We all want to know how to be healthy, but it seems like such a lofty goal. Setting out to make healthy lifestyle changes can feel simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. I mean, where do you even start? Do you need to overhaul your entire life in one fell swoop? The answer, you may be happy to know, is: no. When it comes to adopting new healthy habits and making them stick, there are lots of little things you can do that will make a big difference in the long run (and not make you crazy in the process). Instead of trying to upgrade your health with a huge makeover, try these nine small, practically painless moves instead for long-lasting results.
1. Plate your meals backward.
People often pile on the carbs, then mosey on over to the protein, then top it all off with a meager scoop of vegetables in whatever space is left. Instead, go in reverse order, Abby Langer, R.D., owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, tells SELF: Fill half your plate with vegetables, then divide the remaining quarters between protein and a starch, ideally something made up of complex carbohydrates instead of refined ones, like brown rice.
Serving yourself this way helps ensure you’re getting your recommended daily servings of vegetables (at least 2 ½ cups, says the USDA), plus it increases your fiber intake and hydration levels thanks to vegetables’ water content.
2. Put your food away when you’re done serving yourself.
“Anyone will eat more if the food is staring at them,” Langer says. Always feel free to grab more if you’re truly hungry, but this way, you’ll know it’s because of a physical need for more food instead of pure convenience or temptation.
3. Drink a glass of water before each meal.
Drinking the amount of water you need each day is necessary for all of your body’s systems to function smoothly, but it will also keep you from overeating due to hunger, making it easier to take a more mindful approach to your meals, Langer says.
4. To double down on the mindfulness, chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing.
The “reasons you need to slow your roll when eating” list is about as long as your arm, Langer explains. Wolfing down food can lead to bloating because of the extra air you’re swallowing, that way-too-full feeling because you don’t give your body a chance to process satiety before you clean your plate, and completely missing out on how delicious the food actually is.
You can choose a number of chews to abide by per bite, like 20, or you can go for a less regimented approach, like making sure you’re swallowing naturally, not gulping hard to get down barely chewed mouthfuls.
5. Call food “healthy” and “less healthy” instead of “good” and “bad.”
“When people label food as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ it carries over into a judgment of themselves—if you eat ‘good’ food, you’re a good person, if you eat ‘bad’ food, you’ve been badly behaved,” Langer says. That couldn’t be further from the truth, so stop putting yourself in emotional timeout just because of what you eat.
“Truly, no foods are really bad and no foods are really good—some are healthier than others,” Langer says. Reframing your thinking like this will likely help you learn the art of indulging in moderation instead of bingeing on “bad” foods, plus it’s just a better way to treat yourself.
6. For every hour you spend sitting, get up and walk briskly for five minutes.
Sitting all day isn’t good for your butt or your heart. Physical activity is extremely important for your longevity, and it all adds up, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. Sometimes it can feel impossible to fit in a ton of exercise when you’re not used to it, but peppering movement throughout your day is much more doable.