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Nine Small Steps Toward Better Health

Avoid Setting Unrealistic Goals

This time of year it seems everyone is trying to shape up and slim down. Unfortunately, most of us lose this battle. With renewed enthusiasm (often from the realization that the amazing outfit we purchased for last year’s holiday festivities no longer fits) we set optimistic goals that are far too aggressive and unrealistic. One of the secrets to success is to keep it real by setting smaller, more achievable goals.  As each goal is reached we then set new achievable goals.  In this way we are more likely to continue working toward our ultimate destination.  Always remember that the little things add up.  

1) Don’t let yourself get really hungry.  When you are really hungry you're likely to reach for a quick and easy fix - which is usually an unhealthy choice. Worse, you will likely eat more than you otherwise would.  Often this happens when you wait too long between meals. The easiest way to avoid the hunger trap is to plan on having two or three healthy snacks on hand (fruit, veggies, nuts) every day.

2) Take a walk. Most of us drive almost everywhere we go. I chuckle watching my neighbour drive 5 blocks (due to 1 way streets) rather than walking to our neighborhood coffee shop at the end of our block. Driving has become second nature to many with no thought given to it. If you can, choose to walk any trip that takes less than ½ an hour and (weather permitting) bike any trip that takes between ½ and 1 hour.  The first few trips will seem like a chore but soon not taking the car will be your new normal. Work walking into longer trips - park in the farthest spot from the grocery store or mall; get off the elevator one or two floors before you need to and walk the rest, or just choose the stairs instead.

3) Respect the bean. From a nutritional standpoint, regular brewed coffee (drip, or pod) has virtually no fats, carbohydrates, or cholesterol, and only trace amounts of sodium (primarily from the water used to brew the coffee).  With the rise of barista houses and coffee chains the variety of coffee drinks has exploded and many 'coffee' drinkers are addicted to these Coolies, Iced, Frappes, Cappuccinos, Mochas, Espressos and every combination thereof. While they are tasty, the flavours, creams, sugars, fats and other sundries have moved our virtually calorie free cup ‘o Joe  to a (yes this is real) 990 calorie drink with 47g fat, 29g saturated fat, 141g carbs, and 130g sugar. IN ONE CUP! So sticking to a simple cup of coffee can make a big impact.  Replace your cream with milk or (even better) almond or coconut milk, and add stevia instead of sugar. Simple low calorie caffeine to wake you up.

4) Brown bag your lunch.  Often take out, cafeteria or restaurant lunches are high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. Making your own lunches allows you to control your portion size and nutrition. Don't forget to pack those healthy mid-morning and afternoon snacks to stave off hunger and keep you energized.  

5) Ditch flavoured yogurts. We know yogurt (in general) is a healthy food high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Some brands even have probiotics. So manufacturers offer this healthy snack in literally dozens of flavours; sweet, tart, rich and savory. Most flavours are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, and colours. Stick instead to plain unflavoured white (colour-free) yogurt and add your own healthy flavours (berries, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, citrus fruits, etc.).

6) Stop buying “Low” & “No” foods. Here’s the con. Packages with “Fat-Fee” on the label sell more and because it's fat-free people think it’s healthier so they use more. A marketer’s dream. Unfortunately, in most cases when they remove something to make a calorie, fat or sodium claim, they replace it with something worse. Read the label extra carefully to see what they are using to make it taste good and what affect it has on nutrition. In my case I found regular tortilla chips had less sodium, fat and calories than the advertised "healthy choice” which was 50% more expensive.

7) Make mini workouts part of your life. Face it, we are lazy. Given the option, most of us will sit down to do something. This leads to lethargy and weight gain. Instead, try adding a little exercise to everyday tasks. I like exercising my calves while I pump gas and standing up and moving while I talk on the phone. I am looking into getting a sit/stand desk so I can stand and move while working (hint: it gets creative juices flowing). Instead of lounging on the couch, get active during your favourite TV shows. Try doing a mini workout each commercial break by walking up and down the stairs or simply stand/sit, stand/sit until your show comes back on. Exercising every commercial on a 3 hour TV night can burn over 350 calories a day, or 30 pounds each year!

8) Stop drinking empty calories. Bought juice, soda, flavoured and enhanced waters may have some vitamins and minerals but for the most part they are sugar and or chemical-laden. Instead make your drinks work for you. Start with pure clean water (not fancy bottled stuff). Either make green tea (using just green tea) or add some Liquid Greens Chlorophyll and enjoy. Both will give your water a flavour boost and at the same time give you calorie-free energy and appetite reduction!  

9) Sleep well. We live in a fast paced, can’t fit everything you need to do in a day world. This leaves most of us chronically sleep deprived. The worst part (beyond being tired) is that when you're sleep-deprived, your body produces more stress hormones, which wreak havoc on your adrenal and immune systems and increase your appetite the next day. If you're having trouble sleeping, consider practicing meditation, yoga or deep breathing before going to bed. Also ditch the electronics. Keep your cell phone in another room, not at your bedside and keep the tablet, laptop and TV off for at least 2 hours before you go to bed.

Start your health quest with these 9 small steps. Give yourself a break if you don’t hit all 9 at once but try to get there. Soon you see small benefits (energy, endurance, slimming, etc). Each success will help push you to your next goal. Kick-starting your health cycle will better enable you to enjoy this journey called Life!