Tips for Maintaining Healthier Daily Habits
by Brenda Kong
A healthier lifestyle happens one day at a time. If I sat down and looked at all the changes I would need to make in order to be the "healthiest" me, I'd get so overwhelmed that I'd likely quit, jump into my car, go to the nearest drive-thru and order a 20-piece box of chicken nuggets with sweet and sour sauce. It's not easy. It takes dedication and re-dedication. It takes motivation that can waver on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. It also takes having the proper knowledge.
I've spent these last 24 months trying to undo years of body abuse and gluttony. I have a precious 3-year-old niece and a darling 9-month-old nephew that provide me with renewed motivation to stay healthy. They are active, smart, fun little people that I need all of my energy and strength to keep up with. When I found myself getting winded easily and not having that strength, I realized that needed to change. I've had arthritis since I was 19 years old, before that, I was active in volleyball. I spent 11 years of my youth until the first year of college on the volleyball court. I played tennis, did kick-boxing, went on long hikes and, although I've always been a little overweight, I could do almost anything. Now that my arthritis has spread to almost every joint I have, I can’t go nuts in the gym or go for those intense workouts anymore. There are times I can barely get out of bed without crying from the pain. I've been in a wheelchair, I've had to use a cane and sometimes I walk with a limp. The only thing that I can really control is my diet. So I began to change how I view foods and what they can do for me. This is how I go about maintaining healthier daily habits.
1. Meal Prep
Yes, I know, it takes a ton of time, but when I lay out what I will eat for the day; I have a sense of fullness. Knowing that anything else is extra, helps me decide, do I need that extra candy bar? Should I have a scoop of ice cream? No, I don't need that burger; I have a great lunch right here!
2. Snack Prep
I'm a snacker, a terrible one in fact. Potato-based snacks are my go to! I love salty potato chips and fries. I can polish off an order of large fries and still consider having another; that's how much I love them! Carrying around snacks helps me fend off the cravings when they hit. A little baggie of raw, mixed nuts, a home-made (or store bought) granola bar, oven-roasted spiced chickpeas and edamame (recipes to come) or some type of fruit. They all help me on my long days.
3. Cut the Sugary Extras
I know you love those large-extra-whipped-cream-frozen-coffee-drink-thingies. I love those too! I'm not saying don't have them but, if you do, save it as a treat for the end of the week or order something a little simpler. When I visit coffee houses, I now order a small (or medium if it's a treat) iced coffee with sugar-free flavored syrup and a splash of low-fat milk. It's enough to feel like you've treated yourself without overdoing it.
4. Go Out to Eat
No, I'm serious! Yes, you want to be a healthier you but a healthier does NOT need to be a hermit. Go out with your friends or your significant other! Enjoy life and good food but be smart about your choices. Small little substitutions can add up in the long run. I usually check if restaurant will substitute certain sides for a salad. I say salad versus sautéed or roasted vegetables because I'm not sure how much fat they're using to cook said vegetables. I'll have a burger and not blink an eye; I just ask that my burger comes with a salad instead of fries. I always pick at my boyfriend's fries anyway.
Exercise is important; we all know this and feel guilty when we don't. I no longer feel guilty about not exercising by normal standards. I refuse to kill myself at the gym knowing my body can't stand up to it. I do, however, play. I play with my niece when I take her to the park. We run, we jump, we chase, we play hide and seek and we rest; then we're up doing it all over again. I park a little further then my destination and get in a few extra steps while walking. I take a lap around the mall before I start shopping. I ask my boyfriend if we can take a walk after dinner so I can jump start my digestion.
These little things add to my stamina and overall health; they may not seem like much, but it's a start. You can't get to where you want to be, if you don't start.
Any suggestions made are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your treatment, exercise or diet routine.
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