By Ashley Goncalves
Sometimes I feel like I am constantly bombarded by new diets or heath trends that promise me I will become the healthiest version of myself if I just give up _____ (insert any of the millions of possibilities here). Honestly, it can be exhausting, overwhelming and most often leaves me feeling defeated. And if we are going to be really honest, it even makes me a little sad. It feels like between social media and other media outlets we are being told every day that who we are right now is not good enough. I understand wanting to make healthier choices, to focus on being strong, and to want to show up in the world as your best self but I do not believe that all of that is simply tied to the decisions we make about food. So for the rest of this month, I am committing to taking these 5 (non-food) steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Care to join me?
You can drink 100 glasses of celery juice and work out 7 days a week, but if you aren’t getting a healthy amount of sleep, you body will still be lacking both physically and mentally. Most studies say that the average person needs around 8 hours of sleep to get a full, healthy amount of rest. Personally, I believe that everyone is different and you need to decide what amount of sleep feels healthy for your body. I know that I am at my best with 8 hours of sleep and so I do everything I can to preserve that time. Making it a goal to get a healthy amount of sleep almost every night will drastically change your mental and physical wellbeing. If getting 8 hours sounds unreasonable, start small and try going to bed 30 minutes early. Not only does a healthy amount of sleep lead to increased energy but it also leads to better workouts!
This one seems obvious and I am sure you have heard it a thousand times but bear with me. Increasing how much water your drink will result in the following incredible benefits:
– Gives you healthy, glowing skin (no need to drop $80 on serum for this benefit ladies)
– Fights bloating and keeps you fuller longer
– Increases your energy
– Helps fight headaches
– Enhances your performance during a workout
The list could go on forever. I think the best way to make this happen and to develop a healthy habit is to have a go-to water bottle. Get one that you will take with you everywhere. Keep it at your desk, bring it in your car, bring it to run errands, bring it everywhere! The more you drink, the more you will want to drink.
If you are in the market for a new water bottle the hydro flask, bkr, S’well and camelback are some of my favorites.
3. Reduce Stress
If sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body, stress is possibly the worst. I read an article that said “Stress has direct effects on the adrenals, causing them to put out more cortisol. Elevated cortisol, in turn, has a wide range of effects on your body including slowing or stopping digestion and absorption, altering your calorie needs and usage, altering how you store your food (think: increased belly fat) and altering your liver function, which in turn affects your ability to detoxify.”
Reducing or attempting to reduce stress looks different for everyone. Another way I decrease stress in my life is exercise. I love my Saturday morning spin classes and finding time to be outside. A few other ways to decrease stress: take a bath at night, have a dedicated “no screen time” part of your day, read a book for 30mins before bed. Some people de-stress by cooking or baking or hiking. We’re all different! Find what it is that de-stresses you – calms your mind down, helps you feel at peace…and make time for that thing regularly!
Now this one can sometimes get a bad reputation and can make us feel like we are indulging in things that we don’t actually need. But true self-care is taking stock of the things that refuel your tank and allow you to show up in the world as your full self. For me, self-care can mean anything from carving out space for my favorite workout class to treating myself to a new book or even getting a massage every now and then. Whatever brings you joy and allows you to take some time for yourself is worth investing in. You are worth investing in. So find some time to focus on self-care and you will notice a difference in your mental and physical health.
This one might very well be the hardest of them all. We are oftentimes our harshest critics and it can be hard to remember to take stock of the things you love about yourself. So I am challenging you to spend some time this month appreciating the things you love about yourself. It can be anything: your strength, your ambition, your smile, the list could go on forever and I hope yours does.
Meet Ashley! Ashley works full time at a local non-profit, also works at Fitness Unlimited AND runs her own catering business, Salty Sweet & Savory (YUM). Get it girl!