With school starting up again, cooler weather, and overall less free time, fall is still the best time of year for fresh starts. Creating new healthy habits now will serve you well once the holiday season descends upon us. There are many ways to lose weight, but the efficacy of any diet and exercise regimen depends entirely on being consistent. Staying on track is the hardest part of any new routine, but there are five habits I have adopted that keep me on course.
1. Adopt a Daily Cleanse
The first thing I do in the morning is drink good-quality water. This hydrates the body, jump-starts digestion, and reduces appetite. Warm or room-temperature water will be best as this is gentle on our bodies. Adding 1/3 or even 1/2 fresh-squeezed lemon will act as a mild diuretic and provide some natural electrolytes that our bodies need after being dehydrated from sleeping. Go one step further, and add one or two tablespoons of organic raw apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm lemon water. This will improve insulin sensitivity and has been used for centuries as a health elixir dating back to 3000, B.C. I have found that this cocktail cuts my appetite and improves my skin complexion. This is because apple cider vinegar is a natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial food that can flush toxins and harmful bacteria that accumulates from daily digestion. Try this tonic morning and night—ideally before a high-carbohydrate meal—to curb cravings for pumpkin-spiced-everything and Halloween treats!
2. Walk Every Day.
There is nothing new to say about the benefits of walking. It is likely the most effective yet under-rated exercise on the planet. There is evidence that walking before and after meals helps to reduce the insulin spike induced by eating, and the effects of walking on the brain are similar to the effects of meditation. Walking is a low-impact, low-stress activity that can be maintained for a long time. Because walking keeps you in the aerobic training zone (think of the yellow “fat burning” zone on the cardio equipment at the gym), it is one of the best free tools available for aiding weight loss. The best part about walking is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. If you can’t make a habit of walking 30-60 minutes before or after work, bring a pair of trainers to work and go for a walk during your lunch break. Not only will this help clear your mind, but the fresh air and natural light will do wonders for improving focus and sparking creativity.
How can you possibly lose weight by doing nothing? Well, meditation is anything but nothing. Bringing more attention to our bodies and spending time observing our thoughts and about what we want, what makes us happy, and what we are grateful reduces stress instantly. This in turn reduces our cortisol production, reactive or emotional eating, and cravings for foods that have nothing to do with being hungry. The brain is intricately connected to the gut, and practicing mindfulness will improve your ability to make healthy decisions.
4. Plan Out Plate Ratios.
Eating a meal that has 50-70% plant, 20% protein and 10% fat in terms of the sheer volume on the plate will help keep your waistline shrinking. Eating vegetables is one thing, but still too often the salad is considered a “side dish” when it should be the other way around. Vegetables should dominate your plate and be accessorized by lean cuts of meat, and dressed with whole healthy fats. Green shakes, vegetable omelets, salads, and vegetarian stews and soups can make it easier to incorporate more vegetables. Buying a spirulizer was a great investment for me because it can make zucchini into beautiful spaghetti or fun salads out of cucumber and carrot. This provides the texture and mouth-feel of pasta noodles without the starch. Whenever you can re-create a comfort dish, all you have to do is make it often until you start to crave the healthy version as though it was the original.
5. Read After Dinner.
If you are anything like me, I indulge in a little Netflix in the evenings, and usually I find myself wanting that hand-to-mouth action to go along with it. While I am all for healthy snacking, it is important for us to realize when we are hungry and when we are snacking out of habit. When I decide to leave the kitchen and living room and go somewhere far from the fridge to read or write or some other activity, I lose interest in eating. Whether it is an evening walk, phone call with a friend or a good book, try to keep your mind engaged in an activity after meals.
Habits take time and can feel like an eternity. Try adopting these habits one at a time until it becomes part of your routine, then add another. Just like learning a skill, with practice and patience, it will eventually become effortless.