Feeling good requires good or ‘healthy’ habits – simple.
Habits take time to become habits. They start off as intentions. Then you do them and they become actions. Then you do them again, and again, and again. Then they are habits. Then you feel good. And the best thing is habits are easy to do, because they become second nature, just part of who you are and what you do.
Below are the 7 healthy habits that will make you feel good.
- PLAN & PREPARE
Write down a clear plan for HOW on each day you will turn your intentions into actions.
We all make bad decisions when we are busy, tired, hungry or just unprepared. Without a plan it’s just too hard – no one has that much willpower!
So get organised and plan ahead for all of these healthy habits: sleeping, eating and exercising. Plan exactly how each intention is going to happen (eg shopping list, childcare schedule, time for food prep etc) and what preparations need to be made.
Commit to yourself to follow the plan. Write down the plan and stick it to the fridge so you can check in regularly and be accountable to yourself.
2. WATER NOT WINE
Water: you will feel better immediately if you double the amount of water you drink every day. When you’re properly hydrated you digest easier, sleep better and think clearer. Aim to drink 2 litres (or 3 and a half pints, or 8 medium/large glasses) of water every day.
Booze: without alcohol you sleep better, feel more positive, happy, motivated and energetic, look better and lose weight. It’s hard to break the habit, but now is the time to try. Be realistic, for example: make Sunday-Thursday booze free. On Friday and Saturday start later, clear spirits only and go to sleep before midnight. That’s called damage control!
Coffee: much debated but to me it’s clear as day: caffeine messes with your sleep, your hormonal balance and your appetite. It’s like going on an upside down rollercoaster and wondering why your hair looks weird. Again it can be a hard habit to break because caffeine is addictive. There’s only one way: cut it down, then just stop!
Action: Buy three 2l bottles of water, put one on the kitchen worktop, one on your desk, one in your bedroom. Refill them when empty and refresh daily. Also keep a water bottle in the car and in your bag. Set your own goals for reducing alcohol and caffeine.
3. FIT & STRONG
Exercise makes you happy: fact. So get moving: walk, dance, swim, stretch, run, whatever works. Do it with friends. Do it as often as you can, but at least three times a week.
Make it heavy: at our age it’s essential to add some weight to our movement. It slows down bone density loss and maintains muscle, which boosts metabolism. So grab some dumbbells, a resistance band or use your own body weight.
Measure your steps: use a pedometer on your phone or get a FitBit and do your 10,000 steps a day – minimum.
Action: devise your exercise plan for the next 6 weeks: ink all your sessions into your diary – they can not be bumped! Pay in advance and get yourself some new kit. Take a minute to remember how lucky you are to be able to exercise and decide to ENJOY it!
4. HAPPY HORMONES
To feel good your hormonal system needs to be functioning properly. We women have a complex hormonal system that works hard to keep everything in balance (including your energy levels, sex drive, stress levels and appetite). When we eat poorly and live in a constant state of stress and anxiety, we basically karate chop our hormonal balance. Then the perimenopause comes along and changes our monthly sex hormone cycle. This can create the stereotypical symptoms like hot sweats and weight gain but it also throws off all our other hormones, leading to depression, sleeplessness, and generally feeling like you’ve lost the plot! Sound familiar?
And while we’re talking lady bits – pay attention to your pelvic floor: most of us got messed up by babies but did you know that perimenopausal hormonal changes and ageing will make it worse? Put in the work now to avoid peeing yourself later!
Action: Eat good foods that don’t bomb your blood sugar (see below). Chill out: get a handle on your stress. Go with the flow: map your monthly cycle and recognise what’s happening
Face the fear and see a specialist physiotherapist to find out once and for all how your pelvic floor is doing and how to do the right exercises for you properly: we are ALL different down there!
5. EAT REAL, GOOD FOOD (see ‘Food Rules’)
Sugar and processed foods make us fat. In addition, unstable blood sugar is the most important underlying cause of hormonal problems. To feel good you need to eat real food that isn’t processed and doesn’t spike your blood sugar. See my ‘Food Rules’ here.
Eat like a grown up, basing your diet on these foods: fruit and veg, grains and cereals, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish. Keep it simple.
Don’t eat processed crap: no white bread/pasta/rice, fried foods, sugar loaded or ‘diet’ drinks and yogurts. They make you feel crap.
Don’t buy crap (for the kids) in the supermarket and be surprised when you eat it. Fill your kitchen with real food that is delicious and good for your and your family. We think healthy food is expensive but It will actually be cheaper to stop buying processed meals and foods (let alone wine and red meat).
Good fats and unprocessed carbs don’t make you fat: they make your brain function better, make you feel happy and help you lose weight. Eat olive/coconut oil, nut butters, avocados, greek yogurt.
Take vitamin supplements every day. A good multivitamin at least. I also take extra C, magnesium and Omega 3 and 6.
Treats are a really important part of your diet – just pick your poisons wisely. A really good bottle of red wine shared with friends on a Friday night. A delicious dark chocolate bar with whole roasted almonds.
Action: plan and prepare! Create a food plan for the week ahead stuffed full of all the delicious healthy foods you love and want to eat more of. Granola with creamy greek yogurt and raspberries, avocado smash, sea bream and tender stem broccoli with chilli and garlic, chicken satay, poached eggs with sautéed spinach, roast chicken, summer peaches and strawberries… Crowd out the bad stuff by indulging in delicious healthy food!
Sleep is the new exercise – hurrah! Quite simply, sleep makes you feel good and not sleeping can seriously damage your health.
You need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to function at your best. Repeatedly getting less than this makes you more likely to be overweight, unhappy and unwell (including getting cancer and Alzheimer’s).
Action: prioritise sleep – it’s essential, not lazy! Go to bed earlier: set an alarm half an hour before your bedtime to start a healthy pre-bed routine (wind down, no screens etc) and a cosy atmosphere (cooler temperature, darkness, comfy sheets etc). Cutting caffeine and alcohol, exercising and eating right (including a magnesium supplement) will make a huge difference to your sleep.
7. THINK POSITIVE
If you think you are too old, too fat, too busy or too stressed to take control of your body, eat well and exercise, you are wrong. You are alive, you are strong and you can do it. All you have to do is BELIEVE that you are in control and can create the life you want. If you can’t or don’t want to do it alone find yourself a tribe, a friend, a trainer, or a hero to inspire, join or force you to just DO IT.
Action: TODAY, set your intentions and your goals. How do you want to FEEL seven days, seven weeks and seven months from now? Write it down. Then make yourself a PLAN – see Healthy Habit number one! Cue cheesy success stories: this girl can.