30 New Habits, 1 New You

30 Habits 1 New You You hit the circuit regularly, brush your teeth twice a day, and put low-sodium items on your weekly grocery list. But if your goal is a lifetime of good health, you’ll need a few more tricks up your sleeve. We reached out to some of the healthiest individuals we know—top doctors, Olympic athletes, our very own Curves experts—and asked them to share their best daily habits. Here are 30 simple lifestyle changes to add to your repertoire. Adopt even a handful of them and your health will improve dramatically.
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1. Keep a regular sleep schedule.
Donna Arand, PhD, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center, in Dayton, goes to bed at 10 every night and wakes up every morning between 7 and 8. “This helps condition my circadian rhythms so I’m sleepy at the same time every day,” she says. “It allows me to get the full eight to nine hours of sleep I need each night.”
2. Sneak healthy fats into your diet.
Foods that contain unsaturated fats may actually help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, says JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. For a snack, she eats popcorn or a handful of nuts, both of which help her feel full and resist overeating.

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3. Focus when you eat.

By banning the TV, cell phone, and computer from her meals, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., a psychotherapist based in Sarasota, Florida, eats less. “Dining without distraction keeps me focused on my eating behaviors and helps me really taste my food,” says Koenig, author of Nice Girls Finish Fat. Being mindful at mealtime helped her gradually lose pounds and keep them off without dieting.

4. Don’t overschedule.
Koenig used to say yes to every request but soon found herself stressed and exhausted. Now she says, “Let me think about it and get back to you” before she commits to anything. “This not only gives me time to consider the request but also helps me feel more in control of my life,” Koenig says.
5. Keep snacks on hand.
To stave off hunger, Pamela Peeke, MD, always totes along a snack that has a balance of protein, fats, and carbs. “When you’re out and about, you tend to grab and go,” says Dr. Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women. “Those calories can add up and usually involve carbs that stimulate your appetite for more food.” Her favorite healthy snack? A mini PB&J sandwich made with multigrain crackers, organic peanut butter, and a dab of blueberry preserves.

6. Vary your activities.To avoid exercise plateaus, Dr. Peeke says, it’s important to introduce your body to new challenges. “I challenge myself by varying intensity, intervals, and workouts,” she says. Taking a new class, such as Curves Circuit with Zumba, is a perfect way to wake up your muscles and recharge your metabolism. “Even working out to new music and adding some running intervals to your daily walks can change things,” Dr. Peeke says. “It’s all about looking for healthy fun.”

7. Focus on what you can control.
“We’re always told that we should strike a balance,” says Diane Heavin, co-founder of Curves. “But only recently did I finally master this one! I’m more at peace than I’ve been in a long time, and I believe it’s because I’ve learned how crucial it is to concentrate on what I can control. My nature is to take on the responsibility for everything and everyone. That kind of self-pressure is not only damaging to others, who need to learn to do for themselves, but also takes a toll on your own body. So now instead of trying to fix everything, I listen more and spend my time dealing with what’s within my reach.”
8. Cut yourself slack.
“I think we are undeniably our worst critics,” says Heavin. “Tearing ourselves down and finding fault is counterproductive.” Each day she uses her gratitude journal and upbeat self-talk to help her focus on the positives in her life. In addition, she says, “I don’t put the demands on myself that I once did.”
9. Use a measuring tape, not just a scale.
Measuring your waistline can expose your risk of heart disease, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine. “If your waistline is larger than 35 inches, you’re in the metabolic-syndrome zone,” she says.

10. Plan to live healthfully.
Rather than let the day unfold, Katie Mitchell, director of exercise and research for Curves, makes plans to exercise and eat healthy snacks and meals. “I also share my plans with a friend so she can meet me for exercise and hold me accountable when I don’t show up,” she says.
11. Always choose the active route.

“This may mean choosing a running or walking trail with more hills, parking farther away from a destination, biking instead of driving, or simply taking a longer route to a co-worker’s desk,” Mitchell says.

12. Take a break from work.

Striking a balance between work and family is a priority for Nadia Rodman, RD, director of nutrition for Curves. “Even though I love my work, it can get stressful,” Rodman says. “When I am not at work, my e-mail on my phone is off. I need that break from work to enjoy life.”

13. Set short- and longterm goals.
When Kristin Armstrong, an elite cyclist and an arthritis sufferer, set her sights on winning Olympic gold, she knew she had to have intermediate goals to get her there. “If I didn’t have a plan from year to year, month to month, and day to day, I would never have achieved what I did,” says the gold medalist. “I woke up each and every day with a plan.”
14. Do physical activities you enjoy.
Picking recreational activities you truly enjoy makes exercise less tedious, which means you’ll be more apt to stick with it, Armstrong says. So on your off days, experiment with things like hiking, swimming, hitting golf balls at a driving range, or participating in the new Curves Circuit with Zumba class until you discover something fun that you want to do often. “Consistency is the key to living a healthy lifestyle,”says Armstrong, who discovered that exercise could be fun when she began doing triathlons.

15. “Tune out” for energy.
Sitting still and focusing on your breathing not only calms stress but also gives you more energy. “My mind is more focused, and I get everything on my to-do list completed much easier,” says Kathi Casey, a health and wellness coach who meditates every morning for 20 minutes. To start, find a relaxing spot, close your eyes, imagine a faraway place, take a few calming breaths, and just sit there for three minutes. If you stick with it, you’ll be able to gradually increase the length of your sessions.
Stay tuned for tomorrow…30 New Habits, 1 New You will continue with #16-30. 
Source: 30 New Habits, 1 New You by Winnie Yu, Curves magazine, Summer 2011. 

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Dan Endy says:

    good tips here. there's a girl in our church who teaches zumba. i've thought about it but that's as far as it went.