Starting a health journey is such a great endeavor. It is something that will improve your life and even the lives of your family members. The very first thing to remember is that changing your health and habits takes time and the best way to start is with baby steps. Trying to change everything at once is overwhelming, discouraging, and likely to lead in giving up. Instead, make a list of your main goals, break them down into smaller steps, and commit to one step at a time.
The first steps to getting healthier are each small steps that will benefit your body or mind. When the steps are added together, they are powerful enough to change how you feel in your body. And the best part? The steps are not difficult at all. They are attainable to everyone who has the intention to change their health for the better.
First Steps in Becoming Healthier
Replace all drinks with water (except for a coffee, tea, or green juice if you want). No other drinks belong in your body. They are empty calories, full of sugar, and have ZERO benefit to you. Even sugar-free and diet drinks are terrible for your body- they are linked to diabetes, obesity, and overeating. If you have trouble drinking a lot of water, spruce it up with lemon, lime, or another fruit. A general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. (A 150lb person should aim for 75 ounces of water each day.)
Try a new vegetable every week. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself by staring blankly at the produce section with no idea how to prepare anything. Instead choose one new veggie a week, look up some recipes, and use it a few times to get the hang of it. Use your chosen veggie to replace a not-so-good option that you currently eat, such as replace your normal white potatoes with sautéed kale or carrots. Start with greens, such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, or spinach (big leaf). However, if greens are too much of a stretch at first, start with any colorful veggie.
Go for a walk. Get outside or at the gym and move your body for at least 30 minutes a day. Our bodies need to move to feel great, and it will also help your digestion and mood.
Lose the scale. Seriously. When you are eating primarily whole foods you do not need to worry about gaining weight. The scale is a constant critic, especially in the beginning of a health journey, that doesn’t serve any positive purpose. At least put it in a place that you won’t access often, such as the closet, so it is not staring you in the face calling to be stepped on.
Journal your thoughts. Writing down your feelings has such a therapeutic effect on your mind and body. Writing relieves stress by getting emotions out of your head so you can process them. You do not need to be a ‘writer’ to journal – grammar, spelling, storyline totally doesn’t matter, and no one ever has to see it. I really recommend you give journaling a try by starting with Julia Cameron’s morning pages or just writing for 15 minutes. I also wrote about this here.
Be kind to yourself! Don’t feel guilty! This is so important. When you are starting something new, you are going to make mistakes. Ate too much dessert? Drank too much? Had cereal for dinner…again? Don’t worry! Becoming healthier is a process, just like learning a new skill. You wouldn’t expect to pick up a guitar for the first time and be able to play it in one week. The key is to learn from your actions. Next time you are presented with great dessert, recall how you felt last time you overindulged, and change your actions this time. Take one bite and walk away, take a small plate, refuse it all together – it doesn’t matter as long as you are aware of your decisions instead of letting everything go and feeling bad later. That’s progress!
Do something fun, just for you. Let yourself have fun on your terms. You don’t always have to think about work or others. Give yourself the gift of doing something you absolutely love. Your mood and outlook will improve immensely, which will motivate you to do more of the things that make you feel great.
These are the most important first steps to changing your health. There are many more steps along the way, but these are beneficial to everyone regardless of your goals. Notice how most of the steps do not even include food. There is so much more to health beyond a good diet and daily exercise. While these are definitely important, total wellness includes the health of your mind and soul too.
Choosing to become healthier is such a brave choice. It’s brave because it isn’t easy. It takes time, commitment, and openness to do the work and find what works for you. All the answers don’t come wrapped up in a box with a nice promise on the cover or found in the drugstore diet aisle. Even though the journey is not easy, the rewards are immeasurable. Waking up feeling happy, playing with your kids without feeling exhausted, living with less stress and more patience, losing the extra weight…these are rewards worth fighting for.