Radically transforming your lifestyle to nurture your body and well-being can seem overwhelming, especially if your habits are fixed and too difficult to change.
- How will you get your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar in a normal range?
- How will you shop for food differently?
- Will you even be able to prepare healthy meals?
- How will you lose all the weight?
Keep asking yourself questions like these and it may just stop you from taking any action. Change starts to look impossible, complicated, and difficult. Why even bother? Well first off remember your motivation. We wanted to reverse our trend toward harboring potential disease requiring “maintenance” medication and instead live long healthy active lives. Feeling full of vitality now and in the future compelled us to transform our lifestyle.
Here’s our suggestion to get you on your way to healthiness. Start with one simple habit that you can commit to and easily achieve. Practice this one habit until it becomes a routine habit. Target a habit that is specific and actionable.
You may want to start with a different simple step if cutting back salt seems too difficult at first. Here's some ideas.
- Substitute drinking water for sugary and diet drinks.
- Eat a nutrient dense breakfast.
- Snack on nutrient dense food, such as unsalted seeds, nuts and fruits.
- Eat only whole grains.
- Eat a large salad everyday.
- Do your food shopping on a full stomach.
- Measure out your portion size before you eat.
- No eating 4 hours before bedtime.
- No eating while watching television.
- No eating while at the movies.
- No artificial color or flavor.
We wanted to reduce our sodium intake because we knew the threat of excess sodium to heart disease, among many other risks, was too scary to ignore. We started with the simple habit of reading nutrition labels to guide us in our food choices and selected foods with no more than 180 mg of sodium per serving. Practiced over a period of time this one simple habit triggered incremental changes to our shopping, cooking and eating habits. Weeks and weeks went by with our focus on minimizing salt intake. Eventually our taste buds got use to eating less salty foods. Our taste buds became more sensitive to the taste of salt and grew to prefer the true flavors of the foods.
By focusing on the salt first we were very encouraged because we immediately lost weight. Our bodies were not bloated, so less strain on our hearts. Plus we were adding new foods to our plate that did not pose a high sodium threat. By picking one small habit to adopt it’s much easier to see how it affected a change to our lifestyle. This habit steered us towards eating more fresh vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains and away from processed foods such as cold cuts, frozen dinners, canned soups and bottled sauces. Since we both lost weight with following this one habit it was enough of an incentive to keep going, get creative and gradually adopt new tactics.
This led to us weighing our portion sizes since we were concerned about staying within our sodium limitations. We discovered that there are certain food items like cheese that are very high in sodium per serving. So we searched until we could find a low sodium cheese. We also found that as we ate less salty cheese we weren’t craving it, and our cheese consumption went down. We also discovered that sodium is added to frozen fish, meat and poultry to keep them plumped up, juicy and heavy with water. This added sodium acts the same way on the human body causing puffiness, bloating and weight gain.
Look for the small print on the package. In plumped up chicken the labels will say, “Contains up to 15% saltwater”. According to the FDA fresh natural chicken should not have more than 70 mg of sodium per 4 ounce serving – the amount of naturally occurring sodium in chicken. So we only buy products that have low sodium content, and we measure our serving portion size. We buy Coleman Organic chicken from Costco and on average we now have no more than two chicken meals per week.
There are many simple habits you can adopt that will jumpstart you on a journey to good health. As you master one habit, adopt another and expand your power to control your health. We suggest focusing in on your salt consumption habits, because like us you may be in for some radically life changing experiences.
- Start with one simple habit that you can easily achieve.
- Commit to practicing this one habit until it becomes a routine habit.
- Target a habit that is specific and actionable.
Coleman Natural Chicken that we purchase at Costco.
What simple step will you choose to dramatically transform your health?
What simple step have you already taken that has made the biggest difference in living a healthy lifestyle?