1. Drink more water.
You’ve heard this how many times before? Well, I’m hammering it in one last time because it’s freaking important, okay. Right when you wake up, right before you go to sleep, and as often as possible in between. You can get all jazzy and add lemon to it for “detoxification” purposes and we can quibble about the merits of room temperature versus chilled, and tap versus filtered versus bottled. But the thing is, water helps regulate absolutely every single function of your body, from your mood to your weight to your skin. The whole “8 glasses a day” rule isn’t hard science, either. Just keep drinking it throughout. Take a sip whenever you get a fav, or an email, or for every new listicle you click through when you really should be finishing that quarterly report. It may suck to feel like you have the world’s tiniest bladder, but trust me, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of water. (And no, as much as even I am a mere serf to the Gods of Coffee, bean juice does not count as water.)
2. Eat plants for breakfast.
I love a good pastry just as much as any other human being with a heart, but that much sugar so early is often not a cute look. It’s a lot easier to start your morning with something that’s maybe a little green. And I’m not advocating starting every single morning with a juice that tastes like lawn clippings and sadness (because I have done a juice cleanse and they are HARD, and the long-term are debatable) but at the very least, let’s dispel the notion that the raspberry filling inside your cronut has any valuable source of nutrients. You can scramble [eggs or sausage or tofu or tempeh] with spinach and apples; you can throw shredded carrots on a peanut butter sandwich; you could even get mega-fancy and poach eggs in salsa or tomato sauce to make a sweet little dish called eggs in purgatory. (I vote salsa. I will always vote salsa.)
3. Move more.
Again with the beating a dead horse named “Advice Everyone’s Already Heard” but stick with me here. Take more than one trip to bring everything into your house after a shopping trip. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Better yet, walk up and down those babies a few times a day, make your neighbors think you’re nuts, and get in a workout for free. Keep a rule that you can only watch trashy TV while on the stairmaster at the gym. Walk to the subway stop that’s a little further away but a lot more efficient at getting you where you need to go! Drink enough water so that you’re getting up and walking around your office at least a few times a day. Take your dog on a long walk, rather than heading straight to the fenced in dog park with convenient little benches. These little things add up really quickly.
4. Do you know what is in your food?
Quick test: SUGAR, UNBLEACHED UNRICHED FLOUR (, WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN,REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1],RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID) , HIGH OLEIC CONOLA OIL, AND/OR , PALM OIL, AND/OR ,CANOLA OIL, AND/OR , SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (, BAKING SODA, AND/OR , CALCIUM PHOSPHATE) ,SALT, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLIN, – AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR ,CHOCOLATE. What is that?
Did your eyes glaze over with the building number of ingredients? Did you silently move your mouth as you worked through a few of those words? Do you have calcium phosphate in your own kitchen? Do you want to take the risks of not knowing which oil was used in this batch of deliciousness? Because this is the ingredient list of the most wonderous of cookies: the Oreo. Now, before you revolt against me for saying anything bad about the almighty Oreo, allow me to point out a few things: 1, that Oreos, as you may already know, are vegan. That double-stuf “creme” is spelled as such because there isn’t any cream in there; 2, chocolate is wayyyy at the end of the line of ingredients. As in, there’s hardly any chocolate in there at all. And it is a chocolate. sandwich. cookie; 3, Oreos are fucking delicious and I will never, ever, ever stop eating them. (Like, ever.) But knowing what’s in them keeps me from buying those amazing, allegedly-king-sized-but-come-on-8-cookies-is-an-individual-serving blue rolls of delight every single day. Instead, I buy them once a week or so. Maybe once every two weeks. You don’t have to swear off delicious foods, just practice a little moderation every now and again.
5. Bro, do you even lift?
As a runner who favors long distances, I’m guilty of this myself, but throwing in a few lungs and squats and pushups every once in a while helps ward off injury and makes sure your body is strong like ox. No, you don’t have to invest in protein powder if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to dread leg day with that knowing guffaw of a younger Arnold Schwarzenegger, but healthy muscle mass does keep your metabolism up and helps your body function at its peak. Take a class at the gym every once in a while or grab your cat and start doing some 8-lb bicep curls. See, bro? You’re already lifting!
6. Throw out the clothes that don’t fit you.
Really. Donate them to Goodwill, or give them to a cousin if they’re in decent shape. But do it now. You don’t need the added pressure of trying to fit into something that doesn’t hang right anymore, and you don’t need a reminder of the ass you once called yours when you were fourteen years old. Stop comparing yourself to the way you looked in the past and focus instead of being your healthiest self in the here and now.
7. Remember your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
It might even be more important, but the fact of the matter is, each one is intrinsically tied to the other and dictates a lot of how your mind and body function as a whole. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, to take a day off if you’re feeling burnt out, to say no to doing things with people you don’t like sometimes, to even seeing a therapist or going to a group counseling session if you can. There shouldn’t be a stigma on talking about what is eating away at you. If you need help, and even if you find that medication is what you need to get through a tough period (or every day) of your life, then use it. If you find that exercise works best for you, good for you. I’ve been put on a litany of antidepressants, and each one made me feel more out of my own skin than the last. So I decided not to take them, and instead, I fight my battles with running. My mom, on the other hand, has completely debilitating episodes if she doesn’t take her medication. And we cope with our own demons in our own ways. Do what you need to do for you, not what other people say you should do.
8. Don’t stress it.
Don’t stress it. Don’t stress it. Don’t stress it. Really. Don’t. Sometimes you’ll have really good days, and you’ll feel great and strong and healthy and on top of the world, and some days you call a donut lunch and that is that. And that’s fine. You’re human. You’re not supposed to be perfect, and anyhow, “perfect” when it comes to matters of health is completely subjective. One person’s paleo is another person’s veganism, and someone’s marathon is somebody else’s arm wrestling. You’re not supposed to wake up on a Monday and realize that this is the week you’re finally going to lose 20 pounds and rock that crop top, only to hit the skids on Wednesday and decide it’s all for naught. Sometimes you eat a lot. That’s not necessarily a binge. Sometimes you’ll have a salad for lunch, and sometimes you won’t order dressing on the side because it tastes really good mixed in. You don’t have to be the perfect picture of health all of the time. Besides, stress is unhealthy, and see? Where will that get you? Nowhere.