10 habits of healthy people

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Developing healthy habits in your everyday life is the best way to reach and maintain your ideal weight. The secret to long-lasting weight loss is to make positive changes that you can continue to follow, giving you more energy and greater overall health as well as keeping you looking your best.

Here are some of the habits of slim, healthy peopleÖ

Habit one: Be active

Losing weight is, in theory, a very simple equation. Burn more calories than you eat, and you will lose weight. The reason many people find their weight creeping up is simply that they donít get in enough physical activity in their daily routine. To lose weight, and to maintain good general health, you should be doing 30-45 minutes of exercise, 3-5 times a week. Getting into the habit of being more active is a sure way to burn more calories and get your metabolism moving, helping you to burn fat more efficiently.

It doesnít matter what you do- just start by doing anything that gets you moving more. If the idea of exercise scares you, start small. You should be getting in at least 10,000 steps each day- so buy a pedometer and see how many you are actually reaching. Try to get your step count up by making small lifestyle changes, like walking instead of driving where you can, or taking the stairs rather than the lift. Getting up to 10,000 steps will get you prepared to take on more exercise as your strength and fitness improves.

If you struggle to get in enough exercise because you donít enjoy it or donít have time, think of ways to make it fun and to fit it into your everyday routine. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee for example, arrange to go for a walk together. If you really make a commitment to yourself to prioritise exercise, you will find time for it. For some ideas, check out this article.

Habit two: Eat more fruit and vegetables

You need to eat at least five serves of fruit and vegetables each day to maintain good health and get all the vitamins and nutrients you need, with one serve equalling about 80 grams. Eating more fruits and vegetables will also make you eat less of higher calorie foods, so itís a good idea to change the ratio of foods in each meal to favour your greens.

For example, if youíre making a pasta dish, make the sauce the focus and load it up with lots of vegetables that will add volume to your meal without lots of extra calories. Of if youíre having a salad, halve the amount of meat you would normally put in and try to choose a few different vegetables to take its place. If youíre struggling to get in your five serves each day, check out this article for some easy ways to fit in more fruit and veg.

Habit three: Check your portions

Most of us eat much larger portions than we really need. A good way to enjoy food while staying within your calorie limit is to simply reduce your serving sizes. Start by gradually reducing your portion sizes over a couple of weeks to get used to eating less. Use smaller plates, or serve up only half of your meal at a time. Then eat slowly and go back for more only if youíre still hungry after 20 minutes.

Another good way to reduce your portion sizes is to change the ratio of food on your plate. Increase the portion of vegetables, and make that the focus of your meal rather than the meat, rice or pasta. That way you can still feel like you are eating a large meal, while lowering the amount of calories you are consuming.

Habit four: Eat slowly

It takes your body 20 minutes to register fullness, so eating your meal slowly is a great way to stop yourself from eating more than you really need. Always sit down to eat and try to avoid other distractions, like television, music or reading. Focus on your eating and enjoy the taste- if you are aware of each bite, youíll be more in control of how much you are consuming.

Habit five: Eat breakfast

Itís really important to get into the habit of eating a healthy breakfast every day. Skipping meals not only encourages you to eat more for the rest of the day, it can also slow down your metabolism, as your body thinks it is starving. So to lose weight, you need to be eating small meals regularly- and breakfast is perhaps the most important one.

Starting your day out with a healthy breakfast keeps you feeling energised throughout the morning, and sets the tone for healthy eating for the rest of the day. Studies have suggested that people who eat breakfast eat fewer overall calories in a day than those who skip their morning meal. So start the day with a nutritious breakfast, like oatmeal and low-fat yogurt, or a boiled egg with a slice of whole-grain toast. Youíll feel better and be more likely to make better choices later on.

Habit six: Outsmart restaurants

Try to cook healthy meals at home most of the time rather than going out for meals, so that youíre more in control of what you are eating. However, there will of course be occasions when you have to eat out, and you need a strategy to stop those meals from sabotaging your weight loss efforts. The trouble with restaurant meals is that they most often serve much larger portions than the recommended serving size, and they use lots of oil and salt and other ingredients that make our food taste nice, but not too diet-friendly.

The trick is just to be aware of those issues, and make smart choices to keep your meal as healthy as you can. Some ideas are:

  • Order an entrťe-sized meal as your main course- this will be closer to the portion size you should be eating.
  • If you know youíll want dessert, avoid the bread basket before the meal, and vice versa- or order a dessert that you can share with one or two other people.
  • Skip the chips that come on the side and ask for steamed vegetables or a salad instead.
  • If youíre eating salad, ask for the dressing on the side and use sparingly.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit the glasses of alcohol you consume.
  • Try a vegetarian meal, or an Asian-style dish with fish, rice and vegetables.
  • Choose baked or grilled food rather than fried where possible.

Habit seven: Limit your alcohol intake

For many people, you can lose a considerable amount of weight simply by cutting down on the amount of alcohol you consume each week. The occasional indulgence is okay, but itís important to remember that alcohol is very high in Ďempty caloriesí- that is, calories that give you no nutritional value, but add significantly to your total calorie count.

So if you automatically reach for a beer when you walk in the door after work, it would be smart to rethink how much you are drinking. Unwind with a glass of mineral water with lemon, and keep your drinking limited to the weekends. Try not drinking for a week or two as an experiment- youíll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.

Habit eight: Drink lots of water

Many people underestimate the importance of water for weight loss. Water keeps your body functioning properly, and supports your metabolic function, so drinking plenty of water can help you to burn calories more efficiently. As well as that, dehydration can often be translated in your head as hunger, so not drinking enough water can actually make you eat more. So itís important that you get in your two litres of water each day to feel full, energised and in control of your weight.

Itís easier than you think to get in enough water. Replace most of your regular beverages with water and youíll fit in three to six of your eight glasses in just with your meals. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle with you and sipping on it throughout the day. If you get bored of the taste, you can give it a bit of flavour by adding a slice of lemon, or by drinking tea.

Habit nine: Eat regularly

The bodyís immediate reaction to what it perceives as starvation is to slow down your metabolism and store more fat. Thatís why itís important to eat small, healthy meals at regular intervals. People who are overweight tend to eat fewer meals, but to eat more calories at the meals they do have. This causes a surge of insulin in the body, which promotes fat retention. So aim for five small meals rather than two or three big ones, and spread them evenly throughout the day.

Habit ten: Get enough sleep

When you donít get enough sleep, your mind and body both suffer. Studies have suggested that getting a good nightís sleep every night can help to support your weight loss goals by boosting your metabolism, reducing cravings and giving you more energy to exercise. In addition, it can help to improve your memory, mood, cardiovascular health, and immune system. So aim to get your eight hours each night and youíll notice a real difference to your overall health.

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