Maintaining good health requires constant effort and can be tiring, which is why many people aren’t willing to put in the work. But, a life lived in good health is far more enjoyable than one lived in poor health. I’ve found that five actions in particular contribute to my overall wellbeing: eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising, and making time for myself. In the perfect version of my life, I would complete each of these five items every day. But, in reality, I rarely check all the boxes on my list of healthy actions in a single day.
On occasion, I eat pizza. Sometimes, the day closes and I haven’t consumed an adequate amount of water. Sometimes, I go to bed at a ridiculous hour. Now that the gym is closed (for the sake of social-distancing), I don’t exercise as much as I once did. Sometimes, I am so busy that I go too long without making time for myself. Maintaining good health is an intricate operation, and I’ve been able to maintain it because I make, more often than not, an honest effort within these five categories. All that effort adds up to measurable results.
I have been constantly acquiring new knowledge over the years about what it means to eat well, but it wasn’t until I completed the Whole30 program for the first time that I really knew what this meant. The basic premise of the program is to cut out certain types of foods—grains, added sugar, alcohol, dairy, and legumes—for 30 days to purge impurities from your body. At the end of the program, you are free to add the foods you’ve been abstaining from back into your system (gradually and at your own discretion). The point is to discover which foods are detrimental to your health. I knew that I had a low tolerance for grains, but I wasn’t aware of the damage sugar was wreaking on my body until my Whole30 journey. I also didn’t know that sugar is used unnecessarily as an ingredient in everything—at least in the U.S. Please read your nutrition labels! Even though I make exceptions for special occasions, the principles of the Whole30 program guide my everyday eating habits (no grains, added sugar, alcohol, dairy, or legumes).
While I recommend that everyone try Whole30 at least once, you don’t have to make a drastic commitment in order to jumpstart healthier eating habits. Comb through the Whole30 rules for inspirational bits of information. Shop on the outer perimeter of the supermarket where the refrigerated items are located. Don’t keep anything you know to be unhealthy (examples: soda, chips and sweets) in the house. If you have to buy juice, it should be real fruit juice. Try mixing it with water, and be conscious of how much you are drinking. Better health begins with knowing exactly what you are consuming.
Drinking Enough Water
I drink tap water that has been filtered through a Brita and chilled. Sometimes, I put fruit in it, but I also enjoy it unflavored from the pitcher. I’m also very fond of sparkling water. Perrier, LaCroix, Trader Joe’s, and Spindrift (which counts as my daily dessert) are my go-to brands.
It is easy for me to stay hydrated, not only because I have a variety of water to choose from, but because I own two reliable BPA-free water bottles. I only buy overpriced bottled water in the street if it is an absolute emergency. I’d rather save my money and transport water from home. If I need my water to stay cool for a prolonged period of time and don’t mind carrying the extra weight of the container, I opt for my 25 oz. S’well bottle. It keeps liquids cold or hot for many hours.
When I prefer a lightweight option, I bring my 32 oz. Nalgene bottle. The Nalgene doesn’t have insulation capabilities, so I have a small window of opportunity to consume the water before it reaches room temperature. But, it’s practically weightless when empty. If you are going on a journey where water isn’t readily available, don’t forget to bring it with you. Dehydration is dangerous, but it can be prevented.
The amount of water that one should drink varies from person to person and is influenced by a number of factors, such as weight and physical activity. While it is possible to drink too much, this has never been a personal concern of mine. I suspect that most people have a problem with not drinking enough rather than a problem with overhydrating. I aim for 8 cups of Brita-filtered water a day, but that goal doesn’t include sparkling water or other liquids. Thus, my water intake is actually a bit higher, especially on workout days.
Getting Enough Sleep
I often struggle with going to bed at a decent time. After our daily dinners, I usually rest on the sofa before carrying on with the rest of the evening chores. But, sometimes this ‘break’ extends into hours of the night. This means that I start completing my unfinished work at a time when I should be sleeping. After discussing my plight with my friends, we concluded the following: Don’t sit down; if you sit down, you’re in trouble. Now that I’ve realized that taking a break after dinner leads me down a sleepless path, I try to reserve my downtime until after I’ve gotten ready for bed. You won’t be able to solve the problem of not getting enough sleep unless you’ve uncovered the root of the issue. If you can relate to this problem, I suggest that you strategize (perhaps with friends) for ways in which you can do better.
Sometimes, I’m really diligent about exercising, and sometimes, I’m not. I hired a personal trainer a few years ago, and even when I am the least motivated to exercise, she remains a motivational constant in my life. At the moment, we are conducting our training sessions online, which has worked out brilliantly. If you know that you will not exercise unless someone motivates you, perhaps you should hire a trainer. If you aren’t ready to do that, there are plenty of resources available for free on YouTube. While going for a daily walk has its health benefits, it probably won’t get your heart rate up. However, it’s definitely a good place to start.
Making Time for Yourself
Do you ever feel like you do so much for other people, that you don’t have any energy left to do something nice for yourself? When I feel like this, I don’t feel whole. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple for me. I feel recharged when I do something for myself, even something as simple as reading or getting my nails done. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. My dear, you are worth the effort.