We all want to be healthy and feel the best we possibly can. We want to ward off disease and live rich, full lives. But, according to the statistics, the odds are stacked against us. The United States leads the world in rates of obesity and diabetes, and illnesses like cancer and heart disease are rampant. Despite spending $60 billion a year on weight-loss efforts and more than any other nation on healthcare, we’re sicker than ever. It’s time to clean the slate and take our health into our own hands.
The first step in getting healthy is relearning how to listen to our bodies, something that is often lost at an early age. Whether it’s through food marketing (all kids love Franken Berry frosted cereal!), developing addictions to foods like sugar or white flour, or succumbing to the convenience of fast food, our bodies have become a dumping ground for what is making us sick: animal products, processed foods, and sugary drinks. But our bodies are incredibly resilient, and are wired to tell us everything we need to know. When we start eating clean, wholesome foods—the fuel we are designed to eat—we become more in tune with what we need to function optimally. We begin to crave fresh strawberries over strawberry-flavored cereal or a chilled orange instead of a bowl of ice cream … and recognizing hunger cues (when to eat and when we’ve had enough) becomes second nature. It is all within reach; we simply need to adopt some new habits.
So where do we start? Whether you’re a long-time vegan wanting to make a few tweaks to your diet or someone hoping to transition to a plant-based lifestyle, here are eight things you can do now to jumpstart a healthy life. They say it takes three weeks to develop a habit, which is the amount of time it took me to adopt a healthier way of living. After all, small steps are what lead to big results, so it all starts with your next meal.
8 Ways to Jumpstart a Healthy Life:
- Eat Real Food. Eat unprocessed, plant-based foods whenever possible. Once these foods become your core diet, your body craves juicy strawberries, crisp apples, creamy avocados, savory greens, warm grains, and the myriad foods that make you feel your best.
- Stock Your Kitchen. Each week, fill your fridge and pantry with colorful produce, fresh-pressed juices, dried fruit, raw nuts, canned beans, and whole grains. Stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients will help you stay on track all week long.
- Hold the Sugar. Reserve your sugar intake for foods that are really worth it, like chocolate, an amazing dessert, or your favorite latte. Sugar is devoid of nutrients and compromises the immune system, accelerates aging, and can cause everything from depression to adult-onset diabetes. And when you start to eliminate it from your diet, sugar cravings will greatly diminish.
- Get Cooking. You may not have the makings of a gourmet chef, but learn to prepare a handful of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes that taste great and become simple to make. Making your own food at home can be just as fast as picking up take-out, and will keep you feeling good.
- Don't Stuff Yourself. Follow the Japanese secret to optimal health. From an early age, people there are taught to eat until they’re 80 percent full. After years of overeating and being out of touch with the hunger cues our bodies give us, this can be a challenge—but not stuffing ourselves every time we eat is one of the best habits we can adopt for exceptional health.
- Uncaffeinate. Limit your caffeine consumption so that you’re not dependent on it and it doesn’t affect your sleep. Consuming too much caffeine has been shown to elevate blood pressure, increase cholesterol levels, and cause cysts in breast tissue. Try replacing coffee with antioxidant-rich green tea or raw cacao powder.
- Dine Out Consciously. Restaurant portions have become ridiculous, so really listen to your body to tell you when you’ve had enough. Focus as much on the great conversation with your dining companions as the delicious food—but make healthy ordering choices and learn when to stop nibbling.
- Eat Dessert. Indulge in decadent desserts on special occasions, but savor just a few heavenly bites. Three forkfuls of that double-chocolate torte with coconut whipped cream can be incredibly satisfying, and all we really need.
Health and wellness are a way of life, not a short-term fix. When we nourish ourselves with food that makes us feel great, we are laying the foundation to become our best selves and live a life free of disease. We are the architects of our life, and only we can make the changes necessary to live the best we possibly can.
So let’s begin right now.
P.S. Want more tips to jumpstart your healthy lifestyle? Sign up for my newsletter and get my free Healthy Vegan Lifestyle Guide!