When it comes to living ‘healthily’, I’ve always had an ‘all or nothing’ attitude. When dieting, I’ve cut out all the carbs and denied myself anything remotely tasty. Then, after a month or so, I’ve gotten fed up with it and piled back on the pounds as a result! Ditto fitness, ditto any kind of healthy living change! In short, the ‘all or nothing’ approach has never really worked for me.
Now that I’m in my forties, I’ve realised that I really need to start taking care of myself. Living through the pandemic has seen my health plummet as I’ve gained weight, overworked myself and become addicted to various streaming services. Consequently, I’ve been investigating the health hacks and small lifestyle changes that we can all make that produce big results.
We all want to lead a healthier life but it’s difficult to fit in healthy habits around busy lives. These are the best health hacks I’ve found to set you on the path to making small changes to your lifestyle:-
Like many people, I’ve spent the majority of the last 18 months sitting down. Whether it be in front of my laptop or my TV, I’m not ashamed to say that I literally spent most of my time ‘on my arse’. This lack of movement has turned me into a creaky, panting, overweight mess. When I walk for longer than ten minutes, my feet start hurting. When I try and do 10,000 steps in a day, I spend the next day with aching thighs!
I need to improve my fitness levels so that I can walk up the stairs without getting out of breath. I realise though, that I can’t take an all or nothing approach to getting fit again – my body just can’t take it. So, the following tips are recommended for easing yourself back into keeping fit:-
- Exercise in Small Bursts – Try and make sure that you do at least 30 minutes of light exercise every day. Whether it be going for a short walk at lunchtime or doing some gentle yoga in the evening, it’s important to try and get moving to build your stamina up. Additionally, it’s also important to try and move for 5 minutes every hour. I’ve started setting a timer so that I know when I should be getting up from my desk. I spend 5 minutes walking around the spare room or walking up and down the stairs. These small changes will help to get your muscles used to moving again.
- Exercise in the Afternoons – We all hit that afternoon slump when we automatically reach for a tea or coffee to perk ourselves up and get us through the rest of the working day. Instead, try combatting your tiredness by moving instead. Walking around will perk you right up and you’ll reduce your caffeine intake as a result.
- Get into a Routine – If you’re someone who has a busy schedule, try blocking out specific times in your day where you can get up and do something. By getting into a regular movement routine, you’ll find it easier to stick to your exercise regime.
- Invest in a Step Counter – There are so many gadgets on the market for tracking movement and exercise now. Personally, I use a Fitbit to keep track of my daily steps. As I’ve not been doing much activity lately, I’ve set the bar low and aim to do 5000 steps per day. By challenging myself, I have managed to keep up the habit for a while now. If you’re feeling under-motivated, you can also try challenging your friends to see how many steps you can do against each other in a day. A bit of friendly competition can often provide the impetus you need to hit your goals.
Practice Mindful Eating
I’m a lazy eater. After a busy day at work, I will literally grab the nearest ready-meal, bung it in the oven and voila, dinner is served. On really bad days, takeaway is also a quick fix. I don’t have time to worry about calories but I know I should be eating less crap and smaller portions.
Being overweight and unable to fit into your old work clothes really isn’t fun, but where on earth do you start when you’re too busy to think about planning meals for the week ahead?
- Start Logging Your Food – If you want to start eating a healtheir diet, then the first thing you need to do is start logging what you’re eating. This can be done via an app like ‘MyFitnessPal’ or the Fitbit app or you could just start writing it all down in a notebook. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be surprised by how many calories you end up consuming in the average week without even trying! Once you have an awareness of how much you are eating, you’ll be able to start seeing the meals that you can change for the better and become more aware of what you’re consuming as a result.
- Create a Master Shopping List – During the pandemic, most of us have gotten at least one or two supermarket deliveries. If you’re busy with work and life, then why on earth would you want to go back to spending over an hour per week trawling around the supermarket? It’s a thankless task and it’s amazing how often you stray from your shopping list and get tempted by offers on biscuits and crisps (well, I do anyway). Instead, pick the supermarket that you shop with the most, create a delivery account and create a master shopping list. Not only will this save you time in the long run but you’ll be able to make sure that the less healthier meals never make it into your shopping basket in the first place! Simple.
- Smaller Plates – Are you a plate filler? I know I am. Psychologically, I don’t like seeing empty space on my plate so I always try to cover it when mealtime comes. When you’re using a large dinner plate, this means you will end up eating a large meal! Try swapping from a large plate to a small plate. This will automatically reduce your portion size and your calorie intake without you even realising it.
- Practice Mindful Eating – We often spend our mealtimes in front of a screen, wolfing down our meals without really paying attention to what we’re eating or how much. Instead, try switching off distractions and really pay attention to every mouthful. Slow down your eating and learn to pay attention if you’re body is telling you that it’s full.
- Cut Out the Booze – A quick drink after work may sound like a great way to relax but it can become a regular habit all too easily (I was very embarrassed of our recycling during lockdown). Alcohol is full of sugar and empty calories so try cutting down where you can. Nominate your drinking days and then try investigating clear spirits and mixers. It’s often the coke with the vodka that will push your calories up!
- Drink Plenty of Water – Staying hydrated is important for your health. Not only does it help your skin to stay free of blemishes but it also promotes weight loss by improving your metabolism. It will also make you feel less hungry. It’s amazing how often we reach for a snack when really our body is craving a drink instead.
Schedule a Regular Digital Detox
We spend so much time during the day with a phone in our hand or sitting in front of a computer. Then, come the evening, we’ll be in front of the TV whilst continuing to look at that damn phone! We’re living in a world where we’re always ‘on’ and always available. How on earth can you switch off?
- Put Your Phone Away – We spend a lot of time glued to our phones now. I regularly switch from looking at a laptop screen to looking at my phone screen. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of looking at social media feeds, answering messages and googling. To cut down on your usage, try putting your phone away for an hour per day. Just open a drawer and put it in. If someone is trying to get hold of you then they can surely wait for an hour as a minimum.
- Unplug for 24 Hours – As we’re constantly ‘plugged in’, we never get the time to ‘switch off’. Challenge yourself to have a digital detox day at least once per month. Pick up a book rather than watching the TV or try spending a day out somewhere away from the call of the laptop. You can take your phone for emergencies but if it does not ring then don’t pick it up. Put your whatsapp groups on mute and forget about social media – just enjoy a day free of digital commitments.
- Avoid Screens Before Bed – Most importantly, try and avoid screens as much as possible in the hours leading up to bedtime. The blue light from your phone can be disruptive to your sleep as it suppresses the release of melatonin – the natural chemical your body produces to help you fall asleep at night. It’s hard to function on little sleep so ensure you get a good night’s rest and put your phone to bed early in the evening.
Create a Calm Home
- Declutter – Coming home to a cluttered house after work is stressful, especially when you don’t have a designated space to put everything. If you’re anything like me, your home has probably become even more cluttered during the lockdowns. Take the opportunity to have a good clear out. Take each room, one by one and just get ruthless. Sort your things into 3 piles – Keep, Throw Away and Sell/Donate. If you have good quality things that you can’t bring yourself to throw away then try recouping your money through ebay or other selling sites. If you can’t be arsed, then do the right thing and donate it to charity.
- Clean for 15 Minutes Every Day – Cleaning the house every week can often feel like the most boring chore, especially if the only time you have to do it is at the weekend. Instead, try doing 15 minutes of cleaning every day. Set a timer, put some music on and have a good clean. Once the timer, goes off then you’re done for the day. Hopefully, this should dramatically reduce the amount of cleaning you do on your days off and make you feel less stressed as a result.
- Make Your Bedroom a Haven – I love my sleep. I could honestly spend a whole day in bed if I could! But the next best thing is to turn your bedroom into a relaxing space so that you can easily drift off at the end of the day. Make sure that your bedroom is decorated with soft colours that promote relaxation. Try and add some plants – studies show that being around nature often promotes a feeling of calm. Make it as luxurious as you want but ensure that it is the one place in your home that promotes peace and quiet.
- Open Your Windows – Improve the air quality in your home by giving it a daily blow out. Open your windows and let in the fresh air. We’ve all spent so long in our houses recently that it’s important to recognise the need to improve our air quality by regularly letting the fresh air in
- Clean Sheets – Make sure that you change your bedding regularly and always air your bed out before you remake it in the morning. During the night, we tend to sweat and consequently your sheets need time to air and dry from the moisture. Clean, dry sheets are integral to having healthy skin and getting a good night’s sleep.
I hope that some of the small health hacks I have shared with you in today’s blog will put you back on the path to feeling fitter and happier. It’s the little things in life that often have the biggest results. Try out a few of the above and find out what works for you. Being healthier shouldn’t have to be hard.