The 5 Habits: The Foundation of a Life Well-Lived

Every meaningful journey requires two things: a destination and a purpose.  The destination tells you where you are going.  The purpose gets you started, but, more importantly, holds you to the path in the face of challenges.  The destination is your journey’s WHAT.  What you want to accomplish, what your goal is.  The purpose is your WHY. Why do you want to accomplish this and why is it important, imperative to reach? Any journey worth taking, any goal of real value will test how much you want it.  Will you stay the course when it’s HARD? Will you stay the course when life gets in the way?  Will you stay the course when you don’t feel like it...when WHAT you have to do isn’t WHAT you feel like doing?  Will you consistently make the choices and do the work? This is where purpose, your WHY, grabs your hand and pulls or pushes you forward.  

So if you are here, your WHAT is weight loss or, more importantly, fat loss. Your WHAT is health and well-being.  Your WHAT is your best life.  

The HOW we accomplish your WHAT will begin here.  With us.  Together.  We will give you the tools, teach you the habits that are the foundation of a well-fueled, healthy body.  The choices, the effort, the inevitable challenges will be fueled by your WHY. 

Let’s begin.

In working with clients, I have learned that diets and meal plans made their goal attainable, but often, sadly, not sustainable.  Diets and meal plans are finite. They do not change behaviors. They assume there is a finish line: your goal.  Once your WHAT is achieved, success!!  And when the weight comes back; it’s not the diet’s fault. It’s your lack of willpower. So you sign back up, buy back in, find a new and improved diet. 

But what if I told you that it's not you who is to blame?

I believe it is the diet’s fault. I believe your WHAT has to be sustainable!!  I believe you have to learn new healthy habits.  I believe you have to take the time to consistently practice each habit until it’s effortless, and then add the next. I believe you have to understand there is no finish line, but don’t fret!!  This journey isn’t filled with elimination or deprivation.  Rather, it is filled with discovering your unique balance between fuel and food that allows you to live your best, health-filled life.  

So here are the first five habits, the new—and maybe not-so new—behaviors that must become your foundation. Some habits will require an entire blog post to themselves. Others can be detailed together, some need no additional information. But each habit should be practiced and be consistent for a two week period before adding another.  (Adding too many new habits simultaneously guarantees overload and eventually failure.  It has taken years to develop poor nutrition habits, they cannot be undone overnight.). So respect the process and remember, you are not beginning a diet.  You are developing healthy, lifelong nutrition habits that will help you sleep better, feel better, stabilize your mood, provide energy, make you feel full and satisfied, and, of course, change your body composition.  If you take the time to build sound habits, then I promise this will be lifelong rather than a quick fix. 

Habit 1.  Add Water:  at least 64 oz. per day.  The best way to begin this habit is to see the water.  Have it on a counter (8 oz bottles, gallon jug, 24 oz bottles whatever works).  Drink it by 8 p.m.

Habit 2.  Increase Non-starchy Vegetable Intake:  micronutrients are key and can be derived from colorful & dark, green, leafy vegetables.  The goal for getting lean is 7-11 servings per day of non-starchy vegetables.               

(1 serving equals:  1 cup leafy or 1/2 cup chopped or 1 med. whole)

The best way to get your veggies every day is to have them chopped, prepped, and washed.  Letting the grocery store be your sous-chef enables quick assembly and a simple add to something you are already cooking.  Another favorite method of mine is roasting: take whatever veggies you like and toss in olive oil, pepper, celtic sea salt or any herbs, seasonings you prefer.  Spread on lined cookie sheet and pop in oven.  Typically 400-425 for 20 mins. 

Habit 3.  Balanced Macronutrients:                 

 A.   PROTEIN:  Protein keeps you feeling full as it is slow to digest.  Eggs, lean meats, seafood, game, poultry (grassfed, wild, pasture-raised, nitrate-free preferred).  You need about 1 (F) 2 (M) palm sized servings per meal.  If you struggle with getting enough protein, then supplement with shakes.                                                                 

B.  HEALTHY FATS:  Fats make you feel satisfied and full.  Also, fat is not the enemy (processed fats are!).  In order to burn fat, you must consume fat.  Fat is calorically dense so if weight loss is a goal, eating nuts and nut butter all day is healthy but will undermine your net energy balance.  2 thumb sized portions per meal is sufficient. Healthy fats include:  extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts/seeds, olives, grass-fed butter, freshly ground nut butters, avocado oil, fatty cold-water fish, etc. 

C.  CARBS:  Carbs provide energy and mental clarity.  They are not evil!  Processed, refined carbs are the problem. Veggies, starchy vegs, fruit, whole grains are good, healthy sources of nutrients.  Non-starchy vegetables and low-sugared fruits should make up the bulk of our carb intake.  For weight loss the ratio of veggies to fruit is 5:1. So, 10 servings veggies to 2 servings fruit per day. 

 (Fruit serving:  1/2 cup chopped or small berry; 1 medium round or 1/2 small banana—avoid dried fruits, juices etc

Carb intake ranked from most to least for lean body composition (depending on tolerance):  

        1.  Non-starchy, leafy, colorful vegetables

        2.  Lower sugared fruits (berries best choice, tart apples, etc)

        3.  Starchy vegetables: sweet potato, corn, potato, etc.

        4.  Higher sugared fruits (bananas, papayas, mango etc)

        5.  Whole grains:  wild/brown rice, quinoa, Sprouted whole grains, etc.

Habit 4.  Sugar: natural sugars derived from whole, unprocessed food should be your only intake. Sugar is an addictive, damaging empty calorie.  It spikes insulin (fat storing hormone), increases hunger, decreases mental clarity and well-being and increases anxiety and depression (just to name a few reasons why it should be avoided).  Sugar hides in processed foods under many names, so it is best to avoid foods with more than 3 ingredients or any ingredients you don't recognize.  I advise all of my clients to keep their sugar gram intake to 25 grams per day for fat loss and no more than 30 grams in general.  Yes, there are some better sources of sugar because honey and maple syrup, for example, have nutrient value, but sugar is sugar and your body responds to it the same way in any form. 

Habit 5.  Food versus Fuel: Food is too good!  It is typically calorically dense and devoid of most nutrients.  Fuel is the opposite.  Food typically requires little preparation, is shelf stable, and is overly processed.  Fuel requires preparation, it is best when unpackaged and one ingredient, when packaged it is best when 3 ingredients or less and spoils quickly.  

We live in a culture of convenience. Our schedules are so hectic,  the food industry makes it easy for us to rely on processed foods.  As we become more unhealthy and heavy, they process the food even more and claim it is non-fat, has zero sugar, is pumped full of protein, calcium, vitamins etc.  They know what the market health trend is!  When we eat real food (fuel) we feel energized and satiated; we are able to get more restful, restorative sleep; we have a stronger immune system and less aches and pains; we become more patient and have a sense of peace.   As well, ideal body composition without processed foods is very easy to sustain (just look at pre-World War 2 America).   

The ratio is typically 80-90% fuel and the balance food.  

It is diet culture that tells you that you can spend a life avoiding the foods that give you emotional, situational or social comfort. A life of healthy eating habits seeks to find balance not perfection, not deprivation.  If you enjoy a glass of wine, cheesecake, pizza, love restaurants, then enjoy them in moderation and in view of your body composition goals.  Don't mindlessly ingest food, plan for it.  Make it a ritual.  Not a lazy, easy choice.  Having food, when it is chosen and planned, is not cheating.  It is living a full life.  As you incorporate healthy habits, you will begin to manage your food days better, you will even begin to crave fuel during your outings or emotionally stressful times!

Respect that healthy habits take time to build!  Don’t rush the process. Understand there will be set backs. Understand that ultimately you are responsible for your choices. Understand that life will not cooperate!  Understand that your health and well-being is the most meaningful journey of your life. You know your WHAT!  Find your WHY. It is your armor, your cheerleader, your guide and your PURPOSE.