Hi. I am back, ready to try and be helpful and informative once again (hopefully with some success). When you’re new to eating and living healthily, your first steps may be to consult Mr. Google. Before you know it, you’re completely overwhelmed by ‘tips’ similar to ‘go to the gym six times a week’, ‘start running five miles a day’, ‘start a 1200 calorie green smoothie diet’. My post ain’t about that (especially not the last example – my breakfast in itself is 1200 calories and I am proud). These are ten things everyone can incorporate into their daily routines to either kickstart a healthy lifestyle or substantiate an already Instagram worthy, vegan, HIIT-on-a-daily-basis existence. Aka, healthy living simplified. And made less intimidating . Without further rambling, I hope you find these little tips useful – and don’t feel like you have to do all of them all the time. I certainly don’t #somuchforpracticingwhatIpreach. Also a quick disclaimer: I am not a dietician, or a personal trainer, these are just things I’ve come across myself and in many instances, implemented, so do take what I say with a pinch of salt!
1. Wake up earlier
I don’t mean set your alarm for six am when your body clock is screaming 9.30, but marginal changes. Fifteen minutes is a start. Then thirty, then forty five, and before you know it, you’re making a YouTube video titled ‘my 3 a.m. morning routine’. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I feel like people don’t recognise the benefits of earlier mornings until they test it for themselves. The first few tries may be painful, but I promise – adjustment is possible. I don’t know the exact science, but there’s something quite satisfying about waking up with the sun, and of course, extra time is acquired for productivity: going for a run, finally sticking to your ‘get into yoga’ New Year’s resolution, even starting a business. I’m all about ending the stigma surrounding early risers, as I’ve experienced the benefits myself!
2. Follow the right social media accounts
Okay, tapping the follow button on Instagram won’t give you your dream body or turn you into a Triathlon athlete, but it can give you that little extra subconscious push. I spend 10-15 minutes a day browsing recipe accounts on Instagram, reading fitness blogs and watching people with physiques I can only dream about lift 3x their bodyweight, and it certainly makes a difference to my motivation levels. Significantly, when you’re just getting into healthy eating and working out without knowing where to begin, Instagram is the best place to stock up on recipes and workout videos: yuminthetum, bestofvegan and gymgirlvids are some of my faves. And of course, nothing beats whatismaria (okay, that was a total shameless self promo but I love the idea of people being inspired by my account).
3. Replace some unhealthy snacks with healthier alternatives
I’m all about promoting balance rather than deprivation, and that’s why ‘some’ is a key word. An occasional ice cream or chocolate bar is good for both the body and the soul (I eat chocolate on a daily basis and justify it by sticking to 90% cocoa buuuut chocolate is still chocolate!). But, I know people who have lost several clothing sizes just by replacing croissants and store-brought granola bars with fruit or nuts. Make incremental changes, and make it fun by, for example, replacing faves with home-made alternatives (as, of course, not everyone’s goal is weight loss – this is especially useful if you’re looking to eat fewer chemicals and processed foods).
4. Avoid elevators like the plague
I’m cautious about this one because I was throughly offended when a random Russian man called me lazy for dodging the stairs, but that was after I’d walked 20km, hauled a 23 suitcase around the Moscow underground and completed an intense arm workout – completely justifiable elevator use. Just like waking up early, stairs may be miserable at first, yet after a while become a fun way to increase cardiovascular health and tone those legs if you’re not quite ready to hit the squat rack at your local gym.
5. Cook without oil
For some dishes it may be unavoidable (as well as when you’re eating out), but once again, the goal is to minimise. Or replace vegetable oil with coconut. Oil, especially in excessive quantities, can have a number of detrimental consequences in regards to one’s health. Moreover, cooking without oil can significantly aid those who are trying to lose weight because as this post nicely highlights, it is responsible ‘hidden calories’. While my goal has never been weight loss – in fact, the opposite – I scarcely use any type of oil when I cook for myself because not only do I not enjoy the taste, it also makes me feel quite sluggish hence I use either cooking spray or non-stick frying pans to avoid sticking, and items such as soy sauce, agave nectar and various spices for flavour.
6. Limit your use / intake of salt
Similarly to above, this could prove controversial. You could read a detailed post about sodium here. In general, I wouldn’t worry too much about sodium given that most adults eat above the guideline daily amounts and you’re unlikely to experience negative consequences unless you consume extreme amounts, or suffer from an illness related to high blood pressure. Also, an occasional over-consumption of sodium can be counterbalanced by drinking more water, and an under-consumption can have a graver impact on your health. Nonetheless, if your intake is above average, cutting down will deliver benefits such as reduced bloating /water retention. And, if your diet is high in processed or junk food, seeking to reduce sodium will scale down your intake of such foods ‘by proxy’. A simple way to minimise sodium intake, as mentioned beforehand, is to use spices. Secondly, putting salt in your food twice (i.e. when you’re cooking and afterwards) can scale your sodium levels from normal to saltier than me when someone cancels plans!
7. Eat a side salad with each meal (and more plants in general).
We’re all tired of hearing this, but I decided to be cheeky and sneak it in anyway. I’m not going to be draconian and make sweeping orders such as ‘go vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian right this second!’ (let’s save that whole debate for another post, lol), but everyone should experience the benefits of at least hitting your five a day. People who claim they don’t like fruits and veggies make me lose faith in humanity. Those things are delicious. And there are so many different ways to prepare them, so many combinations to try until you hit jackpot (that’s where the Instagram accounts come in handy). Buy some tomatoes, a cucumber, chuck them on the side of your main meal and suddenly, you’re a few vitamins closer to your healthiest self!
8. Use your brain
This is quite an odd one, I admit, and doesn’t tie in to an aesthetics-based goal such as weight loss, muscle gain, etc. But, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to propagandise getting smarter as a vital component of overall health. Doing something intellectually challenging a few times a day helps me feel proactive, energised and more motivated to make changes in other aspect of my lifestyle. Besides, there must be evidence out there that using your brain burns calories?! Who knows, but anyway: there are multiple ways to build up your mental capacity. Download an app such as Babbel to learn a language, do some writing (this blog is proving to be a creative and and intellectual outlet), listen to podcasts. Once again, it’s important to emphasise that health goes beyond the physical and in order to build a truly healthy life, all aspects of oneself must be developed.
9. Track your mileage
This can be a fun way to walk more on a daily basis. Most iPhones nowadays have the Health app, which automatically tracks how far I’ve walked and each time I walk more than usual, it feels like a mini-accomplishment. This can also be done using basic pedometers or apps like Map My Run. If you’re of the competitive type, do some sort of challenge with your friends to see who can walk the most in a given day/ week. I mean, why do fitness if it’s boring, right?!
10. Drink water from a smaller bottle
Not drinking enough water is a common issue, but using a smaller, 200-300 ml bottle or shaker cup has helped me with getting in my 2+ litres with no second thought. There could be some form of psychology behind this, or it might be just a personal quirk, but I’ve spoken to other people that breaking up their water into smaller chunks helps with effortlessly increasing their intake overall, instead of scaring themselves with bigger 500ml+ bottles. Try it out, and let me know whether it works for you!
Alright, that’s it for today’s tips. I hope you found this post informative, and do let me know if you would like me to publish something similar in the foreseeable future. What do you do to help yourself live a healthier lifestyle? Do you have any tips you would like to share with yours truly?
Lots of love, Maria xoxo