For Losing Weight, Little Things Can Add Up Big
Have you heard about this incredible new weight loss breakthrough!? It's safe, it's guaranteed to work, it's 100% natural, and it's been used for 10,000 years. It's called "eat healthier and exercise more." OK, fine, you already knew about that. It's obvious, but it bears repeating: there is no magic pill or easy answer to weight loss. The problem is that too many people approach the idea of living a healthier lifestyle the same way they approach weight-loss pills or fad diets, as a quick one-shot solution. But living a healthy life isn't about making a big decision; it's about making a thousand little decisions. Too often people try to throw themselves into an entirely new way of living, so when they start to slip a little they decide they can't do it at all.
If this sounds like you, don't despair. It's OK to start small, because the great thing about a healthy lifestyle is that the more you experience the more you want. When your body gets used to moving it wants to keep moving. When your taste buds experience food that isn't deep fried, breaded, or processed it learns to love it. It won't always be easy, and there will be times you'll have to force yourself to try things three or four times before you realize it's not bad, but your body was made to move, and it was made to eat fresh and natural foods. It just needs some reminders. Think of these ideas as a little healthy lifestyle sampler plate.
Read the Labels
The average American consumes more than 30 teaspoons of sugar every day. Unless you're a 6 year old with a Pixie Stick addiction chances are you're not eating this much sugar straight - it's being hidden in your food. Not just in pies and soda, but in sausage, pancake mix, even canned tomatoes. It's not enough to just check the ingredients, because sugar comes in many disguises - glucose, sorghum, and corn syrup to name just a few. Better to check the nutritional label which lists the actual grams of sugar. (Remember to check the serving size too; sometimes they are kept small to make the numbers seem lower.) Compare brands to find the least added sugar.
Nothing in Life is Free
Ironically, the products that most loudly scream their "healthy" qualities are sometimes the worst offenders. Sugar free products often compensate with much higher fat, and vice versa. Read the label's facts, not its propaganda.
Quality Trumps Quantity
One of the reasons some people think they hate fresh vegetables is because our stores are often filled with bland, flavorless produce. A lot of fruits and vegetables are picked before they're ripe because they have to be tough enough to survive a 2000 mile journey from farm to factory to market. When possible, seek out farmer's markets and local food co-ops for the freshest, tastiest vegetables and fruit. Also, most major grocery stores now offer a large variety of organic produce, which many people find superior in taste to the factory farmed alternative.
Flavor Trumps Quantity
As a rule, the more flavorful a food is, the less we need to eat to be satisfied. So put down that "chocolaty flavored" king-sized candy bar and instead savor a small piece of 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Instead of binging on that half gallon of cheap "strawberryish" ice cream try a small bowl of a rich, gourmet ice cream like Ben and Jerry's or Godiva. Instead of burying your dinner in American cheese try a sharp flavored cheese like feta or bleu - you'll use less and enjoy more.
Look Good, and Have Great Taste
Experiment with enhancing the flavors of food instead of smothering them in sauces and dressings. Garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs, chili peppers - all of them add a sharp spark of flavor that complement fresh food without adding fat and sugar. Add flavors in steps, tasting as you go. You might be surprised how little it takes to make great food even better.
It's OK to Stair
Looks for little ways to not save steps: take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further out in the lot, join your kids on the playground instead of just watching, rent a kayak and spend the morning exploring the lake instead of just sitting beside it. Not only do all these things give you a hundred little workouts but they help make the idea of physical activity a part of your everyday life, not a burden or punishment.
Fun Your Way Thin
Who said exercise has to be work? Take salsa lessons, join the softball team at work, kick the soccer ball around with kids, ask a friend to teach you how to play basketball (or teach a friend how to play), try indoor rock climbing, martial arts, racquetball, or tennis. Think of the top 20 ways people have fun - almost none of them involve sitting, so get up and enjoy yourself.
Work the Outside
Simple rule for the grocery store: stay on the outside ailse. Fruits, vegetables, fresh seafood and meat, deli - they're all located around the outer edge of the store. In the aisles lurk the processed food, chock full of sugar and salt and things you can't pronounce. Try to fill the cart with food that looks just like it did at the farm. The great thing about fresh tomatoes is that they only contain one ingredient: tomatoes.
Finally, Go to the Bar
Need a quick meal? Many large grocery stores have a well stocked, reasonably priced salad bar. Unlike fast food salad bars the grocery store version is usually chock full of fresh goodness - just be careful when selecting the dressing. A heaping mound of spinach, veggies, and lean turkey loses its healthy credibility when it's drowning in ranch dressing.
You'll find your own tricks and tips, big and small. The important thing is to focus on your successes, not your failures. Every healthy choice you make is a victory, and moves you one step closer to a healthier, happy lifestyle.
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