I got this email from a reader a while ago, and thought I’d share it along with my response to her! She writes:
I’ve always been a particularly unhealthy eater. My blessing and my curse is that this unhealthy way of life doesn’t really show up on me physically. But of course, I’m old enough to know better and I am starting to feel the effects of it – I am tired all of the time, I am lazy (hence my ordering a pizza instead of cooking a meal), I make up excuses for not getting food at the grocery store or exercising more. And worst of all, I have a history of heart disease and other ailments in my family. I need your advice on how to start living a healthier lifestyle. And let me tell you, its easier said than done to “just do it”, as everybody tells me – I need baby steps! I want to take care of my body starting at this relatively young age, I want to have energy, I want to exercise more!
This reader has the right idea when she asks for baby steps. That’s EXACTLY how she can gradually live a healthier lifestyle. I want to help her get going, so here are a few things she can start doing TODAY:
- Focus on eating a nutritious breakfast. She shouldn’t try to overhaul her whole diet at once. If she focuses on changing just one meal at a time, it won’t feel so overwhelming. There’s even a diet based on this principle! Start with breakfast (and definitely eat it, I don’t care if you’re not hungry at first!). My PB&J oatmeal is nutritious, but tastes pretty decadent. You can make it with rolled oats, too, for a faster meal.
- Start switching from fast food to REAL food, fast. I’ve posted several recipes that take around 10 minutes to prepare (you can’t tell me you can drive to a restaurant and pick up food much quicker than that!). If you have to start with packaged foods, that’s fine, just make sure they’re healthy. Stock up on frozen vegetables, whole grain instant couscous and brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and protein that doesn’t need cooking like tofu, pre-cooked chicken sausage, beans, white deli meat, etc. Then, gradually add foods that require more prep (See my post about Mix & Match eating.)
- Plan to cook just two to three dinners a week. Ease into the rhythm of cooking dinner by planning just two or three meals a week to cook. Add the ingredients to your grocery list and then plan to cook when you have the most time and will feel the most relaxed. As you get more comfortable, you can increase the number of meals you plan to cook.
- Add healthy frozen meals to your diet. They’re slightly more expensive than fast food, but totally worth it. I just wrote about Amy’s and other nutritious, yet delectable, frozen meals. There’s no reason why she can’t start replacing a lunchtime burger run with one of those right away.
- To start, devote just 20 minutes a day to movement. That could be just walking around the block twice. Download a podcast you’ve been waiting to listen to and make yourself move while you listen. You can also just turn on some music and dance for 20 minutes (4-5 songs)! Make it a goal to move for 20 minutes straight to start out with.
Hopefully, these tips will get the reader started on the path to healthier eating and living. As she gets more comfortable, she can start cooking and exercising more, but for now, the goals she sets should be small and realistic.