Healthy Habits for Summer

Summer HealthIt’s early June, but it already feels like summer is HERE. With the warmer weather, and flowers in bloom, try to think of this as a time for you to create healthy changes!

So we’ve put together a few ideas to get ready for summer sun, the beach and feeling great.

Drink water.
If you ever feel slightly tired or sluggish, it’s always a good idea to consider how much water you’ve drank lately. Even if you make great choices in every other aspect of your health, if you neglect water intake, your body may not feel tip top.

The old one-size-fits-all rule was to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, the new thinking is that you should drink half your body weight in ounces per day to stay adequately hydrated. (So if you weigh 150 pounds, you would drink 75 ounces of water each day—or about nine glasses.) Doing some rigorous exercise? Increase your water intake. A reusable water bottle by your side can be a great reminder to sip water.

Get some exercise.
Exercise alone doesn’t promote weight loss, but it’s a key component to a fit body. Setting goals and doing physical activities you enjoy is a good start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days.

That might sound like a lot, but when broken out over seven days, you could exercise just 30 minutes on five days. If you are pressed for time, it’s also OK to split up your daily exercise goal into 10-minute chunks. Easy muscle-strengthening ideas include push-ups, squats and sit-ups. Still no time? Doing 15 of each a day is better than nothing and only takes about 5 minutes.

Even if you fall short, aim to have no days with zero activity. Even a short walk is better than a completely sedentary day.

Eat your way to a healthy body.
Being unprepared makes it all too easy to eat foods close at hand rather than healthy foods. A little planning, shopping and chopping will help you lose or maintain a healthy weight and move you toward a healthier diet. Chop vegetables in advance and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Plan and bring healthy snacks for work that keep you well away from the vending machine.

Use the MyPlate method to design meals. The four quarters of your plate should be divided between fruits, vegetables, protein and grains.

Easy “wins” for your eating plan might be choosing a black-bean burger over regular beef or skipping the cheese on a salad or sandwich. If you enjoy salads, be mindful of the dressing. Heavy, creamy options like ranch or blue cheese can be swapped for a balsamic or Italian vinaigrette. On their own these changes seem small, but weekly they add up to big potential weight loss.

Another tip—Try to avoid extra calories from sugary beverages, such as sodas and juices. Read the labels—sometimes even beverages that are labeled as healthy can contain a lot of sugar! Rather, make your own smoothies, containing healthy vegetables, fruits (maybe frozen) and plain yogurt.

Sleep well.
A lack of sleep increases the levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreases levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin. So not enough sleep could lead to overeating and weight gain. When you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep, your body feels more balanced and that will help you to snack less, make better food choices and have fewer cravings. What else does a lack of sleep do? It makes you crave more carbs!

Four sleep culprits:

  • Smartphone use. Lying in bed with the blue light from your smartphone screen stimulates the brain and may slow the release of the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. The result? It’s difficult to fall asleep! Even though many phones now have a “night mode” feature to filter out blue light, the act of engaging with your phone right before bed may still be disruptive to your sleep.
  • Stimulants like coffee, alcohol and food— alcohol especially, because it can make you snore and wakes you.
  • An environment that’s either too hot or too cold.
  • And lastly, a no-brainer—stress.

Be mindful, reduce stress.
Try adding meditation practice into your daily routine. It’s easy to get lost each day rushing from one thing to another, particularly when kids are home from school, and vacation-planning can add to already existing stress levels. Try to take 5 minutes each day to practice gratitude. Research done on this topic has shown that reminding ourselves to be grateful, for not only what is good, but also some of our struggles that help us grow, reduces the stress response in our bodies, and regulates our sleep and mood.

Listen to your body!
Overall, the best way to improve your health and feel good about yourself before summer is to take some time to listen to your body. Treat it well and you’ll be on the path to feeling great in time for summer!