Diets are on their way OUT!  What’s IN is incorporating new things into your life that help you improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  The key word is incorporate – introduce something to your life as an integral part of your life.

Diets feel like deprivation. They don’t work. A diet is a systematized process that potentially starves the cells, keep you hungry and torture you mentally. I’ve never been a dieter. My whole life I’ve been moving, eating healthy and incorporating healthy things as I learn about them.

My life is about moderation. I am extreme in nothing – not my spirituality, not my food, not my exercise, not my work. I am in harmony most of the time and it’s really because I’ve just never stopped caring about myself.

What happens to most people is that they either don’t value their health to begin with or they are just completely unaware of their lifestyle habits. Today I saw an extremely overweight woman at lunch chow down on fried calamari and I thought to myself, “She just doesn’t care or she just doesn’t know.”  Either way, she is obese and that’s not healthy.

I know it’s hard to control your appetite sometimes and I understand that it’s hard to work out, but healthy living is more than food and exercise.  

Here are 5 Things You can Incorporate into your life to improve your health this year:

1) Begin Journaling.

This one thing can help you get in touch with your inner most thoughts and feelings. If you are struggling with your weight or health in general, it’s time to take an emotional inventory and write it all down. Answer some of the following questions in your writing:

Am I happy? What would make me happy?  Am I in pain?  Have I been hurt?  Do I have a healthy and realistic picture of who I am?  Is there something missing in my life?  Do I enjoy my work?  What are my gifts?  What are my strengths?  What do I enjoy doing?  Would anyone be able to relate to my story?  What kind of future do I want?  Can I improve in some areas of my life while still loving who I am?  What could I improve?  Do I care what others think about me?  How do I feel about spending time alone?  Why do I care what others think about me?  If I didn’t care what others thought about me – knowing that I am a valued human being – what would I do different?  Is there a hobby that I would like to try?  Do I enjoy being taken care of or do I want to take care of people?  What kind of activities do I enjoy doing? How can I best use my potential?  Do I feel healthy?  Do I eat healthy food?  Do I eat a lot of unhealthy food?  Can I find a better balance?  Is food an issue for me?

These are questions that will cut right to the core of who you are. Once you begin writing, you can also create the life you want through your thoughts and words.  Journaling is a powerful tool for self-development and can help lead you on the exciting and interesting journey of your life.

I don’t recommend journaling every day.  That seems too overwhelming. Incorporate a journal entry twice a week if that’s all you need, more if you need more.  The point is to try something that may get you back on track to good health or to help you maintain the health you already have.

2) Get Spiritual

Connect with something greater than yourself.  Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant; the existence or non-existence of God cannot be proven.  Therefore, you need to seek the answers to your God questions.  Why am I here? Why do we exist at all?  What is my purpose?  What are my gifts?  How am I unique?  Will religion help me?  Can I have a relationship with God without being religious?  What kind of books can I read that point me to universal wisdom?  What does it mean to have peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, understanding?  Am I kind?  Am I good?  Am I patient?  What is my moral compass?  Where do I get my values?  Do I need salvation?  How am I at forgiving?  From whom do I get my inspiration?  Do I or should I spend more time developing this side of myself?  These are deep questions and worth contemplating.  If you want more harmony in your life, you need to ponder and wrestle with some of these questions.

Spiritual people tend to be happier, healthier people. They are thoughtful people, mindful – at least they are trying. Some spiritual people are in the process of seeking and learning; others are serving, mentoring, ministering. Some are doing both – but always learning. We never “make it” in spirituality. It’s a life-long process.

One spiritual thing you can incorporate into your life for better health is to seek out a community of like-minded people either from your faith background or find someone who shares a similar philosophy with you.  The goal of seeking community is to take the time to work on your spiritual side.  I like to attend church and fellowship with my church friends.  I enjoy going on women’s retreats.  I get comfort knowing that people will pray for me when I’m having a rough time.  My friends and community know I will pray for them.

You can try a meditation practice.  Study with someone who knows the ropes.  Meditation is a process of getting to know your deepest self.  It’s about quieting the chatter of the mind so you can let other good stuff (like wisdom) in.  It’s the easiest and hardest thing to practice.  It’s easy because you only have to sit.  It’s hard because you have to sit.  But try sitting quietly for a few minutes a day – incorporate it – and see what happens.

Spirituality can give you peace and harmony. We could all use more of those two qualities. 

3) Learn about healthy foods.

This is an easy thing to do. If you subscribe to one healthy eating magazine such as “Cooking Light” or “Vegetarian Times” (I made that up.) and one online publication/newsletter, you can learn how to incorporate little changes in your diet. Try looking up how to make a healthy green smoothie.  You don’t have to have one every day to reap the benefits; just try one and see how you like it.  Smoothies can be a great way to incorporate spinach and kale into your diet without having the veggie taste – if you prefer not to have the veggie taste.  Add some fruit, yogurt and agave syrup and you have a sweet treat.  If you don’t like sweet, add some walnuts or sauteed sunflower seeds. Experiment and see what tastes best to you.

Smoothies are great for kids and adults and they are easy.  Learn how to shop for whole food.  Research whole foods and see how they differ from processed and fast foods.

I eat healthy; however, I also eat some fast foods.  I don’t beat myself up over it.  I just enjoy it and then recommit to making my next meal healthy.  Also, when I eat fast food, I don’t have more than a stomach full.  Eating moderately will keep calorie counts and fat intake low.

One thing that anyone could do is to cut back on sugar.  Allow yourself a treat for sure but don’t eat a whole bag of donuts or 3 snickers bars.  Eat one, then drink a glass of water and move on.

4) Change up your exercise.

This one is hard even for me. My exercise of choice is yoga but sometimes due to an injury I can’t practice yoga, so I have to do other things.  Since I don’t enjoy going to the gym as much as I enjoy my yoga class, it’s much harder for me to get in the car and go.  But I go. Not every day, but I go.  You must start.  You must do something.

Starting small is important.  Once you start working out – especially if it’s been a long time – don’t stress your muscles too much or you’ll be so sore you won’t want to go back.

Go for the good sore.  Make sure you do some weight bearing exercises to keep your bones strong.  Avoid heavy weights. Those tend to rip muscle resulting in bulk.  Combine lighter weights with more repetitions and work at your own pace.

Exercise keeps your bones strong, your muscles flexible and your mood elevated.  It’s good for your overall health – if done moderately and with the intention for well-being.

And one more word on this…my mother-in-law is 86 and has never been to an exercise class a day in her life.  She just stays busy, active and attends to all parts of herself – her spirituality, her personal growth (she reads), her gardening and other hobbies and her journaling.

5) Challenge yourself to grow.

Personal Development is good for everyone.  We must never think we’ve arrived.  There’s always something more to learn.  Life long learning should be a goal.  It keeps you young and interesting.  There are a million self-help books out there.  Head over to Amazon or to your local Barnes and Noble and go to the self-help aisle.  Look at the titles and see if something resonates with you.  People write books from their own experiences.  Some you will be able to relate to.  It’s those kinds of readings that inspire you to be who you have the potential to be.

My husband is not into self-help; however, he is a voracious reader.  His preference is History and he loves learning about the past.  He is very interesting to talk to because he knows so much!

Self-growth comes from being challenged and being held accountable.  Reading helps, but developing new skills helps even more.  Learn how to be a public speaker.  Join Toastmasters and practice speaking.  Learn how to build a website. Learn how to be a copywriter.  Learn another language.  Learn and grow!

Personal development results in more confidence.  Education results in more confidence. We need more confident people in the world!  Confident people are usually healthy people. They go hand in hand.

So you now have 5 things to consider when mapping our your next year.

1) Journal
2) Get Spiritual
3) Learn about Healthy Foods
4) Change up your Exercise
5) Challenge yourself to Grow

Know that you are worth every second, minute and hour that you spend working to improve your life.  People are affected by your habits and state of mind.  Appreciate your body as it is and be kind to it in all ways – include your spirit and mind as part of your overall self. Good health is a balance of harmony in mind, body and spirit.  Incorporate some of these small changes and you will transform into the person you are meant to be.

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