Pop quiz. How many diets can you name off the top of your head? If you are like most people these days, you can probably rattle off at least half a dozen without breaking a sweat. Some of them may dominate TV advertisements, and others may tend to be passed around by word of mouth. Still others tend to survive in the pages of self-help books and are splashed across the internet. All of them claim that you will be able to not only lose weight but also feel more confident, more sexy and all around happier and healthier. A lot of them are liars. Many diets will help you shed unwanted pounds in the short term, but there is nothing healthy or sustainable about living off maple syrup and lemon juice or following the rules of any of the other dangerous diets out there. In fact, diets in general are rarely a good way to improve your health. This is because most diets focus on losing weight, not promoting health. While you will need to alter your daily diet in order to improve your health if you are living off Chinese takeout and Big Macs, traditional dieting is rarely a sustainable path when it comes to your overall health. Here are seven ways to get healthier without dieting.
Drink WaterOne of the easiest ways to simultaneously get healthier and lose weight is to stop drinking anything but water. Drinks of every sort are filled with what most people refer to as empty calories. In other words, they are calories that do nothing to keep you feeling full or energized but do contribute to weight gain. Stop drinking soda, juice and bottled teas. Skip the sports drinks as well. Unless you are a long distance swimmer training for an open water race, a runner preparing for a marathon or you spend multiple hours in the gym sweating like a dog, plain water will fulfill your hydration needs. If you desperately need flavor in your water, stick a bit of fresh fruit in the bottle. This will give you the desired flavor without all the sugar in packaged flavors. Alcohol, of course, is packed with sugar and calories, but the biggest offender, after soda, is usually your morning coffee. Those flavor shots, bits of cream and sugar turn a light drink into a calorie bomb. Drink your coffee black, or at least use skim milk if you need a little dairy.
Cook at Home
If you want to become healthier and sustain the appearance and feeling that health brings you, you need to learn how to cook. You do not need to be a gourmet chef in order to improve your health, but knowing how to put together a basic meal of meat and veggies will go a long way toward making you healthier. When you cook your own food, you know exactly what is going into your body. Restaurants and take out chains tend to use loads of oil and fats that turn a dish you would expect to be low calorie, low fat and healthy into something that is little better for you than the average pizza. When you cook at home, you are at least aware of whether or not you made something unhealthy. Home cooking also tends to use fresher ingredients instead of the heavily salted and preservative filled items found in the frozen section of the grocery store.
Avoid Junk Food
You have likely noticed that some people simply seem to have more willpower than others. They manage to avoid eating junk food and instead snack on carrot sticks or celery. Their willpower may seem incredible, but if you looked inside their cabinets, you would probably find that they do not have chips, candy or cookies in the house. You do not have to follow their lead and live off all-natural, organic, locally grown, hand peeled carrots, but you should emulate them by getting the junk food out of your house. If you do not buy bags of chips or boxes of cookies, you will find it very hard to eat them. It is much easier to find something healthier to eat when you would have to drive up to the store to buy junk food than when it is simply sitting in your cabinets calling your name.
When it comes to staying healthy, sleep is perhaps the most commonly ignored requirement. Almost everyone is aware on some level that they need to get enough sleep in order to remain healthy, but that does not stop most people from acting as if they are convinced that they can teach themselves to go without sleep entirely. If you want to improve your health, however, enough sleep is a requirement, not a suggestion. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep a night in order to remain in perfect health. Very few people get that much sleep on an ongoing basis. Make it a point, however, to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Going to bed every night and getting up every morning at approximately the same time will help tremendously in that regard.
If you read any sort of health columns, parenting advice or technology news, you have almost certainly heard that spending too much time using your electronic devices is terrible for your health. Overuse of electronics tends to keep people sitting down for even longer periods of time than they were already prone to doing. This has become such a problem that people are developing what has become called “gluteal amnesia.” Essentially, people sit so often and for so long that their gluteal muscles forget how to function which can set off a domino effect that has the potential to damage every muscle below their waist.
Overuse of electronics also contributes to neck and back strain and pain as people stare down at their phones and computers. The bright blue light inhibits melatonin production, one of the hormones necessary for healthy sleep, and many people use digital conversations as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, something that wreaks havoc on a person’s mental state over time.
Along with sleep, exercise is the closest thing to a panacea that exists in real life. Exercise is essential for healthy cardiovascular function, muscle strength and plays a key role in stress relief. It can improve the function of your immune system, give you better sleep at night and help you lose weight. You do not have to become a gym rat to reap the benefits of exercise either. Taking a brisk walk several times a week can still do wonders for your health. It is best, however, to join a gym so that you can do both aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming, as well as resistance training, such as weightlifting or pilates. Aerobic exercise is the best way to improve the health of your heart and lungs while resistance training helps your muscles, skeleton and metabolism remain healthy.
If you are focusing on your health, you need to eat right. This does not mean that you need to give up entire food groups as many diets proclaim. Unlike what innumerable diets and weight loss “experts” claim, carbohydrates are not your enemy and neither is fat. If you scarf down French fries every afternoon, then yes, you are eating too much fat. A few tablespoons of olive oil or the fat found in nuts, however, is beneficial. In the same way, if you live off of pasta and white bread, the sheer number of calories you are eating will do unpleasant things to both your waistline and overall health. A piece of bread with dinner, however, does not mean that you are doomed. You need to have a balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, meat or fish, a small amount of healthy fats from nuts or oils and, yes, carbohydrates. When you cut out entire food groups from your diet, your body may get smaller, but your health pays for it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to shed a few pounds so that your jeans are a little less tight or so you can look fabulous in a tight shirt. Dieting, however, is not necessarily the answer to your weight woes. If you pay attention to your overall health by sleeping enough, eating right and exercising regularly, you will likely find that the pounds melt away without any sort of artificial assistance. Better yet, those pounds will stay off with ease rather than creeping back on or forcing you to fight a constant battle with yourself. This is because focusing on overall health leads you to develop sustainable habits. Being healthy feels good so you want to keep doing the things that keep you healthy. Diets, on the other hand, are the sort of things most people cannot wait to finish. So, prioritize health over weight loss, and you will likely end up getting the best of both worlds anyway.