8 Steps to Take Today - Healthy living starts right now. Experts tell you how. Healthy living is within your reach, starting today. Sure, healthy living is a long-term commitment, not a flash-in-the-pan fad. But there are steps you can take right now that will make today healthier than yesterday and pave the way for healthy living tomorrow, too.
Here's your checklist of practical healthy living tips that are ready to go. Let's get started.
Healthy Living Step No. 1: Take stock.
Your first step toward healthy living is to get a handle on your health status right now. Here's your to-do list:
Make appointments with your doctor and dentist. Catch up on your routine screening and immunizations, and take the opportunity to ask your doctor any questions you might have.
Gauge your girth. Measure your height and weight to check your BMI, and measure your waist circumference to see if you're overweight and if your waistline is putting your health at risk.
Assess your activity. How much physical activity do you get in a typical week? How intense is that activity? How much variety do you get in your activity, and how much do you enjoy it? The CDC recommends that adults get at least two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.
Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat for a day -- and no fair skipping the items you're embarrassed about. "The idea is to write it down ... without judgment," says Kathianne Sellers Williams, MEd, RD, LD, a nutritionist, wellness coach, and personal trainer with Cafe Physique in Atlanta. "You can't change what you're not aware of or don't acknowledge."
Check your mood and energy. Healthy living includes emotional wellness and adequate rest. How has your mood been lately? Are you experiencing any symptoms of depression or anxiety? Do you usually sleep well for seven to eight hours a night?
Consider your social network. How strong are your connections with family and friends? Are you plugged in with social or spiritual groups that enrich your life? "People have a fundamental need for positive and lasting relationships," C. Nathan DeWall, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, tells WebMD.
If you're not thrilled with the answers to some of those questions, remember that the point is to figure out where you are today so you can set your healthy living goals. It's not about being "good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong."
Healthy Living Step No. 2: Put out fires.
If you know that you have chronic health problems, whether it's heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, or other conditions, treatment is an obvious priority for healthy living. The same goes for risky behaviors, such as smoking, and addictions of any kind.
Addressing these issues typically isn't a do-it-yourself task. Partner with your doctor. Make the phone call today to schedule that appointment.
Healthy Living Step No. 3 Move more.
Make it fun. Go on a hike, walk with friends, take a bellydancing or karate class, or whatever you enjoy. "There's no need to stick to cardioequipment in the gym if you're dreading it and you don't like it," Williams says. "Find something that's fun."
Keep track of it. Make a note of your physical activity in your date book or calendar. "Put big Xs on the days that you exercise," Williams says. "Keep a visual record that you look at frequently" as a reminder and motivator.
Set a weekly goal for activity. To build your confidence, "make the first goal so easy that you say, 'I know I can do that,'" Williams suggests. She recommends weekly goals because if you set a daily goal and miss a day, you might get discouraged; weekly goals give you more day-to-day flexibility. And at the end of the week, reward yourself with a visual reminder of your accomplishment, such as buying flowers for yourself.
Work activity into your day. "Ten percent of something is better than 100% of nothing. So even if you have 10 minutes, it's better than zero minutes," Williams says. She suggests taking a 10-minute walk before lunch or walking up and down the stairs when you're feeling drained and tired.
Other ideas include wearing a pedometer to track how many steps you take per day (health experts recommend shooting for 10,000 steps per day) and working with a personal trainer (double up with a friend to lower the cost) to create an exercise routine.
Healthy Living Step No. 4: Upgrade your diet.
Williams, a nutritionist for a dozen years, says her diet advice isn't about eating certain foods and avoiding others as much as it is about awareness and choices.
Healthy Living Step No. 5: Manage stress.
As a wellness coach trained in stress management, Williams recommends making two different plans to handle stress.
Routine maintenance: Develop positive coping skills, such as meditation and visualization, and look for activities, such as yoga or exercise, to keep your baseline stress level in check.
Breakthrough stress: Find ways to handle stressful situations that flare up without warning. For instance, Williams says that after a stressful meeting at work, you might run up and down the stairs a few times to burn off anger, or retreat to a bathroom stall to take a few deep breaths and refocus.
Healthy Living Step No. 5: Sleep better.
"This is as important as diet and exercise," Shives says. She says that in our society, "we disdain sleep, we admire energy and hard work and [have] this notion that sleep is just something that gets in the way."