How to Create a Healthy Lifestyle
Healthy living is worth the effort. You will be rewarded with better mood and energy levels, a healthy body weight, increased longevity and reduced risk of chronic disease, to name some of the many benefits.
If you aren’t quite there yet, the key to creating a healthy lifestyle is to take it one step at a time. Slowly building upon healthy behaviours is achievable for most people, and can help establish long-term habits. Although the ‘total overhaul’ concept works for some, most people end up feeling overwhelmed and unable to sustain the changes.
According to habit-change scientist and Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Dr Gina Cleo, building a habit can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days depending on the complexity of the behaviour being changed. On average however, we can expect a new habit to take approximately 66 days to develop. Therefore, when creating a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to be persistent, and accepting that change won’t occur overnight.
To help you create a healthier lifestyle, we suggest you aim to make small, positive changes in your day-to-day routine. We’ve identified seven areas for you to focus on – one at a time!
- Eat more vegetables It should come as no surprise that eating vegetables has a positive impact on health, yet only 4% of Australians meet the recommended 5 servings/day target. Vegetables are low on calories and high on nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Their fibre and water content can also help keep you fuller for longer. High intakes are linked to reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease, and improvements in weight management, gut health and mental health. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Limit intake of processed and refined foods Processed food such as white bread, chips, biscuits, sausages etc provide little beneficial nutrition. Instead, they are high in calories, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, linked with diabetes, obesity, gut inflammation and some cancers. Minimising intake of these types of foods will help promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Reduce sedentary behaviours Decreasing the amount of sedentary time is linked with multiple health benefits including weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved mental health, better sleep, strengthened muscles and bones and increased energy. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise per day, and break up sedentary behaviours with short walks on work breaks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or using a standing desk.
- Develop positive sleep hygiene Too much or too little sleep may disrupt appetite regulation, leading to increased food intake and weight gain. Furthermore, studies suggest that poor sleeping habits may increase your risk of chronic disease, particularly obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Having a regular sleep schedule is also important to improve concentration and productivity, glucose metabolism, immune function, and the ability to make good food choices.
- Manage stress Stress is a normal part of life, but for some it can have a major impact on health. It’s important to understand the cause of your stress, and how to manage it a in positive way, to avoid negative effects on wellbeing. If you struggle with high stress levels, try calming activities such as reading, yoga or meditation, or seek professional advice and support.
- Drink water Drinking water is necessary to maintain healthy brain function, bowel, kidney and skin health, appetite regulation and energy levels, to name a few. Aim to hydrate yourself mostly with water or herbals teas, with no more than 3 caffeinated drinks per day. Limit sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices. Try not to exceed the recommended 1-2 standard drinks of alcohol per day, with 3-4 alcohol free days per week.
- Practice mindful eating Mindful eating involves bringing awareness to the process of eating. It involves eating slowly, chewing food well and getting maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from a smaller portion of food. It also involves using signals of hunger and fullness as guides of when to start and stop eating. Mindful eating can help with weight management, by reducing snacking and overeating at mealtimes. Research suggest better health outcomes for those who eat mindfully.