Minor changes for major impact

Small steps for health

There are some things in life we don’t have direct control over – like when it rains and our shoes get wet (free laundry?). Or like when we walk down the road and bird poop falls from the sky (good luck?). Or when the vending machine runs out of M&Ms (even better luck – for our health, at least?). Luckily, however, life is not all surprises, and one thing we can control is choosing how to take care of our bodies. Many people hit the cookie jar after a long, strenuous day at work, or buddy up with the couch instead of our running shoes, even when we know the latter is what we really need. Even us LifeVesters can admit to doing that from time to time.

The important thing is to become aware of your triggers for unhealthy behavior so that you can then realize how to change them. A few simple choices in a different, healthier direction can end up drawing a major impact.

Below, we’ve got tips for 5 common challenges that take a lot of us by the belly.

For the midday snack lover: Ignore all snacks that are below eye level when you scan the aisles of the grocery store. These items are generally the more kid-friendly snacks that are maximized to be targeted for purchase, and often aren’t packed with the nutrients you should be filling up on. If you want a snack, first, take a moment to evaluate if you’re truly hungry. If you determine you are, eat something whole. That means stick to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, veggies with all-natural natural peanut butter, or a similar snack that isn’t processed with excess ingredients. You’ll find most of these items located in the parameters of the supermarket, rather than in the middle where the 100-cal, so called “healthy” cookie packs lurk. I.e., the foods you don’t want to be eating.

For the sleep-deprived: Nearly half of Americans get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, it’s not just about length, but also quality of sleep that will determine your health. For many of us, falling asleep right away can be a challenge, but if you think a little Cabernet from the wine cabinet seems like a good solution, think again. Studies show that alcohol can cause the body to consolidate your sleep cycle during the first half of your shuteye, which leads to an increase in sleep disruption in the second half. Instead, unwind with a cup of chamomile, proven to have a similar relaxing affect, but one that won’t hinder you in any way.

For the stress-through-the-roofer: If your stress levels seem to be move endlessly sky-high, try meditation. Studies show that this can be an effective way to manage both pain and stress. Take 10 minutes per day to sit still and focus on your breath, and begin to notice how it makes you feel.

For the sweet-tooth lover: Take on a natural-only policy. What that means? Don’t eat foods with added sweeteners or sugars, which, in fact, lurk even in many “healthy” foods, like bread and yogurt. Instead, conquer sweet cravings with natural sugars from fruit and vegetables. And if you just can’t get candy off your mind, opt for a small square of dark chocolate.

For the gym despiser: You don’t need to spend hours upon hours at the gym in order to get your daily requirement of exercise. Studies show that even a 20-minute walk can increase creativity and focus. We all need time to ourselves, so consider a morning or midday walk as an enjoyable way to get those creative juices flowing.

maura

Maura Lieberman is a student, writer and passionate, quinoa-loving foodie who believes that healthy eating need not be a chore. In the summer, you can find Maura getting down with an outdoor yoga class, followed by a cool slice of watermelon, her favorite fruit of the season.

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