Does anyone out there really believe that supermodels eat fast food burgers? Although we are probably living in one of the most health-conscious time periods to date, we are still receiving mixed messages about what it means to be healthy. While it might be tempting to believe that the typical beer drinker has bright eyes and glowing skin, or that ice cream is a common nightly indulgence for the physically fit, quite often these examples would be more aptly place in the “too good to be true” files.
False advertising can encourage bad habits, and bad habits can become barriers to healthy living. If you are struggling to live healthily, here are some tips for avoiding some of the most common barriers.
One of the first steps to healthy living is to assess your current state of health. Make an appointment with the doctor and dentist to gauge your health. Have your BMI checked and make sure your waistline is not putting your health at risk.
Think about your physical activity. The CDC recommends at least two and a half hours of aerobic activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises per week. How do you stack up?
Consider your social network and keep an eating journal. “The idea, says Kathianne Sellers Williams, MEd, RD, LD, and nutritionist, “is to write it down without judgment. You can’t change what you’re not aware of.”
Healthy eating requires the ability to take power over what you eat. The key, according to Williams, is saying, “I choose,” rather than, “I should.” So it’s, “I choose to eat more fruits and vegetables,” instead of, “I should be eating more fruits and vegetables.” Williams says. “it shows that you’re in control and making the right choice.
Another thing Williams recommends: leave guilt out of the equation. The doctor points out, “Usually, whenever someone feels guilty about something, it feeds right back to the behavior that they’re trying to get rid of. So if someone is an emotional eater and they say, ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this,’ it implies more guilt and judgment on themselves; they feel worse, and they end up eating more.
Pick something you like to do. if you’re dreading cardio in the gym, go for a hike or take a dance class. Set weekly goals for physical activities and keep track of how much you do. Williams says, “Make the first goal so easy that you say, ‘I know I can do that.’ She recommends weekly checkpoints because they give more flexibility. If you miss one day, you can redeem yourself on the next. Williams often encourages you to reward yourself after being good all week with a visual reminder that you can look at often to celebrate your accomplishments.
Common barriers to a good night’s sleep are computers and TVs before bedtime. Not only does the light from electronic devices trick your body into thinking its time to be up and about, computer activity and t.v viewing can be very stimulating, and not conducive to a peaceful rest.
Heavy exercise close to bedtime is another contributor to poor-quality sleep. Sleep medicine specialist Lisa Shives, MD says vigorous activity can heat the core temperature of the body and make sleep difficult. As a guideline, she says, “If you’re working up a sweat, you’re working too hard before bed.”
Although diet and exercise are big contributors for healthy living, social connections also play a major role. C. Nathan De Wall. assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky suggests looking for a person like you. “What really is important in terms of promoting relationship webbing is that you share a similar level of comfort in getting close to people. Feel people out in terms of, ‘Does this person seem like me in terms of wanting to be close to other people?”
DeWall also emphasizes the importance of having in-person relationships in these days of virtual online connections. He does not discourage social media relationships, but advises, “I think long term, having all your relationships online or virtual would probably be something that wouldn’t be as beneficial as having a mix.
Cut Down on Stress
Stress is another big barrier to healthy living. Positive coping skills, like yoga and visualization can be very helpful in keeping stress levels to a minimum. Williams recommends handling stressful situations by burning off anger through exercise or allowing anger to dissipate in a quiet place.
Have you broken through barriers that were keeping you from living a healthy life? Tell us all about how you did it! We love to hear good stories!