Why healthy isn't hard, it's a habit: 6 easy ways to start today

November 20, 2012

First Stop Health

I get it. Healthy seems hard. We're inundated with numerous diets promising rapid results and a life full of leisurely skinniness.

And I'll be the first to say, I have very vivid dreams of eating cake straight out of the fridge, no holds barred, with my hands. Glorious dreams. We're human. We have cravings. We eat our feelings. We read diet books to try to manage our stress and our desire to eat whole cakes when life literally weighs us down.

But guess what? We're also powerful machines. We're built by habit. Almost everything we do is because it's a habit that we formed. And that's good news. We're malleable. We can change. We can be stronger, fitter, faster.

And it's not as hard as you think. Start building your good habits today and you'll be the healthier person you want to be tomorrow.

1 Take small steps

Take the stairs. Get off the bus or train a few blocks before your stop. Walk to your friend's house instead of driving. If you can do nothing else, as fitness pro Sue Koch taught me, do 20 pushups in the morning and 20 more before bed.

2 Change your attitude

Take pride in being healthier. Instead of talking about how much you love eating copious amounts of chocolate, try talking about how much you love eating your favorite healthy foods. Don't thrive on junk food or excuses.

3 Get inspired

Surround yourself with healthy friends. Go to farmers' markets. Join healthy groups through organizations like MeetUp.com. Read magazines and books that inspire you.

4 Find your health passion

A friend of mine couldn't shed the 15 pounds she had been so ardently trying to lose. Why? Because she wasn't motivated to. If you hate running, running won't keep you motivated. Find your groove. Everyone has one. My friend found out that she loved hot yoga. She's lost more than 15 pound. Explore your options.

5 Educate yourself

Diets like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers can help you lose weight, but I'm not crazy about them. Why? Because you don't have to take the time to learn about what you're putting into your body. It's not just about portions; it's about getting the right nutrition, avoiding artificial food products, and having a well-rounded diet. Start reading labels when you go to grocery store. Understand what you're putting into your body. Discover a credible source online and get daily nutrition tips.

6 Start eating clean

The quickest, easiest way to become a healthier person is to avoid processed foods. If it's not in packaging and the ingredient list is short, it's your friend. If it contains more salt than the Dead Sea, has ingredients you can't pronounce, and has a longer shelf life than your cat, put it back. Eat whole foods like oatmeal, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils.

Samantha Hosenkamp works for Ragan Communications as the company's social media director. She contributes articles to PR Daily, Ragan.com and Ragan's healthcare site.

Originally published Nov 20, 2012 10:00:15 AM.