Practice Makes Healthy, Not Perfect
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Experts say it only takes 21 days to break a bad habit but 66 days to form a healthy one. Good health is no different—it is a choice. Building a new healthy lifestyle typically entails a series of conscious choices of how to manage your diet, your time and your activities.
Healthy Food Choices
Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician, Carolyn M. Terry, MD, encourages her patients to improve their diets by making healthy food choices most of the time. She suggests choosing to pack a lunch during the workweek rather than going out for lunch as a simple first step to build this healthy habit. “I often recommend packing a salad loaded with vegetables with lean protein mixed in,” says Dr. Terry. She also personally enjoys packing an avocado with a pinch of chili-lime seasoning on top for a tasty and filling midday snack.
Regarding healthy eating, “I’ve noticed that many of my male patients tend to skip meals,” says Dr. Terry. “To optimize their health, I strongly encourage them to start their day with breakfast, stopping to eat lunch and snacking on fruits and vegetables through the day.” This regimen is much healthier and well balanced as opposed to merely getting by with a cup of coffee in the morning and not eating until lunchtime or later.
Women in particular need to be cognizant of their daily calcium intake to protect their bone density. “For most premenopausal women, the goal is to consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily,” says Dr. Terry. “Postmenopausal women should aim to consume 1,200 mg per day. Since calcium is best absorbed through the food you eat, plan to eat calcium-rich meals and snacks throughout the day in order to meet your daily calcium requirements.” Dr. Terry encourages her female patients to familiarize themselves with both dairy and non-dairy food sources rich in calcium. She typically recommends taking a vitamin D3 supplement to promote calcium absorption and annually getting your vitamin D levels checked to ensure that you are within normal range.
In order to build a healthy lifestyle, you have to know what you are tangibly working towards or else you are more prone to lose motivation. A great place to start is taking the time to set realistic goals and sharing those goals with a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable.
When it comes to making exercise a priority in your goal setting, Dr. Terry recommends making physical activity convenient and easy in order to build a consistent workout routine. If possible, have workout equipment available at home so you have no excuse for not being able to work out even just for a few minutes a day. Dr. Terry’s favorite healthy habit is exercising most days of the week. “It feels great to complete my aerobic training first thing in the morning,” says Dr. Terry. “It helps give me the right mindset for the rest of the day.”
To adopt a healthy habit, it must be practically introduced into your lifestyle. Dr. Terry encourages her patients to adopt morning workouts like she does. Aim to complete a workout in the morning rather than in the evenings after a long day when you are more likely to make excuses to call it a night. “I find that many of my patients experience success in sticking to this fundamental habit for good health when it is accomplished first thing in the morning,” says Dr. Terry. “This is an especially good strategy for busy, working moms.”
The key is to not only strive to set aside dedicated time for exercise but to also make it a goal to be active and keep moving throughout the day. For example, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or purposefully parking further away to get a few extra steps in.
Practice Makes Healthy, Not Perfect
None of us is perfect, so why think we can establish healthy habits immediately or without setbacks? Once you begin practicing healthy habits, all sorts of factors in life can make it difficult to stick to those habits. Whether it's kids, work schedules, illness or traveling, life can throw a wrench in your healthy habit streak—but don’t be discouraged! Show yourself grace and remember that you are building a sustainable nutrition and exercise routine that will adapt to the ebb and flow of life.
For more information about Cooper Clinic, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 972.560.2667.