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#Goals. We all have them. And a healthy lifestyle maybe high on our list. But most of us lead busy, hectic lives. Work, chores and family obligations take up most of our time, and the idea of making major changes can seem overwhelming and unrealistic. But real change is possible by taking some small, easy steps that can make a big difference.
Keep healthy snacks close at hand
If the cookies and chips are the first thing you see when you open your cabinet, they’re probably going to be the first thing you grab when hunger strikes. Simply keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on your countertop and some carrot sticks in the fridge can go a long way toward helping you becoming a healthier eater. As for the highly-processed snack foods, make those hard-to-get. Or better yet, don’t buy them at all. You can allow yourself to indulge now and then when you’re out, but if the caloric temptations are simply not within reach, it will be easier to stay out of snacking trouble.
Go whole grain
Say no to white bread, white rice and other foods such as cereal and crackers made with refined grains. These are processed and stripped of fiber and important nutrients. Whole wheat breads, brown rice and other whole grains contain the fiber you need to stay full and satisfied longer. That’s why sticking to whole grains can go a long way toward preventing you from overeating or binging. Whole grains and healthy grain substitutes include:
- Brown rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- Whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers
- Wild rice
Don’t drink your calories
The rule of thumb when it comes to drinks is to always pay attention to nutritional labels. Soda, and even more healthful beverages such as smoothies, energy drinks and fruit juice can add lots of unwanted sugar and calories to your diet. A simple switch to flat or sparkling water can quickly and dramatically lower your calorie and sugar intake, and can even go a long way toward helping you maintain a healthy weight. If it’s caffeine you’re after, hold the milk and sugar. If you must, go for skim or fat-free milk. And never underestimate one of those fancy coffee drinks — they can be full of fat and sugar and highly caloric.
Create exercise opportunities throughout the day
Let’s face it. Sometimes we’re just too busy to get to the gym. With the travel time there and back plus an hour or more of exercising, a workout can take a big chunk out of your day. But if you add more activity to your regular schedule, getting exercise will become easier and feel effortless. Walking is one of the best exercises we can do. Every step counts and they can add up fast. Adding a walk here and there throughout the day can really be the difference between a sedentary lifestyle and one that’s more active. If you live in a pedestrian-friendly town with sidewalks, walk whenever time and weather permits. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise1. Walking or biking to work a few times a week would be ideal. If you live in a rural or suburban area, try parking as far away from your destination as you can and whenever possible, forgo the elevator and take the stairs instead.
Make sleep a priority
The hustle and bustle of modern life seems to have left little time for a good night’s sleep. But getting enough rest is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. Practicing good sleep hygiene means trying to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day plus or minus 20 minutes2, avoiding caffeine and screen time close to bedtime, and listening to your body’s cues about when you need more rest. And don’t feel guilty about taking that nap. Although naps have gotten a bad rap, you shouldn’t feel unproductive and lazy for needing one. In fact, naps are a great way to recharge so you can be more productive. Naps can also lower stress, boost creativity, help with memory and improve your overall mood3.
Say ‘no’ more often
Do you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do in order to please others? Are there people in your life that always seem to lead you to act against your better judgement? The ability to set boundaries for yourself is an important key to a healthy lifestyle. Always listen to yourself and follow your own gut. Having fun, breaking your routine or doing something seemingly out of character can enhance your quality of life. But if you feel pressured into something and a voice inside your head tells you no, that’s a good sign you should listen up and do what’s right for you.
Look out for #1
The little things you do for yourself can have a big impact on your overall health and well-being. In order to maintain your health, you have to be able to tend to your own needs. Making yourself a priority and finding enough “me time” on a regular basis are key components of a healthy lifestyle. Treat yourself to something that makes you feel good or splurge on a spa treatment when you need to destress. Bottom line: only you can know best what you need to stay healthy.
Everything in moderation, including sticking to a healthy lifestyle
We’re only human, and if you set the bar too high, you’ll set yourself up for failure. Remember, the whole point of achieving a healthy lifestyle is to live better — not to feel like you’re always under pressure or deprived of the things you love. Lazy days without exercise, a slice of your favorite cake and staying out too late with good friends are some of the many things that make life worth living and contribute to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
1Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018. Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
2“Sleep Hygiene Tips,” American Sleep Association. Retrieved from https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/.
3“Health Benefits of Napping,” reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD, 6/16/18. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-of-napping.
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