How We Can Feel Healthy Beyond Diet and Exercise

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Each spring brings the promise that warmer days are ahead, and many of us experience a renewed interest in our health. The thoughts of heading to the beach and transitioning into tank tops and shorts can throw us into full-on panic mode as we kick ourselves for not following through with our ambitious New Year’s resolutions and start considering which fitness fad to temporarily adopt to help us get summer ready ASAP.

But let’s stop and take a deep breath. You do not have to drastically cut calories or overdo it at the gym to be “fit for summer” or to “spring into a summer slim down.” If you want to join Team Keto or invest in a Peleton bike, “that’s your business,” as Tabitha Brown would say. However, if those actions seem like drastic, unsustainable changes, know that there are other factors of wellness that are worthy of our focus.

Water intake

Water is extremely important for our bodies to function properly. Yes, water quenches our thirst. And there are a lot of articles touting the benefits of water for our skincare routine. But water deserves a lot more credit than that. From regulating body temperature, flushing waste, lubricating joints, and helping the digestion process, water helps our bodies work and perform efficiently.

How much water one should drink is completely unique to each individual, but a good starting point is the bodyweight formula — drinking half your body weight in ounces. So if you’re 140 pounds, that’s 70 ounces a day. Adjustments can be made from here. Note: It’s OK if it takes you time to get into the routine of drinking more water. Increasing your daily intake by 8 ounces every two or three weeks is perfectly fine.

This is a journey! I know drinking water can feel like a chore. There are little tips and tricks to the water game, like special bottles with time markings or motivational words printed onto the bottle, setting an alarm throughout the day as a reminder, starting your mornings right out of bed guzzling 16 ounces, drinking a glass of water before you eat, or getting super fancy by infusing your water with fruits or herbs. Cheers!

Increase your NEAT

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis — NEAT — means the calories we burn outside of exercise in our daily lives. Increasing our NEAT means we’re moving more throughout our days. Many professions involving sitting at a computer, so it’s important to find ways to be more active throughout the day.

Activity can range from cooking dinner, cleaning the house, walking the dog, or standing for some work tasks. If you’re out, it looks like taking the parking spot further away from the store, taking stairs over the elevator, and, when it makes sense, using a basket over pushing a cart at the grocery store. Take a piece of paper and jot down all the ways you can add more movement into your days.

Sleep

Quality sleep is another key factor to our overall health. Sleep helps regulate our hormones, aids in gut health, strengthens immune function, and increases our emotional health. How much sleep one needs is also individualized, but it’s probably in the range of 7-9 hours for the average adult.

Two quick and easy ways to improve our sleep are omitting all light from our bedrooms at night and decreasing screen time — which means less time for our Instagram scrolling and Netflix binges (sad, but true). There are also a ton of sleep meditations readily available and a lot of other greats tips you can research to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Mindset

This will always be an extremely important factor for our health. There are a few things that need to be said: You are not overcompensating for something you are lacking. Eating healthy and exercising are not punishments. You love yourself and honor your body by drinking water, sitting less, sleeping more, walking more, increasing the veggies on your plate, getting your steps in, etc. You are not broken or need to be fixed. You are strong and capable. Your body can do amazing things, and it is beautiful. As soon as we believe these things about ourselves, our relationship with food, exercise, and our overall wellness will change, too. 

Yes, it’s important to have good nutrition and incorporate exercise into our weekly routine. But it’s not the end all be all. Our overall health, wellness, and weight-loss aspirations include so many factors beyond what we put on our plates or if we made it to six bootcamp classes this week.

It also includes grace and gratitude for who we are and where we are right now in this moment. It’s a collection of small habits and actions that we don’t have to do, but we feel lucky we get to do them. They make us feel healthier, happier, and more like the women we want to be — not just this spring or summer, but for every season that follows for years to come.