You probably started 2018, 2019, and 2020 vowing it was going to be your healthiest year ever (LOL at the pure innocence of what we thought 2020 was going to be like). You made resolutions with the best intentions, and maybe you even invested in a gym membership or healthy cookbook. But then life gets busy and work gets stressful. Before you know it, you’ve skipped your workout three weeks in a row and are ordering takeout while your cookbook collects dust on the shelf.
So why is 2021 going to be different? Read on for 12 tips that will prove this year can be your healthiest year ever, resolutions (and healthy cookbook) or not. The secret is that your healthiest self looks different than my healthiest self; we all need different things to be our best. It’s time we stop thinking there’s only one route to be healthy, and instead, listen to our bodies to achieve what “healthy” means. These tips will get you there. Whether you implement all 12 tips or just a few, by 2022, you’ll be stronger, happier, more confident, and healthier. Read on for the foolproof roadmap to becoming your best self in 2021:
1. Make one healthy swap every week
A clean diet doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming. In fact, if it feels hard or unenjoyable, it probably won’t stick. Instead of expecting total transformation, take baby steps and make one healthy swap every week. For example, try spaghetti squash instead of boxed spaghetti in your favorite pasta dish, and next week, swap tortilla chips with sliced jicama to eat with guacamole. Another week, swap your usual pizza with a cauliflower crust or replace half of the rice in your favorite stir-fry recipe with cauliflower rice. Not only will one swap at a time make healthy eating more manageable, but you’ll learn how to make all your favorite meals and go-to recipes with more nutritious options.
2. Identify the #1 thing holding you back, and then fix it
You already know to eat more plants, work out more, and decrease sugar intake; knowing how to be healthy isn’t usually the problem. So to be truly healthy, identify what’s holding you back from achieving your health goals. Is it a lack of time, energy, or cravings? Maybe it’s a lack of motivation, or maybe you don’t truly want to give up the habits you know aren’t good for you because they provide emotional comfort. Whatever the reason, identify what’s holding you back from being your healthiest self, and then make a plan to fix it.
For example, meal prep if the problem is lack of time, or find more nutritious versions of the food you crave. If it’s lack of motivation, rethink your “why” (do you want to adopt healthier habits to feel more confident, live a longer life, or have more energy?), and if bad habits provide emotional comfort, identify the root of the emotional discomfort. Then find alternative methods to relieve stress, anxiety, or boredom in ways that will actually provide a long-term solution.
3. Go to bed earlier
Even if your diet fails and you don’t have time to exercise, prioritize sleep over everything because getting enough sleep can affect your overall quality of life. If you have difficulty fitting more sleep into your schedule, start by going to bed five minutes earlier every night until you’ve gained an hour of sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep, figure out why. Talk to your doctor about improving sleep quality, try adaptogens, or drink chamomile tea and reduce screen time before bed. Going to bed earlier will not only mean more sleep, but it means you can get up earlier for a more productive or relaxing morning routine.
4. Prioritize gut health
There’s a major connection between the gut and the brain, the gut and the immune system, and even the gut and the skin. In other words, prioritizing gut health will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Add fermented foods to your diet (like sauerkraut, miso, or kimchi), eat more fiber, and add prebiotics to meals. More than anything, trust your gut. Pardon the pun, but your body knows what it needs, so pay attention to your body’s reactions: avoid foods that make you feel lethargic or nauseous, and load up on foods that make you feel good. For more ways to improve gut health, click here.
5. Set up your environment for success
You are what you eat, but you are where you live too. Surround yourself with motivating images, start a vision board, or post your affirmation on your mirror, desk, or fridge. Whatever is a visual representation of what you want to achieve, seeing your goals as often as possible will keep you motivated. Beyond vision boards and affirmations, make sure your home is setting you up for success. Keep your blender in an accessible spot, display healthier cookbooks on the shelves, leave your yoga mat out, and turn your bedroom into a relaxing oasis.
6. Do something every day that you’re passionate about
I have a theory (nay, proof!) that afternoon slumps or overall low energy might mean you’re not doing enough that lights a fire in you. To increase your energy and general zest for life (a crucial part of wellness), do more things you’re passionate about. If your job doesn’t get you excited, read a fascinating book on your lunch break, fit in a motivating workout, or spend weekends fighting for a worthy cause. If you’re unsure what you’re passionate about, make a list of events that you look forward to or your greatest talents. What would you invest your time in, even if you weren’t getting paid? What were your favorite hobbies as a little kid? Find ways to fit in those things more consistently. Your energy levels, happiness, and excitement for life will thank you.
7. Live less sedentarily
So you know you need to work out to be healthier, but the healthiest people are active even outside of designated gym time. In addition to your online yoga class or morning jog, focus on living less sedentarily overall by adding more non-exercise movement in your life. For example, walk your dog more often, stand while working, try gardening if you have a yard, clean your house more often, walk everywhere you can, dance while cooking or getting ready, stretch while watching TV, and get outside to take conference calls. For more ways to fit in movement throughout your day (no matter how busy you are), click here.
8. Experiment with something new every week
The secret to achieving your healthiest self might be as simple as making healthy habits feel new. Whether it’s trying a veggie that you’ve never cooked with, taking an online HIIT class when you’re more of a yoga girl, or experimenting with various wellness trends, regularly trying something new can help you become your healthiest self. The purpose is not to fit in every single self-care trend circulating on Instagram (that’s just FOMO disguised as wellness). Instead, the point of experimenting with new things is to find foods, exercises, and products that could really make a difference for you. Plus, trying new things can increase confidence and motivation.
9. Put your needs first
Do you ever say “yes” when you really want to say “no?” Are you a chronic people-pleaser, or do you waste mental real estate worrying how other people think of you? How often are you disappointing yourself to avoid disappointing other people? To truly be healthy, you have to be OK letting other people down if it means staying true to yourself. Putting your needs first, setting (and keeping) boundaries, and listening to your gut over other people’s advice are some of the most crucial ways to be healthy, but often the most overlooked. Your new 2021 resolution should be to do what you want to do and stay true to who you are. Your healthiest self will follow.
10. Go on at least one walk every day (or just get outside)
A simple health goal that could change your life? Go for a walk every single day. Not only is getting your steps up good for your health (your Fitbit will be so proud!) but getting fresh air and sunshine will boost your mood. If you don’t have time to go on a walk, do whatever you can to get fresh air throughout the day: take your laptop out on the balcony or patio for work, make conference calls while walking around the block, or eat your lunch outside (just don’t forget SPF). If it’s too cold to even think about spending time outdoors, open your window for a few minutes of fresh air.
11. Eat the rainbow (every day)
No, I’m not talking about Skittles. Plants get their colors from antioxidants, so it only makes sense to eat all the colors to provide your body with all the antioxidants, right? Incorporating reds (tomatoes, apples, red pepper), blues (blueberries, blackberries, blue potatoes), oranges (sweet potato, butternut squash, tangerines), greens (leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini), yellows (spaghetti squash, bananas, corn) and purples (purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes) is the easiest (and prettiest) way to ensure you’re getting an abundance of phytonutrients and the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. As an easy hack, try to add at least three different colors to each meal or plan grocery lists to include each color of the rainbow.
12. If you’re not enjoying it, reevaluate
Maybe you’re in the mindset that getting healthy is supposed to be hard. After all, we’ve been bombarded with restrictive diets and intensive workouts so often, we might confuse exhaustion or deprivation with health. Maybe you’ve even heard the phrase, “nothing worth having comes easy.” But I’d like to offer you a new idea of health: it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) difficult to achieve any health goal. When we’re eating nourishing foods and moving our bodies in ways we crave, healthier habits are much more sustainable. It’s also a sign that we’re in tune with what our bodies really need.
You don’t have to make drastic changes or set strict rules to achieve your healthiest self. Instead, it’s about unlearning what you think you “should” or “shouldn’t” do, and listening to what your body is trying to tell you instead. It might take some time to get there, but listening to your body and giving it what makes it feel best should not only be easy, but enjoyable.