Ever notice that bad habits are hard to break and good ones are tough to make?
If you’re trying to become fit and healthy, you know this is true. It’s much easier to flop on the couch than it is to take a walk. And it’s a lot less time-consuming to grab a frozen meal than it is to make one from scratch.
But don’t abandon the desire to become a healthier you all together. Building good habits takes time and planning. One baby step will lead you to take another. Celebrate your accomplishments — however small — and build on them over time.
To help you on your journey, we talked to three experts, who offer ways to incorporate little changes that can lead to better health.
Food and nutrition
Nancy Adler, a nutritionist from Egg Harbor Township, dishes out some sound nutrition advice. She emphasizes the importance of preparation, specifically planning what you’re going to eat, especially if you’re on the run.
“Planning is the building block of being productive every day,” says Adler. “If you know, for example, that you’re going to be out all day, you may just grab fast food or get protein bars that are full of sugar and carbohydrates. These foods will make you feel tired and sluggish.”
Making strides toward wellness often evokes images of cross-fit-esque fitness classes, full …
So prepare ahead of time and take food with you. For lunch, pack a half-sandwich on whole grain bread, she advises. Take a handful of nuts for snacking, a hard-boiled egg (a great source of protein that will keep you feeling full) and/or an apple with peanut or almond butter.
Another helpful tip is to keep a food journal. Adler considers this a key part of your planning. “People can have food amnesia,” she says. “They simply don’t remember what they ate.”
Dr. Patrick Arnold, a chiropractor who owns Mainline Wellness and Rehab Center in Linwood, emphasizes that a food journal creates awareness, which is the first step to making a change.
Once people are aware of what they’re eating and drinking, they can become educated on areas that need to be changed, says Dr. Arnold.
Stay away from boxed and prepacked foods, which are loaded with additives, sodium, sugar and fat. Instead, eat foods that are natural, says Adler. Buy fruit and vegetables — frozen or fresh, but not in a can. Canned veggies have extra sodium and preservatives.
When cooking or eating out, stick with foods that are grilled, baked or broiled, advises Adler, and make sure you don’t put extra calories and fat into your food by adding butter.
Drink water, specifically half of your body weight in ounces, says Adler. If you’re 120 pounds, for instance, then you should drink 60 ounces of water daily. “Water is needed for overall health,” she says. “Drinking water will keep you from getting dehydrated.”
And be sure to finish eating by 7 p.m. “This is about giving the body ample time to digest so it can prepare for sleep,” says Adler.
When it comes to exercise, the same approach — baby steps — applies.
“Get out and walk 20 to 30 minutes a day,” says Dr. Arnold. “This is the starting point for becoming active, which is important for overall health.”
“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” agrees Jason Dobson, a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and co-creator of the functional training FITX program. “A lot of times, people get overwhelmed at the idea of exercise, so they don’t do anything. But you’ve got to resist that impulse.
This Saturday, at the Atlantic City Weekly Health & Wellness Expo, there will be vendors…
“Take the dog for a walk instead of letting him out in the back yard,” continues Dobson, who owns Island Gym, which has four locations in Atlantic County. “When you want to increase that, take the dog around the block two times a day instead of once. Or encourage your spouse or partner to walk with you.”
Apps on your phone are a great motivator, as are fit bands, say Dr. Arnold and Dobson. “These devices can keep track of your steps, which is a great way to see measure your progress,” says Dobson.
But if you’ve been sedentary, don’t get into a full-blown exercise program, advises Dr. Arnold. It is likely that you become discouraged or get injured, and when injury strikes, people often regress to old habits.
“A lot of times, I see people give up,” says Dobson. “They think, ‘Well, I’m injured now, I might as well eat whatever I want.’ But if you can’t exercise because of an injury, then keep your eating habits in check.”
Dr. Arnold recommends seeing a nutritionist and a personal trainer to help you get started. “Go to someone who can educate you. It’s about moving forward and taking little steps,” says Dr. Arnold.
These steps can help you build good habits, which are the cornerstone of healthy living.