We hold many different titles in our lives. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, and friends. At the same time, we are leaders, teachers, followers, and servants. As we struggle to juggle all those titles in our lives, many times we end up putting our own lives last on the list.
Romans 12:1 teaches us, "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." Learning to put ourselves on the list and to make healthy choices that honor our body and thus honor God is important.
Nutrition, fitness, hydration, and the motivation to make changes are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle that allow us to be our very best. Making time for exercise, nutritious meal choices, and ensuring we are properly hydrated are not usually at the top of our lists but they should be. If our bodies are to be a living sacrifice, then everything we put in them and do with them should be as well.
Planning healthy meals isn't difficult but it does require understanding the basic building blocks. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and the richest sources of these nutrients come from whole, unprocessed foods. When you include these macronutrients, you are also including a wide variety of essential micronutrients as well. A healthy meal includes all three types of macronutrients in the correct combination for our body type. If you don't know your body type and its strengths and weaknesses, download the FREE eBook, "You Are More Than A Number: Understanding Somatotypes and Body Shapes."
Let's quickly review the basics of macronutrients. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and rice are the most nutrient-rich carbohydrates and provide your brain and your body with the energy needed to function efficiently. For my keto eating plan lovers, please take a few minutes to view this video regarding the nutrition therapy purposes of the keto diet.
Soluble and insoluble fiber is found in beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Both types are important as an aid to digestion and regular elimination, feelings of fullness and satiety, and reducing the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Lean proteins are found in chicken without the skin, fish, quinoa, grass-fed beef, and pork as well as in nuts, seeds, and beans. Proteins are the building blocks the body requires for growth and repair. When there isn't enough energy available from carbohydrates, the body will use the available protein for energy which means it isn't able to be used for growth and repair. Round out your healthy meal plan by including healthy fats found in olive and avocado oil, Greek olives, avocado, and flax or hemp seeds.
You can build a healthy meal without weighing or measuring anything by visually dividing your small plate (a nine-inch plate is best) into four sections. Fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables such as dark leafy greens, green beans, broccoli, or cabbage. You can easily include healthy fat such as avocado or hemp seeds as well. Fill a fourth of the plate with protein such as fish, eggs, or egg substitute, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, legumes or nuts, quinoa, or lean meat. Fill the last quarter of the plate with a starchy vegetable or whole grain such as a small white, red, or sweet potato, whole grain bread, pita, roll, or rice. On the side include a small piece of whole fruit or ½ cup of juice-packed canned fruit for your dessert. Don't forget to include eight ounces of calcium-fortified 1% milk or milk substitutes such as coconut or almond milk because a rich calcium source is always important no matter what our age.
So how do you get started living a healthier lifestyle? Making time for healthy meal planning, activity, and hydration? Here are some strategies that can help you take the first step. Don't try all of them at once. Instead, pick one and get started making that a new habit and routine. When you have that one mastered, pick another.
Know What You Are Eating - Using a journal such as "The Mindful Me Journey: A 40-Day Guided Journal Toward a Healthier Relationship With Food and Exercise" helps you begin to see what, when, why, and how much you eat each day. Education is the foundation of living a healthy lifestyle and having a good understanding of what is going into your body is a critical component. Once you know what is going in, you can then determine what changes are needed.
Find the Time – Many times we try to make big changes in our life and they are too much to sustain. Instead, commit to a small amount of time each day to live a little healthier. This may require scheduling time on a calendar, planner, or phone app so the time is honored like any other appointment. Be willing to schedule time WITH yourself, for yourself.
Use those little blocks of time in your day in a positive way. When you're waiting for a plane, have a few minutes until you have to leave and pick up a child, or waiting for your order to be ready for pick-up, don't waste the time. Fit in a brisk walk, push-ups against a wall or counter, deep knee bends or lunges, or jumping jacks to increase your activity. Research shows that three sessions of 10 minutes each activity are just as beneficial as doing thirty minutes all at one time.
Combine activities – instead of just walking up the flight of stairs, run up them and turn them into an anaerobic workout. Park in the back of the parking lot at the grocery store to increase your steps to and from the door. Wash your car yourself instead of sitting in the lounge waiting or mow your grass instead of hiring a service. Both of these lifestyle changes will not only increase your activity but will also save you money as well which helps your financial well-being.
Plan ahead when you know you are going to be eating away from home. You can apply the same meal planning principles away from home. If you are going to a restaurant you are unfamiliar with, check out the nutrition guides online before you go. You can usually find one or two healthier options at any restaurant but if they don't include a serving of fruit, bring a piece of fresh fruit with you. If you are going to be on the run for several hours, take a healthy snack or two with you so you don’t have to rely on an unhealthy option when hunger strikes.
Set Yourself Up for Success – Take a look in your kitchen pantry and identify those foods that you may love but that don't really fit into the meal planning guidelines of including whole foods as much as possible. Take note of which ones maybe shouldn't be replaced when they are gone and think about healthier alternatives that can be bought in their place.
Eat breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day and helps your body break the fast of the night before. Studies show that people that eat breakfast tend to eat fewer calories throughout the day than those that skip breakfast.
Keep walking shoes in your car - There is nothing worse than having the time to walk but not having the right shoes. Keeping walking shoes handy ensures that when you have 10-15 minutes to fit in a walk in the park or at the local shopping mall – you have what you need. Many a woman has walked in gym shoes and a beautiful suit so do it in style if you must but just do it.
Stay well hydrated - By the time you feel thirsty, you are more than likely already dehydrated. The color of your urine is a great way to monitor your hydration status and being well hydrated is an important part of healthy living. Since the brain is about 80%water, dehydration affects the brain and alters how we think and feel which can negatively impact how we interact with people, complete a task, or navigate the roadways. Make hydration part of your daily healthy living goals.
Taking care of ourselves allows us to be better mothers, sisters, teachers, spouses, friends, and servant leaders. It is easy to look at all the things we "should" be doing and get overwhelmed and decide we are too busy to try and figure it out. Or, we start out making a whole lot of changes, and then it is too much and we quit.
Instead, I want you to think about the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins the race and setting small goals and making small changes will allow you to learn new lifestyle changes for life. Taking small steps that allow you to slowly and steadily move forward, in the end, will get you where you want to be. Living a healthier life is a marathon and not a sprint and getting started is as simple as showing up at the starting line and starting.