Health Coach Elizabeth Finch gives her top tips for getting healthy and staying healthy in 2017.
Don’t do it all at once
One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make is trying to make too many major changes all at once and then not giving anything time to “stick” before they get frustrated and give up. People tend to do better when they implement a couple of changes and let those really start to stick and become long-term habits before they add new ones.
Honestly, the most important habits that everyone should strive to do on a daily basis are really the most simple but the most important: drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day, including fresh produce in every meal and snack (spinach with eggs or in a smoothie, berries in oatmeal, onions and peppers on tacos, tomato and sprouts on a sandwich), and making sure to eat a balanced and healthy breakfast, not skipping breakfast all together or substituting with coffee only.
Even if it’s just a Greek yogurt with berries on top or a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, breakfast is so important and helps to balance your blood sugar for the day. It still surprises me how many people skip breakfast regularly! I always say the easiest thing to do is the easiest thing not to do. They seem like such simple things to do, and they are! But you’ve got to be willing to do them every day, consistently and indefinitely.
How to avoid the pitfalls
Again, I believe people get discouraged when they try to make too many drastic changes at once. The idea is to make healthy, long-term lifestyle habits, not go on a “diet.” You should never feel restricted or deprived. When you make healthy food choices (like cooking more veggies and lean proteins, choosing high-fiber carbohydrates such as whole grains and fresh fruit, and eating good fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados) you should actually have more energy and be more satisfied, not less. It truly does feel better in your body to eat healthy and eat regular meals and snacks. Skipping meals and restricting food makes you feel low energy, hungry and light headed and can contribute to overeating.
Healthy treats to get your sweet fix
I love quality dark chocolate and keep it with me all the time. Ask anyone who knows me! Even when I travel, I carry my favorite dark chocolate truffles with me (the Darkest Cacao Truffles from Living Raw). A few bites of good dark chocolate is usually all I need to satisfy my sweet tooth. Dates are also a great, natural option. A medjool date, pit removed, and stuffed with about 1/2 tablespoon of almond butter and a sprinkle of sea salt is an insanely delicious after dinner treat.
My recommendation for sweets is to allow yourself a little every day, nothing should ever be off limits, but choose the good stuff, nothing processed. Dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao) is actually very minimally processed and isn’t that high in sugar. Another favorite sweet treat at our house is my Strawberry Dream “Nice” Cream. It’s so easy to make and will fool anyone! My Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites are also pretty amazing. (Visit Elizabeth-Finch.com for recipes.)
How to be your best and happiest you
I’ve learned that the choices I make around my health create a big circle. Meaning that when I make healthy choices most of the time, I want to keep making healthy choices because I feel so great. I call it the 90/10 rule: 90% of the time I make super healthy choices; 10% of the time I let go and have a turkey burger and sweet potato fries, maybe a milkshake. But when I make unhealthy choices often, I find myself wanting to make even more unhealthy choices. A lot of it is habit, but our bodies also crave more unhealthy food the more we eat it, which is a hormonal thing.
I’ve also learned that my overall health and happiness has so much more to do with just the foods I eat. Rest is so crucial to our overall health, and when we don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, the hormonal response in our bodies causes us to feel hungrier, to be less satisfied no matter how much we eat, and to store more fat than we normally would. I am a huge proponent of at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and I have seen that it’s hard for people to lose weight and maintain it if they aren’t getting that. You’re truly fighting a losing battle, and it has nothing to do with willpower — it’s physiological at that point. It’s the same with unmanaged stress; when your stress hormone, cortisol, stays high all the time, it’s almost impossible to lose weight. I’m also a huge proponent of daily meditation, or deep breathing, to manage stress. Deep breathing is the one thing that you can do anywhere, for free, that signals to your body that you’re safe, and the stress hormones can come back to normal levels. Then, your body is able to start functioning normally again.