Hello, I'd like you to meet my soapbox.
RIGHT OUT OF THE KITCHEN SINK
1. Drink only water
Coffee and tea, in moderation (with absolutely no cream, sugar, syrup, fake sugar, etc) do count! Not bottled, not fancy, not expensive, everywhere you go! If you need a little change every now and then, try a herbal tea flavor (cold!) or on rare occasions, use a Propel packet for ONE glass of flavored water. Or, opt for well-hydrated fruits and veggies such as watermelon, cucumber, and celery. By doing this, you'll already be working on #2. For a real challenge, don't just replace other beverages with water, actually make a point to increase your water intake!
READ THE LABELS - it's a whole 'nother language back there!
2. Cut sugar intake
In all forms, not just sweets (do cut those too!) such as ice cream, brownies and cookies, but additive sugar like high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, crystalline, mannitol, sorbitol (see #5!). It hides in everything from bread, stuffing, "fruit" juice drinks, cereal (big bad offender see #6), ketchup, crackers, yogurt, pickles, lunch meat, salad dressing, etc. etc. If you haven't seen King Corn (opens with music), Netflix it now.
3. Cut sodium intake
Do you know how much you are supposed to have a day? Less than 2400 milligrams. That is about 1 teaspoon of table salt a day, but that amount includes all sodium consumed! It's not the chips and nuts that will get you, it's lurking in the foods you least expect as preservative and a flavoring agent. And it isn't that bad for you, until you pick up a few items and add it up. A few grocery store examples: Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, 890 mg; Butterball Thin-sliced Honey Roasted Turkey breast lunch meat (4 slices!), 550 mg; Prego Traditional Italian Sauce (1/2 c.), 580 mg.; Special K original cereal (1c.), 220 mg; Lean Cuisine Chicken Teriyaki, 690 mg. Restaurant examples? Gladly: Starbucks Grande Mocha Frap, 230 mg; McDonald's Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken and Dressing, 1300mg; Panera Turkey Artichoke Panini, 2340 mg. Did you get that? 98% of your RDA in ONE sandwich. Ick. Edumacate yourself folks, that's the only way you're going to realize what you put in directly affects what you get out.
4. Increase Fiber
25-40 grams a day. You'll feel full, longer with less calories. Your body will um, process stuff cleaner and easier. It will help maintain your blood sugar. It's good for your heart and has a modest effect on cholesterol. Look for whole grains (#5 again!), apples, oatmeal, Wasa, seeds, Greek yogurt, bran, and fresh veggies. Avoid quick fixes, which I like to call the tourist traps of the food industry such as Fiber One bars that claim to be a good source of fiber, but have a ton of sugar (including HFCS, among others), sodium, fat and low protein.
5. Fewer extras, more naturals
This is a big one. Try to eat foods in the most "natural" state possible. The fewer hands and machines that had to touch it, the better. I know local organic farmers' market is expensive, but take baby steps. Eat an orange instead of orange juice. Eat a grilled steak instead of a hamburger. Eat an apple instead of a granola bar. Craving Papa Johns? Grab a pita, some tomatoes, veggies & cheese and make your own. Eating a colorful (I mean that...lots of vibrantly colored vegetables, earthy grains, lean fresh proteins) will ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals needed without having to take [processed] diet supplements. And, you'll lessen your risks for cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. You'll save on calories, sugar, sodium, trans-fats, and junk. By junk I mean all the chemical additives used to get your food from the farm in Washington, to the plant in Texas to the distributer in Virginia to the grocery store in North Carolina, for, your convenience? There are other reasons too! Here is a great article to get you started on this topic (I could go on forever...)
6. Start with a healthy breakfast
Food for thought. Metabolism. Energy. All good reasons to spend 10 minutes with a protein rich, whole food, delicious breakfast. And I don't mean a bowl of Cheerios or a Poptart. Yogurt, berries, oats, nut butter, eggs, all good. Just try to find two cereals on that aisle that don't have sugar in the top 3 ingredients. And while you're at it, bring a snack for mid morning. 200-300 calories 4-6 times a day is much better than binging on two or three meals.
7. Sit less, move more
How many hours a day do you sit at a desk, in a car, on a couch? When you really start paying attention, is your life sedentary? Mine was. Find little ways to move throughout the day. Take the stairs, don't look for the closest parking spot, stand up while you're bopping around the internet, carry your groceries instead of using a cart, sit on an exercise ball in front of the TV, take a walk after dinner, dance, do isometrics while cooking, clean your house. There are endless ways to create movement and HOW long ago did Newton tell us: An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion... When you do have to sit, make sure you have proper posture and take stretch breaks.
8. Find something that works
I hate gyms, I hate group fitness, I hate running, my back hurts sometimes, its too humid and hot to breath outside. But I signed up for a session with a trainer and it worked, now I see her two days a week. I don't hate the gym so much, I feel confident in group fitness, I can keep up if someone sets the pace, I trudge through the hurt and baby it when I need to, and riding a bike cools me off more than walking. Keep trying, you'll like something eventually. It doesn't have to be expensive. Look for seasonal gym discounts, student trainers, (reputable) internet trainers, Wii workouts, or just some cinder blocks that need moving. Sweat out the toxins one way or another. As a side, note, lift some weight! You're not going to bulk up unless you are male and trying to do so. It's good for your muscles (which are good for your metabolism!) and good for bone density. And who doesn't need more of that?
Yoga is the best way to get your blood flowing, release the tension of the day and keep your body nimble and flexible. The focused stretching and breathing forces you to release whatever is holding you back! Again, nothing fancy, check out Netflix's watch instantly section for yoga right in your own living room.
10. Break the rules
Don’t beat yourself up if you are off a day or miss a goal. I break every single one of these, at least weekly, that's why they are continual goals. Allow yourself to enjoy a meal at a nice restaurant or swing through the fast food line once a month. Don’t stress out if you only feel like 20 minutes on the elliptical today instead of 30. In fact, ditch the scales too. Base your progress on how your clothes fit and how you feel. Look back over 6-12 months worth of pictures. Does that make you feel better or worse? Six months ago, I could barely do one push-up, and this morning I knocked out at least 20 burnout push-ups AFTER my upper body workout. In that same six months, I haven't been sick once. Now that's getting somewhere in my book.