This internet search led someone to my blog today:
i want to live a healthy life style but have very low funds and i wake up each morning more tired than when i went to sleep even though i have slept for 8 hours
Oof. I hear ya. That is no fun. I don’t know you, of course. Nor do I know your situation, but I’ve gotten a few clues from your detailed search.
So I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to share my general views on this topic, not necessarily as a cure-all for the young man or woman who conducted that search (because again, I don’t know your situation, and also, you didn’t exactly ask for my advice!), but mostly as a way to introduce my perspective on healthy living.
I’m not a doctuh, so please don’t mistake any of this stuff for a professional medical opinion. The stuff I am about to share is just my opinion. Also, none of these opinions are new, never-heard-before concepts. They’re just things that have worked well for me over the years. It’s stuff most of you probably know and live already, but for anyone who feels like the person who searched about his or her health issues might feel, maybe some of these thoughts will be helpful.
I used to be really unhealthy, and subsequently very overweight. It was miserable. I remember feeling emotionally and physically drained and depleted each day. Long story short, I finally decided to make some essential changes about 7 years ago, I’ve learned a ton about healthy living along the way, and today I feel better than ever.
You do not have to spend a lot of money – in fact, I’d argue you don’t have to spend any more than you spend now – to maintain a healthier lifestyle. The key? Is baby steps. Let’s discuss:
Move a little: Take walks. The benefits your body experiences from one simple 30 minute walk are invaluable. Even if you’re not working up a sweat or you don’t feel like you’re exercising at all, your heart and lungs are loving the attention. Simple walking helps your metabolism, it helps to ensure optimal functioning of your body’s systems (like digestion!), and it will make you a little bit more sleepy when you climb into bed at night. Plus, it’s FREE.
If you’re someone who doesn’t feel like they’ve exercised unless they’ve run 5 miles and are panting like a dog at the end of it, get over it. If you’re like the person who conducted the search I referenced above, you probably wouldn’t feel unhealthy and tired if you were exercising regularly. So you’re probably not. So you’ve got to start somewhere. Start somewhere realistic that you can maintain.
If you can’t find 30 minutes, start with 10. Or 5. Walk briskly for 5 minutes, twice a day and you’ll begin to crave more and more. It sounds cliche, but consider asking a friend to walk with you. That’s helpful for lots of common sense reasons.
Beyond easy walking, stretch a little bit here and there. Yoga is fantastic for stretching and strengthening your muscles, but yoga can be a bit more than some people are willing to take on. If it’s not your thing, Pilates is also great. But in the interest of taking baby steps, some gentle stretches a few times a week will suffice. Stretching helps build strength and helps to keep your muscles and joints from sustaining injuries. Just make sure you’re not straining your neck while you stretch.
Stand up straight: Practice good posture, you guys! It is essential. Knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, head and neck floating above all that and tummy gently sucked in, abdominal muscles lightly engaged. If you don’t know what good posture looks like or how to achieve it, google it or ask someone who might know.
The benefits of good posture are under-appreciated by even some of the healthiest, most fit people I know. If you’re not standing up straight, if your body isn’t properly aligned, how do you expect your blood to flow through your body, for oxygen to reach every corner and crevice, or for your organs to function properly? It’s like expecting a machine to work well after you’ve turned off some of its necessary components and smooshed all its internal cogs together. If you’re not standing or sitting with good posture, you’re squishing everything, stressing your neck and spine, and probably pissing off your lower back and knees in a way that you cannot undo later in life. Ignoring this important element of a healthy lifestyle can cause weight gain and sleep issues, which in turn causes cravings for high sugar foods. It’s an ugly cycle. Get it together and stand up straight like your mama told you.
Sleep: Go to sleep around the same time every night. Create a soothing environment for yourself an hour or so before bedtime. Turn down the lights, put on PJs, discontinue any evening snacking, and just *be* for an hour. When you get into bed your body may be more prepared for a restful night’s sleep. Keep the room cool and dark. And if you can, try to wake up without an alarm. You might be surprised at your body’s ability to do that. Waking up without an alarm means you’ll probably wake up once you’ve had enough sleep, not just because a loud bleating sound is occurring inches from your head. The experience of waking up naturally when your body is ready, can be the difference between feeling terribly groggy all day and feeling well rested and alert.
Foodstuffs: So…whatcha eatin? It is my non-professional opinion that the answer to this question might give us some keys about why someone might be feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep, or why someone becomes groggy and lethargic at, say, 7pm. (I’m looking at you, David Morris.) I’m not gonna suggest a lot of changes with regard to this because people can be very prickly about their food. Understandable. I will cut you if you come near my pizza/nachos/mexican food of any kind/brownies/western omlettes – you get the idea.
Also, when talking to someone who wants to make some lifestyle improvements, getting on their case about what they’re eating and what they should be eating is a certain way to make them run in the other direction.
Here’s what I say – eat what you want. BUT. Have an awareness of it. If your awareness of your food intake today is a 4 on a 10 scale, try to broaden it a bit tomorrow. Just a bit. This will require first being honest with yourself about how aware you really are, today. Have a realistic conversation with yourself or with a friend about that topic, then make a choice to become just a little bit more aware tomorrow than you were today. This can be tough for someone who’s eating a lot of “unhealthy” foods – nobody likes to be honest with themselves about their undesirable habits, but just give it a whirl. Pay attention to when you’re eating, why you’re eating and notice how much you’re eating. No need to make any drastic changes, just notice it.
If you’re someone who doesn’t feel like they’re making healthy changes unless they cut back to 1000 calories a day and only eat fruit, cottage cheese and chicken, get over it. That’s not gonna work. You might be able to maintain that way of eating for X period of time, but at some point, you’re going to feel homicidal. Eat. EAT. Ugh, just eat.
Practice just noticing your habits for a little while. If that’s as far as you can go in terms of making changes to your food-life, so be it. Awareness is half the battle. If you find yourself willing to make another few baby-step-style diet changes, here are a few to consider:
- Eat breakfast every morning. I’m begging you.
- Cut back on soda. If you’re drinking 3 cans a day, cut back to 2. Eventually try to get that number close to 0. You can lose 10-20 pounds in a year just by cutting out sugary drinks. Replace it with another beverage that you enjoy like iced coffee, flavored seltzer, or even natural fruit juice. I don’t know this for certain, but I think soda could probably kill a person with its bare hands. Diet soda? will maim you, THEN kill you. You might as well just drink poison rocks.
- Have a banana each morning. Why not, right? If you don’t like bananas, have some other piece of fruit. My mom doesn’t like really ripe bananas, or plain water for that matter, but she consumes both as “medicine,” she says. Not quite as fun as eating something that you like, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet…or the banana.
- Go easy on the red meat. Maybe choose it only once or twice a week. You like chicken too. I don’t know if you like fish or not but if you do, eat that sometimes too. And if you’re a vegetarian? For god sake, eat some beans.
- Go easy on the cheese. Eat it, enjoy it, but don’t make it a three-times-a-day experience.
- Maybe have some vegetables? Whatever, I don’t wanna fight about it.
- If you love sweets, like I do (like, it’s a problem, like, are we having cookies for breakfast?) be more judicious about the kind of sweets you’re eating. Forget that low-fat, low-cal crap. That stuff is awful-tasting and awful for you. Eat the real thing, period. But eating the real thing means no “enriched flour,” no crazy ingredients you can’t pronounce, no dyes or weird powders. Just look at the ingredients listed on the back and be sure you recognize each of them. Try to choose all-natural, organic (when possible) sweet treats. Then select one satisfying serving’s worth – an amount that’s pleasing to your eyes and your stomach. Make eating it a special occasion – pour yourself a glass of 1% milk or a cup of hot coffee, eliminate distractions (like annoying friends who want a bite), and eat the hell out of that amazing brownie or cookie. Savor every single bite. And when it’s over, thank yourself for the indulgence and agree to wait until tomorrow to have another. Namaste.
You know how to eat properly, we all do. Plus, there are lots of different roads to Rome in terms of eating properly. And we’ve all got some info about at least one of those roads. We might not all know what an omega 3 fatty acid is, or how much fiber an average woman needs in her diet, but we know that a turkey sandwich is healthier than fried chicken, that plain cheese pizza is healthier than Stuffed Crust Meat Lovers Heart Attack Emergency Room Visit Supreme Pizza. (Mmm, I want that.)
Beyond having some of factual knowledge of how to eat properly, we also possess something else that people tend to ignore: instinct. For some people, this instinct is more finely tuned than for others, but I’d argue that we all possess it on one level or another. We can notice the way our body feels differently after eating a salad than it does after eating french fries. We might not be able to connect that feeling to conscious thought without a little guidance, but we all innately possess the basic ability to notice the feelings.
In fact, we were born with the ability to eat in such a way that, if left to our own devices, we would be consuming a nutritionally complete diet. If a baby who has the ability to feed herself is placed in front of a wide range of different types of foods (not including processed foods) and she is allowed to eat whichever of them she wants, she will choose exactly what her body needs that day. If she needs potassium, she’ll choose the sliced banana. If she needs fiber, she might choose the diced apple. If she needs salt – you get it. Different babies will make different choices based on their own body’s nutritional needs, but each baby will be able to satisfy those needs with the right foods.
For purposes of this discussion, let’s assume this baby has not gone to nutrition school. So how does she *know* what to eat? It’s instinct. She won’t develop the eating habits, cravings, tendencies and desires that will ultimately stay with her into adulthood until she’s a little older. Probably not until she internalizes the example her parents set with their own diets or until the kinds of foods available to her become more limited or begin to include processed foods will she start to stray from having an innately accurate nutrition instinct. Interesting as hell, I think.
Realizing we all once had this ability is important to note when trying to live a healthier lifestyle. You have the option to listen to your body and notice its clues and cues. You might choose to ignore them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. So practice tuning in to how your body feels before and after a meal, how you feel when you’re full verses when you haven’t had enough yet, what you crave when you wake up in the morning, and so on.
What do you really want?: This is the most important of all of these points to consider. Do you really want to live a healthy lifestyle? Or do you just feel like you should? Those are two very different places in which to be. If you really want to be healthier, you have a fighting chance of actually achieving that very attainable goal. If you just feel like you should, your head might not be in the right place to make changes just yet. There’s nothing wrong with that – it is what it is.
The best part of making changes toward a healthier lifestyle is that you don’t have to have perfect habits or even near perfect habits to be successful. In the healthy lifestyle game, there is no such thing as “success” or “failure.” There’s only “trying” and “not trying.” And one of the world’s best kept secrets is that you don’t really have to try very hard at all to feel better, look better, sleep better and maybe even lose a little weight. You just have to have an awareness of any unhealthy habits you may have, some information about which ones are hurting you the most and how to take baby steps toward improving them, and a desire to do so. It’s all about the baby steps, you guys.
A popular phrased used at Weight Watchers is a motto by which I was able to lose 115 pounds and keep it off: Practice makes progress.
- Move a little more. Start small and do more if you feel like it.
- Stand up straight.
- Create a peaceful environment before, during and after sleep for a better night’s rest.
- Notice what you’re eating. Decide if you’re willing to make a few small, realistic changes to your current diet.
- Decide if you really want to get healthy or if you just think you should.
- Take baby steps or you’ll burn out.
Now, if you want to lose a lot of weight and change your life around, and you aren’t afraid of making some bigger changes than the ones I’ve outlined above, I know a lot about that too, so please do not hestitate to ask. But that’s a slightly (but only slightly!) different post.