Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Healthy Lifestyle: The Basic Elements

When we talk about losing weight and getting in shape, the first thing that probably comes to our minds (especially if we're women) is getting down to a certain golden number that's been in our heads for years. Nothing seems as important as reaching that number.

But I'm a big believer of acting now like you want to be in the future, and to be honest, this means having a healthy lifestyle now, not making shortcuts so that we can simply reach that golden number and be done with it.

So what are the components of a healthy lifestyle? What should we be doing now to make it easier for us to maintain this lifestyle and any weight loss in the future?

1) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
Listen, I get that some diets say eat a very limited amount of carbs or reduce your sugar intake to almost nothing. But I personally believe this shouldn't extend to fruits and vegetables--they are the healthiest foods we could put into our bodies! Vitamins, antioxidants--not to mention that they're mostly very low calorie foods. Most sources say 4-8 servings of EACH per day. I can't do this all at once, but will be slowly increasing my intake each week. (This is a great link about fruit and vegetable recommendations and information.)

2. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day.
This is deliberate exercise, not just exercise that happens while you're cleaning the house or mowing the yard. And the 30 minutes a day is the minimum recommendation for your body. It's much better to maintain weight loss at an hour a day (giving your body at least two days off per week, of course). What does this mean for us now? It means that if we don't have the time to exercise more than an hour a day, we need to make sure that that hour is at least high intensity, and that we're not adding empty calories to our diet so that the combination of exercise and eating benefits us in such a way that we can lose weight at a steady pace. Right now I can't exercise for an hour, but I will be increasing my amount of time each week as well.

3. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
To break it down, that's 64 oz of water, and that's really supposed to be the minimum. I've heard that if you're active at all, you should divide your current weight in half and drink that amount of water in ounces every day. For all of us, that should be quite a bit more than 64 oz.

4. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
I have to admit that this is the hardest thing for me to think about right now. I have way too much stuff going on to get in bed at a decent hour. This means that I have to work on cutting back on some of the things I've been doing, saying no, and making priorities instead of trying to do everything on my plate at once. However, because I know the importance of sleep for me physically, mentally, and emotionally, this is something else I will be gradually working on to become better.

Four. Four basic elements of a healthy lifestyle. Sounds simple, right? But if we focus only on these four every day, I know we'll be doing better than we have in a very long time. If we maintain these four basic elements throughout our weight loss and into the maintenance stage (i.e., the rest of our lives), then keeping the weight off should be much easier.

Because I know we've all been on various diets, let's discuss this today. Why do you think we (people in general) tend to think we need a magic diet in order to lose weight? Why is it so hard for us (and more specifically, for you) to simply revert to a healthy lifestyle which comprises the above four elements?


  1. I think that as a society we want instant gratification, we have no patience and a lot of people don't want to put forth a ton of effort to get results. We get discouraged fast and are willing to give up.

    I know I would like a shortcut, something that gets me skinny fast. But I also know that this is not the answer. If you have done any research you know that changing your lifestyle is the only way the weight comes off and you are more likely to keep it off. That is really what I want in the end, so that is what I am doing.

  2. It comes down to time. Eating whole, wholesome food that doesn't come from a box or a bag takes time and know-how, planning and shopping. If we had that kind of time, we'd be sleep 9+ hours a night!

  3. Amen, Sarah. It's the time factor. I just don't have enough. But I have to make healthy eating and exercise a MUST DO, instead of reaching for the easy and unhealthy stuff and moving on to the next thing on the list.

    I'm glad we have six months to incorporate our changes, I'm going to need them! :-)

  4. Water drinking is by far the hardest for me. I have never been a big water drinker, and I'm having to make a conscious effort to drink enough, especially now that I'm exercising most days. I usually eat veggies (fruits are nice in theory, but I never seem to get to them before they rot in my fridge). It's the overall healthy thing that does me in with weight loss. As Sarah said, it's a matter of time, but for me it's also a matter of desire/energy--to cook. I get lazy really quickly and it's a whole lot easier to order a pizza than it is to cook a healthy, balanced meal.

  5. I second all of you when you talk about time. As you said, Sarah, if we had enough time to cook, we'd probably have enough time to sleep, too. This has inspired me to start posting quick and healthy recipes, which I'll do when I can find time (oh, the irony). ;) I'd also like to say that I think Deb is right in saying that we have to start making our bodies and our health priorities. Right? Because if we don't, then all those dreams we have? We won't be able to pursue them (even with all the time in the world) because our bodies will be so worn down. Great comments, ladies! =)

  6. Yes, time is a factor. On Sunday I made a ground turkey/Mexican dish for the family and made enough for three lunches for myself. Even in Summer a hot lunch can be more satisfying. I also bag up snacks as soon as I get home from the grocery. 13 mini rice cakes are a serving and fit in a snack bag. I get four snack bags for one small bag of mini rice cakes. It's easy portion control and they're ready to grab to take to work in the morning.

    I'm going to try an egg cup recipe I read once. You line muffin tins with sliced deli turkey, crack in an egg, top with a little grated cheese. Cook up several at a time then reheat for a fast breakfast.

  7. For me it's the convenience and the craving. I let myself get so hungry that I grab the box of crackers or cookies instead of the apple. And then my tastebuds want the salt or sugar they're used to from the processed foods.
    It's retraining process for me.