Your Best Year Yet: 7 Life-Changing Tips

Hows 2016 treating you so far? Amazingly, I hope! To be honest, the year has already had its challenges for me, but overall I have to say I’m hopeful and excited to experience the rest in good spirits. If you want this year to be a truly epic one, here are a few ways to get and keep things moving in the right direction.

1. Quit Soda

Seriously, today. If you’re a soda drinker, just doing this one thing will change your life, health and love handles. Sure, it will probably suck for the first few days or weeks, but remember: anything worth having (like a sexy life and body) requires real effort, patience and sacrifice. Certainly, I don’t need to remind anyone that regularly drinking soda is linked to the likes of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver damage, osteoporosis, and acid reflux…among other issues. But since I don’t know what will motivate you most to quit soda –health perks or health risks–hey, I’m throwing that in there. 😉

2. Apply Intermittent Fasting

The simple act of reducing your eating “window” to 8-10 hours a day does wonders for fat loss, insulin resistance, prevention of several chronic diseases, optimized metabolic function, and overall health. Regularly applying intermittent fasting allows the digestive system a much-needed break, and encourages the body to go to its fat stores for energy instead of sugar/glucose. To begin intermittent fasting, simply eat breakfast later, or dinner earlier; then skip either breakfast or dinner as you expand your fasting window. The idea is not to eat less calories, but to eat your daily calories within a less hours. Keep in mind that the first few days or weeks can be particularly challenging, since the body is used to getting a fresh supply of glucose at particular times of the day. Stretching out your fasting window does get easier with time, however, and many people even find their cravings for sugars and carbs diminish as the body shifts to burning stored fat.

3. Sleep More

While some people can legitimately function healthily on less sleep (lucky bastards), no one is immune to getting adequate rest. By now, you probably have a good idea of what “adequate rest” means for you, and whether or not you’ve been getting it. Most people are at their best when getting between 6-8 hours of sleep; often times closer to the 8-hour mark. I wish I could truthfully tell you that skimping on sleep isn’t a big deal, but the facts are far from that. Sleep deprivation impacts so many aspects of your health, and it intricately tied to increases risk of many chronic diseases, disturbed hormone levels, high blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Not to mention, if a goal of yours is to lose weight and/or lose fat, getting enough (quality) sleep is absolutely essential. Sleep deprivation decreases production of the fat-regulation hormone leptin, while increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin, which easily results in overeating and weight gain. Consider how you may be able to incorporate more shut-eye into your routine, even if it means cutting your late-night Netflix marathons a little short.

4. Eat More Healthy Fats & Fiber

If you’ve come across my other posts about ditching our fears of eating fat, you know oh-so-well how strongly I feel about eating quality fats. Reducing intake of processed foods, sugars and grains, and instead replacing them with fats from healthy sources (coconut, avocado, butter, nuts, high quality animal fats) will not only help with fat loss, but also with prevention of some of the most common chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And since our gut health is essential to our overall health, making sure we keep things moving along in there is a key part of maintaining a healthy digestive system. Aim for more fiber intake from quality sources like fresh vegetables, high-fiber fruits, nuts and seeds, flax, hemp, chia seeds, avocado, sprouts, and fermented vegetables; and not so much from grains.

5. Eat Quality Protein

Protein is essential as it’s a structural component of so many important functions in the body, but think quality over quantity on this one. No need to go crazy on chugging the protein drinks. If possible, skip the protein powders altogether and instead get your protein from good food sources such as organically raised meats, eggs, sardines, wild-caught salmon, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sprouts, beans and lentils. While the exact amount of daily protein consumption is much debated, most adults (not including pregnant or breastfeeding women) need about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (not total body mass). To calculate lean body mass, subtract your body fat from 100. For example, if you weight 140 lbs and have 20% body fat, then your lean body mass is 80. You’d then multiply that percentage (0.80) by your total weight (140), and come up with a lean body mass of 112 lbs. Last, multiply your lean body mass (112 lbs) by 0.5. In this particular example, a good daily protein quantity to shoot for would be 56g. Whew! I know; I totally hate math, too. Thanks for sticking with me there.

6. Intentionally Practice Gratitude

Did you know that stress-related problems may account for up to 70% of U.S. doctors’ cases? New research suggests that simply reducing stress and relaxing more could have a huge impact on rates of heart disease, cancer, and other health concerns. Taking just a few minutes to be intentionally grateful every day helps reduce both chronic and acute stress. Such a simple act goes a very long way! A great way to be more mindful about gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal and write 5-10 specific things you’re grateful for each day.

7. Meditate At Least 5 Minutes a Day

Meditation is another fantastic (and proven) stress-buster. If possible, start your day off at peace by meditating for a few minutes when you first wake up. This can be as simple as focusing on your breath coming and going, and maintaining awareness of any sensations within or around your body, letting go of any intrusive thoughts that would otherwise distract you from staying in that moment. You can also do this at any time throughout the day, even when you feel like you’re about to lose your s#*%. Especially before that… 🙂

I’d love to hear from YOU. Which of these tips have you tried in the past, and what effect did they have on your life? Which ones are you most looking forward to starting this year?

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