Last year was all about self-love – learning to fall in love with my soul. This year, I resolved to fall in love with my body. I wanted to become a healthier, more confident person and essentially be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. I also didn’t want a quick-fix diet or go on a detox plan – I wanted to make a healthy lifestyle that was achievable and most importantly, sustainable. What followed was copious amounts of studying nutrition, watching documentaries about food & health, working out hard and it even a complete lifestyle change – becoming vegetarian.
While I am no health or fitness expert by any means (with so many health articles out there contradicting one another, it’s hard to figure out what works for each individual person), but through many trials and experimenting, I have learned some things along the way that have positively impacted my own health, fitness and well-being.
1. I drink one cup of green tea everyday. I actually notice a difference in my health and my skin when I skip green tea. It is a miracle worker in a cup, full of antioxidants and nutrients that can lower your risk of cancer, prolong your life and is a great aid for weight-loss. Swapping my morning coffee for green tea is one of the healthiest, most beneficial things I have done for my well-being.
2. I rarely use white sugar. Refined, white sugar has been claimed as the number one source of obesity in America. While that can be debatable, it doesn’t make it any less unhealthy for you. It increases blood glucose levels, contributes to obesity and weight gain and is devoid of any nutrients, making it an empty food source. When I want to sweeten something up, I use alternatives like maple syrup or honey instead.
3. I drink as much water throughout the day as possible. This has been preached time and time again, and for good reason. Water is the liquid of life, hydrating your body, cleaning out any toxins and making your skin glow. I am so bad at drinking water, so I made a conscious effort to increase my intake by carrying around a 1.23L bottle of water with me. I have swapped out most fizzy drinks and juices with water instead (this can be so hard when ordering at restaurants!), but it is so good for you, there are no calories and best of all, it’s free.
4. I switch up ways to get active. I get bored easily and I can’t keep doing the same workout over and over. This is why it’s important for me to switch it up: hiking, biking, walking, running, yoga, boxing and doing various Fitness Blender workouts at home are all things I do to keep things from getting mundane (if you are focused on weight-loss, cardio is the way to go). Exercise does not have to be dreaded or boring – it can be fun, challenging and exciting and the only way to make it sustainable and enjoyable.
5. I eat a lot of fiber in the morning. When I was on my obsessive health food craze, my digestive system hated me for it. I learned later on that this was because I wasn’t getting enough fiber or iron in my diet, which can be a common issue for vegetarians. I started eating breakfasts high in fiber and noticed a huge and beneficial difference. I was fuller for longer which kept me from overeating throughout the day, I had way more energy and my digestion improved.
In regards to iron, this has been something my body has always been lacking since high school. I never ate much red meat, where iron is rich, and now I don’t eat it at all it is now something I have to pay particular attention to. Leafy greens, nuts and tofu are great sources of iron and something I try to eat a lot of to keep balanced and healthy.
6. I try not to eat past 9pm. This is something I wish someone told me in the beginning of my health journey. Implementing this action actually made a huge difference in the way my body looked and felt – I lost weight quicker and I felt leaner and lighter. When you eat a considerable amount of food late at night and then sleep, your body does not have the energy or time to digest it and converts your food into fat. Even though I can be tempted to eat late at night, when I don’t, in the morning I always feel great.
7. I became a plant-based eater. You may now be sick of me raving about being vegetarian, but I can’t help it – it’s so good for your health and for the environment. I cut out all meat and seafood and focused on having a diet rich in foods derived from the earth, and while it certainly didn’t mean I lost weight, it has made me healthier and more conscious about my food choices. My intake of vegetables and fruit have skyrocketed, and that isn’t a bad thing at all.
8. I cook my food at home. This leads me to my next point: being the only vegetarian in my family means sometimes I can’t eat dinner with them. This has forced me to cook my own food, and boy, it’s been really enjoyable. There are countless and numerous recipe books and websites out there that cater to plant eaters, and all are delicious and nutritious for you. This also means you know what’s going in your food and you have full control of what you put in it, making it a healthy alternative to eating out.
9. I use the 80/20 rule. I heard the 80/20 rule initially through supermodel Miranda Kerr, but I wasn’t interested in it until I read about a blogger who used the same method. It’s basically a diet lifestyle that consists of 80% healthy foods and 20% indulgent foods. This has stuck with me because it wasn’t about depriving or saying no to yourself, it was about keeping a healthy and balanced diet. So far, it’s been really helpful in regards to what I eat as I can easily demolish a whole bag of cookies.
10. I try to snack smartly. Snacking on healthy things is really important in maintaining a healthy diet. It may not seem like much, but eating a cookie three times a day does add up and can throw your health way off balance. I love carrot sticks with hummus, sliced apples with peanut butter and crackers with cucumber and some sort of cheese.
11. I walk everywhere. My legs and my butt are so thankful for it! I don’t mind parking far just so I can get an extra kilometer walk, I walked everywhere when I traveled throughout Europe, and I always choose the stairs when I can. It may not seem like much, but it does add up and you would be surprised at the calorie burn at the end of the day.
12. I don’t do fad diets or deprive myself. I am so over fad diets and health crazes: detox teas, juice cleansing, waist slimming corsets and articles claiming this nut is the new quinoa. Vegetables and fruits aren’t a trend. They are a continuous source of health and nutrition, provided for us to live a full and long life. I don’t care what these articles say – why does good health and exercising need to be so complicated? It should be so simple. Drink water. Minimize your intake of refined sugars and bad fats. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. And most of all, enjoy yourself and learn to love your life. Be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. That’s the key to a full and beautiful life.