Article contributed by Roane Juliano
For the second year in a row, American life expectancy has been reduced to 76.1 years. This information may be disappointing, but it’s not surprising, given the state of the American healthcare system.
And there are 23.5 million Americans that live in food deserts, areas where it is geographically more difficult for people to access healthy food. While there is much to be done systemically to bridge these gaps, there’s also a need to address some bad health habits that may keep you from living a longer, healthier life.
You can control your personal habits. Here are three things you can try:
1. Mindful Mealtimes
It’s easy to lose track of what you eat in a day, leading to mindless eating and snacking, resulting in weight gain. One way to counteract this is by keeping a food journal. Studies have found that keeping a food diary can double weight loss. This allows you to notice less nutritious foods and weed them out.
Food diaries can also be helpful to curb habits like emotional eating, mainly when you track what you’re feeling when you eat certain foods so you can identify your patterns. Maybe stress makes you more likely to binge eat sweets, so staying mindful will allow you to control these behaviors.
Another way to eat mindfully is by carving out a particular time and place for your meal. A study on mindful eating from Health & Place found that higher mindful eating is associated with lower external eating and food cravings.
Practice mindful eating by taking your meals at a table, not in front of your TV or a screen, at consistent times every day. Take your time and enjoy each morsel so your brain has enough wiggle room to signal to the stomach that you’re full.
2. Working out a Workout Plan
There are strong links between sedentary behavior and severe health conditions. Those who don’t move enough may be more at risk for obesity, diabetes, or heart disease. For cases like these, your doctor may eventually ask you to choose between Saxenda vs Wegovy as a medical weight loss solution. These medications regulate blood sugar levels and appetite, which can help those who struggle with weight management due to biology or other factors.
Of course, it’s better to get a handle on health habits before one’s health reaches a point like this, and improving your physical activity levels can be a start. Exercise has fantastic benefits for your mental health and well-being, allowing you to cultivate mind-body balance.
When you think of exercise, you might think of fast, vigorous sweat sessions at a gym. But exercise doesn’t mean committing to an expensive membership or pushing your body to its limits. Going on a walk, for instance, can be done almost anywhere, and it also allows you to sort out your emotions instead of turning to comfort food.
Nature-centered exercise is another great way to practice mindfulness while getting those steps in, which we discuss in our article “Why Hiking is a Great Way to Stay Healthy”.
3. Cutting out Substances
Some habits are worth keeping, while some you should consider dropping.
Drinking alcohol, for instance, can result in weight gain because it’s easy to mindlessly ingest more calories when they come in the form of a beverage. The syrups and sugars in mixed drinks, or the carbs from beer, can sneak up on you. Plus, you’re more likely to crave fatty and salty snacks when drinking alcohol.
Smoking is another habit that could get in the way of healthy living. Aside from how smoking can damage your lungs, cigarette smoke also ruins your nasal passage and suppresses your brain’s ability to taste flavors, so it may take longer to feel full. Quitting smoking can help you regain control of these senses, allowing you to savor your food and avoid overeating.
Dropping these habits is easier said than done, so it’s essential to show yourself grace as you embark on your health journey.
- Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable yet remain supportive and compassionate as you try your best to quit.
- Reflecting on potential triggers to these habits, such as negative emotions or traumatic experiences, can also help one move forward and quit for good.
Some days will be harder than others, resulting in you eating more than usual or using substances. On other days, it may feel impossible to hit the gym. Instead of throwing in the towel altogether, allow yourself that day to rest, and you can hit the ground running again tomorrow.
Wellness isn’t a linear journey but a repetitive cycle.
If you are kind to yourself, then your mind will follow suit.