People come to me all the time and ask what they can do to get healthier. They ask what foods they should be eating, how much of those foods they should eat, whether they should count calories, go on a low-fat or low-carb diet…. the list goes on and on.
Oddly enough, much of my initial advice when it comes to getting healthier has really nothing to do with food. At least not the kind you eat. My early discussions with anyone who wants to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle always centers around the concept of Primary Food.
Primary Food encompasses relationships, career, physical activity, spirituality & anything else we may do in our life that brings us a sense of balance, happiness and peace. Without this balance, we look to food (and often unhealthy food) to fill the void. When anyone decides to go on a diet or drastically change their eating habits, they assume this will make all of the difference. However, this type of change often proves unsustainable.
If we aren’t addressing the root causes behind the triggers that push us to eat junk food or overeat, the bad habits will continue to rear their ugly head. It’s imperative that we first focus on our whole lives, not just what’s in front of us at the dinner table, if we want to make sustainable and lasting change.
Only recently have I fully embraced this idea myself. Over the past few months I’ve put a lot of effort into self-care and primary food and I can’t even begin to explain what a difference it has made in my life. In fact, that picture you see at the beginning of this post is me, during a particularly stressful day at work, sitting in a tree. Which actually brings me to my first tip. Here are 3 of my favorite ways to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle that will help set you on a path to lasting and sustainable change:
1. Be a kid again. How many times, probably in a moment of stress or frustration, have you said you just wish you were a kid again? I know personally I’ve said it hundreds of times. It’s pretty hard to forget that feeling of bliss we had as kids when we were out playing tag or climbing a tree, completely ecstatic without a care in the world. I know it’s almost impossible to imagine that as adults dealing with stresses at work, home or with money, that you could ever feel that type of bliss again. But, have you tried?
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with life, instead of wishing you were a kid, I challenge you to actually try and be one again. What do I mean by this? Well, the options are pretty endless but here are some ideas…. 1. Find a tree to climb and climb it. 2. Buy a coloring book for adults and some colored pencils and go to town. 3. Go outside and do a hand stand against a wall. 4. Slip on your rain boots and jump around in some puddles. 5. Gather up a group of friends and play tag or capture the flag. What you’ll probably start to realize is that the reason you felt so blissful and happy as a child was not simply because you were a kid, but because of what you spent your time doing as a kid. A little bit of fun can go a very, very long way.
2. Practice self-care. I know this one can sound a little new age-y, but when you treat your mind and body well, it can create a snowball effect that leads you to make other positive choices for your health. You don’t need to worry about spending hours each day mediating or going to the spa, you can start practicing self-care with only 5 to 15 minutes per day. Some of my favorite things to do include 1. Dry brushing each morning (which I promise to write more about in the future). 2. Taking a bath with bath salts or my personal favorite, Hugo Naturals bath bomb. 3. Taking a quick 15-minute walk at lunch. 4. Turning the TV off a little early to read a book before bed. If all of these still seem too hard to accomplish, see if you can find 30 seconds to close your eyes, plant your feet firmly on the ground and take a deep, slow breath in and out can help you feel recharged and nourished.
Once you get used to the concept of self-care you can even start scheduling it into your calendar just like any other appointment. An appointment with yourself, if you will. Often, we look for comfort and nourishment from others, but when we start to recognize the power we have within ourselves to feed our body and soul, it can feel incredibly empowering. That appointment with yourself will start to feel like the most important appointment of all.
3. Go outside. This one is pretty simple. In this day and age we are all very accustomed to being indoors. We live indoors, work indoors, travel in cars, in planes, work out at the gym… spending time outside is becoming more and more rare. If you can find even a few minutes each day to soak up the sun or take a walk in nature, it could make a huge difference in your overall state of mind. In fact, spending time outdoors has actually been shown to decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Combining your time outside with a little bit of exercise (walking counts!) is even better. Try getting just a little bit of fresh air each day – I promise it will leave you feeling refreshed and motivated to make other positive choices for yourself in the hours, days and months to come.
Eating healthier food is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to living a healthier and fulfilled life. Especially if you’re having trouble making substantial change when it comes to choosing healthier foods, refocusing your energy on primary food and employing some or all the tips above might just set you the path to wellness. Remember, there’s a reason we’re pushed toward unhealthy food choices and a reason why it’s so difficult to maintain healthier diet habits long term. I encourage you to ask yourself what it really is that you’re yearning for, whether it’s more happiness, relaxation, fun, laughter, time with family… really anything else you can think of. Once you identify what it is, forget about the food and just pursue that.
Health and wellness can take over your life like a domino effect if you approach it in the right way. Start slow, take it easy and start at the very beginning. Start with you. If you aren’t feeling happy or fulfilled in your life, that kale salad unfortunately isn’t going to do you much good.