1. Hydrate – Drink ounces of water equal to half your body weight each day. So, if you weight 140 lbs, drink 70 oz. each day. The water shouldn't be flavored or sweetened and preferably not from plastic bottles. This may seem like a lot at first and you may spend more time running to the bathroom the first couple of days, but your body will adjust quickly. Further, when you feel hungry, drink some water. You're far more likely to be thirsty than hungry and soda or coffee won't cut it. You'll be surprised how many times you look up fifteen minutes later and realize that you forgot about your 'hunger'.
2. Realize what food does and doesn't do for you –
When you're tired or stressed, is a processed sweet or salty snack really going to make you feel better? A few grapes or raspberries can usually satisfy my sweet tooth.
Wake up on a Saturday feeling sluggish? Do two or three sets of crunches or jumping jacks. Get your blood moving, literally, and your mood will follow.
3. Always have a snack with you – Most poor food choices are made when we're in a hurry or out and about. I keep an apple and some raw almonds in my car. They don't go bad quickly and can be eaten while driving if necessary. Plus, the sweet/crunchy combination is very satisfying.
4. Eat out less – Total the number of times a stranger prepares your food each week regardless of which meal it is. Whatever the number is, cut back. This will aid weight loss more than anything else. It does wonders for the budget, too!
5. Stay away from math – Don't look at packages for grams of fat or carbs. Don't tally the calories on your plate. Who cares how many calories your workout burned? Most importantly, don't weigh yourself for the whole month. Your weight loss will be felt in how your clothes fit rather than seen as a digital readout. A properly hydrated body weighs more than a semi-dehydrated one, so you will gain a pound or two at first but take a look at your skin and see the glow that accompanies a pound of water weight. Score!
6. Don't think in terms of nutrients or food components – We need carbs. We need fat. We all get plenty of protein. Learn to listen to your body. It will crave what you need. Learn about healthy foods to meet those cravings. My guilty-feeling but oh-so-healthy foods include avocados, hummus and a small but daily dose of dark chocolate.
7. Live it without guilt and stress – When you're eating with friends or at a potluck, allow yourself to stop thinking about food and enjoy the blessing of community. Have a weak moment and over-indulge? Just let it go. In the long run, it is truly inconsequential. Please don't write off healthy eating for the rest of the day/weekend.
8. Celebrate 'you' with movement – Find a type of exercise that you look forward to, that makes you feel like you can save the world and that feels like a gift rather than a chore. Sure, there are things that we should all do in order to build strength and maintain balance and flexibility, but build fitness on a foundation of fun.
9. Eat food – Eat with joy, gratitude and awareness of what went into bringing particular foods to your table.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that the easiest way to stick to any of this is to control what comes into my home. Do you need to throw everything you have away? You can, but I'm afraid I'm too frugal for that. Just plan your meals ahead and choose differently the next time you shop.
The journey ahead is long but inspired. The goal and its rewards await you. Are you ready? :)