthy foods. The key is balance and being happy with what you’re eating.
A balanced diet includes eating from the 5 basic food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. The serving size of each and amount of calories needed varies depending on age, activity level, and other factors. Substitutions are a great way to begin incorporating healthier options, like popcorn instead of chips or greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. Along with that, minimizing processed foods in favor of whole foods is another way to improve one’s health through diet. Portion control is a powerful way to control diet because even too much of a good thing is still too much – 500 calories of organic kale chips is still 500 calories. Learning to read food labels and ingredient lists is also an important skill for awareness of what is going into your body and deciding what is important for your goals. Whatever factors influence your purchases, like if something is non-GMO or organic, those are personal decisions but it’s important to be an informed consumer to ensure you’re making the right choices for yourself. Many companies mask ingredients by using alternative names or use vague and misleading labeling. There are over 100 different ways to just write sugar!
It can all be really overwhelming and confusing but there are lots of resources on the internet to learn more about proper nutrition. It’s important to get information from reputable sources, however, because there are some out there with false information and often trying to push a product. Speaking with your doctor or finding a trained and certified dietitian are also really great ways to find a plan that is safely customized just for you.
While eating healthy definitely gets you on the right track, using that energy is the next step. The average adult should be getting about 75 minutes of intense or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity spread out over a week. 30 minutes of moderate activity is a good place to start but if that’s too long, a couple 5 minute options like walking work too. The important part is to move! Most people should also opt for strength training twice a week that covers the major muscle groups. If you’re just starting on a work out routine, it’s OK to take it slow and ramp up as you gain strength. If it’s too difficult at the start it may feel like a chore to do, the soreness may be demotivating, and it could be dangerous if you and your body are not properly prepared for the task. Start off with a manageable regimen and build on it as you gain strength and ability. Working with a trainer to learn proper alignment and information is an option that may take some of the guesswork out. Changes in exercise habits is something to talk with your doctor as well to ensure it doesn’t conflict with any potential health conditions.
Sometimes meeting those activity goals can seem daunting. Joining a class or a club is a really great way to stay active and even meet new people. It might open doors to activities you never thought of too – an ultimate frisbee team, a martial arts club, a cycling group – there are many options out there or start your own! Finding ways to make being active exciting and fun is a great way to keep up with it while enjoying it. Just don’t forget your rest days, especially if you’re involved in an intense activity, they’re just as important! On top of meeting the physical activity goal, don’t forget to get up from time to time. Sitting for long stretches isn’t great for posture, blood circulation, and may even lead to metabolic issues. There are lots of options for staying active throughout the day and week, the trick is finding what’s right for you!
It may be tempting to reschedule or cancel appointments because we feel fine but it is very important to have regular check-ups and not only coming in at critical times. Annual physicals are a great time to let your doctor know about your diet and exercise habits as well as for raising any concerns or asking questions. Screenings are an important part of a comprehensive health regimen as it allows physicians to catch conditions early, especially if you may be predisposed for something. This allows for treatment to start right away increasing chances for positive results. In fact, since regular screenings have been started, mortality rates for many conditions has dropped. Keeping on top of your health with regular checkups and screenings allows for early diagnosis which may offer more options for medicine and treatment and can potentially save you time and money in the long run.
One of the many great benefits of our ever growing modern culture is the destigmatize of mental health issues. This has allowed people to get the help they need and for more research to be done to further help and understand those conditions. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every now and then, even if you don’t think you need it. The good news is that the earlier topics covered can help improve mental health so if you’re following those you’re already a step in the right direction! Everyone’s needs are different but there are bountiful resources online to learn different ways for self-care.
Talking to someone can be a really great way to find relief, closure, or help in something you may be dealing with. There are also a number of new apps and online resources to connect you with a professional if the traditional methods are not available. Even starting with a journal can be a way to process emotions, thoughts, and questions. There are lots of different ways to center ourselves whether it’s going outside, cuddling in a fuzzy blanket, mediating, a hot bath, exercising, a certain smell or food; there are so many different things to try. Finding balance in ourselves is a journey we take during our lives, it may be chaotic or stressful at times, but it shapes us and we can learn to overcome our obstacles. There is never anything wrong with reaching out for help and always know there are options.
There’s no better time than now to take control of our lives and health. If all of this seems overwhelming, break down the steps and incorporate each bit slowly. We may prioritize parts differently but as long as there are consistent efforts to make better daily decisions, we’re in the right direction. Let’s open our metaphorical windows and air out our bad habits.