What is a healthy lifestyle?
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
What does it look like to have a healthy lifestyle?
We’ve already talked about ways to measure your health (LINK HERE), but now we want to get into tactics to start living into that reality. This is by no means an all encompassing encyclopedia of healthy living; but, the concepts we’ll go over are a good place to start.
The big ideas we are going to cover are: Sleep, Nutrition, and Activity. My suggestion is to start with one of these, practice it, build habits (LINK HERE) around it, and then move on to the next one. You pick your order. There’s no right answer here.
Although this varies by age, lifestyle, and health an expert panel determined most adults need between 7–9 hours a night. Wow, that was easy. Just do that.
Oh. It isn’t that easy? Okay then, try some of these tricks to help.
Work to set more than enough time to get good sleep.
The trick is to SLEEP 7–9 hours, not just be in bed that long
If you have trouble sleeping through the night, being in bed for 9 hours gives you a better shot at hitting 7 hours of true sleep
If you're curious about how you’re sleeping now, there are a ton of sleep tracking apps, watches, and devices out there to help you figure it out (but, keep in mind the next point when choosing which one best suits you…)
Turning off screens 30 mins to an hour before bed.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one many times over, but getting a screen out from in front of your face is a great way to get more sleep
Ideally, your phone shouldn’t even go into your bedroom with you
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
Make your bed
Dim the lights (ideally, create a truly dark space for sleep)
Try leaving electronics in another room
Create a nightly routine
What your routine looks like is up to you, but the more consistent your routine is, the better you’ll will be able to help your body understand that it’s bedtime and time to wind down
Wash your face, brush your teeth, have a glass of water, etc.
Spend time reading (books made from paper are the best), journaling, meditation/reflection, praying, etc.
Pick a few and see what helps!
Nutrition = Balance
Our culture does a great job at making nutrition feel complicated and confusing. Our constant search for the perfect remedy, hack, or cure leads people down roads of exclusion. “Meat is bad for you!” or “Meat is the only thing you should eat ever!” are common tropes on the interwebs. My feelings are somewhere in the middle. Balanced, if you will.
Here’s the real truth. Whatever you eat consistently over time determines the results you see. Drastic changes (like cutting out all of your favorite foods) will lead to drastic results, BUT (notice the big butt) drastic changes aren’t very likely to last for an extended period. Generally meaning you see big results, then you revert back and in a month or two you’re back to where you started. Sound familiar?
The real reason any sort of meal plan “works” is because it meets your minimum energy needs (aka calories) and for a period of time, it’s sustainable.
Keto? Reduces calories by cutting out a whole Macronutrient (Carbs)
Paleo? Reduces calories by cutting out specific foods
Juice cleanse? Reduce calories by believing in marketing schemes (oops, did I type that outloud?)
We try all of these things because we see results. We eventually quit all of these things because we can’t sustain them. How long can you really go without eating a piece of fruit (fruit has carbs, by the way)?
The inverse—slow habitual changes—can build up into a lifetime of results you can appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a “slow and steady wins the race” type of strategy. That can be really hard. BUT (I love big butts) doesn’t it sound pretty nice to not start ten different diets this year, and feel like a failure ten separate times when you finally cave and eat that burger? What if—and this is crazy—what if you were just ALWAYS getting better and better, a little at a time?
Get Enough Protein
Adults should get about a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. (155lbs=155g of protein)
Don’t know your lean body mass? Try this calculator. It’s not perfectly accurate, but it will give you a decent estimation!
Getting enough protein has been shown to help support the body in many ways. Most importantly, protein helps the body function and recover much more efficiently. Protein is also shown to help us feel full better and longer, allowing us to more easily eat less (especially those unwanted snack times).
To start, figure out how much protein you take in normally through your week. If that number is low (let’s be honest, it’s pretty low for most of us) then set a goal to increase it. Maybe it’s 10 or 20% for a few weeks. Then, try to bump it up another 10–20%, getting closer to that number. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
There are many factors that go into how much water you should drink. A simple approach is just drinking water consistently throughout the day. If you are constantly thirsty, drink more. If you aren’t that thirsty, drink less. (Also, try this simple calculator)
Check your pee. Gross right? But, seriously. The color of your urine is a great indicator for hydration.
If it’s clear to pale yellow, you’re most likely pretty hydrated.
If it’s darker yellow to borderline orange, grab a glass of water (or 3 or 4)
If it’s brown, red, or the like, go see a damn doctor!
Eat your fruits and veggies!
Did you know, roughly 20% of your water intake should come from what you EAT, not drink?
Coffee, tea, seltzers, and others all count!
Contrary to popular belief, these drinks are not dehydrating
Even better, they can be a positive in the hydration world, as long as you aren’t having other negative side effects of too many caffeinated drinks
Sugary or alcoholic drinks DON’T count
As tasty as they are, an old fashioned isn’t boosting your hydration stats
Get Enough Fiber
Eating enough fiber can help with a lot of things. A list of what I think are the most important:
Maintaining weight, living longer, and pooping better
I’ll be honest, living longer without pooping better doesn't really sound like living, does it?
Move your ass
Don’t over complicate this part. If you live a largely sedentary life (think, driving to work to sit at your desk, driving home to sit on your couch), making even small improvements to your overall movement can have a huge impact on your health. Rather than get overwhelmed thinking you need to start your marathon training, focus on small ways you can sneak in more movement in your daily life.
light(er) movement (walking, biking, gardening, etc.)
Strength training AND Cardio
The online fitness world loves to argue back and forth about which is more important for you. Easy answer here: BOTH. Strength training gets you (duh) stronger, but has also been shown to help:
Develop strong bones.
Manage your weight.
Enhance your quality of life.
Manage chronic conditions.
Sharpen your thinking skills.
If you want to be able to move better now, and you would like to be able to get off the toilet by yourself when you’re 85, do strength training.
Now, if strength training is your ability to move your body, cardio is how you do it efficiently. Check out this sequence.
Blood pumped throughout your body brings the resources your body needs to work
Your heart pumps the blood
Cardio exercises the heart muscle
Crazy right? Who knew? Well, these guys, these guys, and… ok so lots of people know that. But, it’s not just that! Getting that blood pumping also has been shown to improve: Mental capacity, sex function, joint health, and a lot more!
Soooo, What do I do now?
I’m so glad you asked. Next step… START. It doesn't matter which one. It doesn't matter how. It doesn't even really matter if it’s perfectly correct. You will learn and grow more by starting and taking action than you will by planning out each detail before you do anything. Take one step at a time, be consistent, and don’t give up. It won’t be easy, but it will DEFINITELY be worth it.