A healthy lifestyle is the key to not only enjoying your life every day but also living a long time and living well. Many people go through life without much thought as to how they live: the things that they eat to nourish their bodies, the things that they do to keep themselves physically fit and mobile, and the things that they think and say to keep their mental state and their self-image in a healthy place.
Healthy self-care does not refer only to luxurious bubble baths and face masks (though these are definitely fun!) but also ensuring that your mental state and health are maintained by taking meds if you need to or visiting a healthcare professional, taking time to rest and setting healthy boundaries as well as positive self-talk and reinforcement.
Once you have all of these aspects in place, you’ll need to maintain them in the long-term. This can be the most daunting part of building a healthy lifestyle because changes in habit are very difficult to make and hold onto. Let’s take a look at some tips for doing just that!
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Maintaining Healthy Eating
Oh, how we love that chocolate cake, that ice cream, that glass of Coke, those hot, greasy, delicious fries. But all the refined sugar! All the fats! All the carbohydrates! This is how so many people are tempted to become a part of a very toxic diet culture: the belief that we have to completely cut out any foods deemed “bad” or “unhealthy,” usually in pursuit of a body that fits into the ideals of society. There are no bad foods, only bad habits. Yes, if all you consume is fries, soda, cake, and ice cream, your body will be an unhappy one. Not because you are bad or because the food is bad, but because your body simply isn’t getting the fuel that it needs to function. Your body needs the recommended daily amount of fruit, veg, meats/ fish/ poultry (plant protein if you are a vegan or vegetarian), and other foods to function optimally. A diet that restricts your consumption of food to only these things and only smaller than necessary amounts of these things is not sustainable in the long term.
It can be challenging to change our food habits, but it is also rewarding. If you think you need help, visit a medical professional to find out exactly how much of what your body needs. Provide it with that, and it will work as it is meant to. Once you have provided yourself with the necessary nutrition, say yes to that piece of cake! Enjoy those delicious fries and savor their saltiness. Remember, everything in moderation! Forcing yourself to stop eating things you love is unhealthy and can lead to eating disorders which are the least sustainable way to consume and relate to food. Finding exciting new recipes is another way to add long-term sustainability to your relationship with food. If you’re constantly changing things up, you won’t get bored with your meals!
Maintaining Healthy Movement
Exercise is the bane of many people’s lives, but it doesn’t have to be! We don’t live in the 80s’ anymore: you don’t have to don spandex and join an aerobics class to stay fit or look like you’re staying fit. There are so many different forms of movement out there that there is something to suit everyone’s taste. If you hate going to the gym, trying that as your form of exercise isn’t sustainable: who wants to force themselves to do something they hate, day in and day out? If you’ve never liked dancing, joining a dance class to get your movement in every day is not going to work out. Many forms of exercise exist: from high-intensity workouts with weights to cycling coaching online to in-person and online dance classes (ballet, modern, hip-hop, salsa, even Zumba), yoga, and pilates. If you really look, you’re sure to find something that seems like “you!”
If you are just starting out on your fitness journey, it is impractical to try to do too much too often. Overreaching can often lead to feelings of disappointment or worthlessness when you are unable to reach the unattainable goals that you have set for yourself. A realistic approach is a sustainable one. Yes, it will be uncomfortable and challenging in some ways to start with, but that’s only natural. If you need to start small and work up to your daily goal, then do so. Once you’ve found what you like to do and found your rhythm in it, you can gradually increase your workout length or intensity to get to where you feel you should be. Remember, this journey is about you, not comparing yourself to the journeys of others.
Maintaining Healthy Self-Care
Your mental state and mental health affect everything else in your life, so it is key to look after yourself. If your cup is not full, how can you pour into the lives of others, your work, or your passions? It is not sustainable to forget to take your medications and then try to catch up; in fact, it is very harmful. It is not sustainable to have a half-hour nap every weekend and call that “rest.” It is not sustainable to keep all your feelings bottled up inside. Taking responsibility for yourself and your needs is its own form of self-care. To keep your life and mental state running smoothly, you always need to be sure that you get enough sleep, enough fresh air, enough downtime, that you take care of your body’s needs, and that you maintain healthy relationships and boundaries. It can be quite a balancing act, but the key to sustaining it long-term is doing what you need to do day by day.
Maintaining your healthy lifestyle in the long term can be daunting to start off with, but really it is all about taking baby steps every day. Lots of small things add up to a healthy lifestyle: keep taking those steps!