Can you handle the truth? Although DNA plays a huge role in body types, it’s more likely that those fit bodies you admire are more because of everyday choices rather than good ol’ mom and dad. In the same way that one piece of cheesecake won’t make you fat, eating one salad won’t instantly make you thin. On the contrary, it’s the healthy habits we choose to do every day that adds up and gets us closer to our goals or backs us further away from them.
But it doesn’t have to be hard, either! A few small tweaks to your daily routine is all you need to help kick your butt into gear and to keep it moving.
Keep Water on the Nightstand
Hydrating first thing in the morning is one of the best healthy habits to adopt, and the best way to ensure that happens is to keep a nice tall glass of water on your nightstand. “I have at least 20 ounces of water as soon as a wake up,” says Latoya Julce, New York City-based trainer and 305 Fitness instructor. “It helps cleanse my digestive system and prepare it for the day.”
Drink Green Tea
Not black with whole milk and honey. Not sugary, bottled concoctions. Green tea, plain and simple! The EGCG—a super potent nutrient found almost exclusively in green tea—has been shown to help break down fat and discourage new fat cells. A tea-diet revolution is the next big thing, author Kelly Choi explains in the book The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, in which test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in a week. She recommends you drink it for breakfast: Your body absorbs the nutrients in green tea most effectively when you drink it at least four hours after your last meal, making it a perfect way to start your morning.
Take a Lunch Break Walk
Research by Mercy Medical Center shows that an overwhelming number of Americans—about 42 percent—are deficient in vitamin D. The vitamin is responsible for not only strengthening your bones but also for helping to boost your mood and immunity. One of the best ways to get more D is to simply step outside. Ever notice some of your coworkers slipping out for 30 minutes during lunch? They’ve got it right. Getting more vitamin D can help you stick with your fitness plan because you’ll likely be happier more often, and sick less often.
If your fridge is full and your freezer is empty, it’s time to make a shift. For one, frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at their peak, so if certain produce is not in season, you may not be getting the best quality. Second, frozen foods are often cheaper and last longer (duh), ensuring that you have more time to eat all the good stuff you stocked up on before it spoils.
Keep It Real
Artificial sweeteners may be tempting to toss in your coffee in the morning, but resist them at all costs. Just because they are sans calories does not mean they’re doing your body any good. Fit minded folks avoid the fake stuff because artificial sweeteners have been found to disrupt normal body functioning and actually triggers a great hunger response in the body.
Count Colors, Not Calories
You’ll hear time and time again from nutrition experts: Not all calories are created equal. A handful of almonds versus the same amount of calories in potato chip form has a tremendously different effect on your body. While keeping portions under control is crucial to keeping weight at bay, one of the best ways to put together a well-balanced plate is actually by observing the variety of colors before you. Filling your dish with greens and reds and yellows will help you craft a nutrient-rich meal that will help fuel your body better for your workouts, muscle recovery, and weight loss.
Schedule Workouts in Advance
Mark Langowski, celeb trainer, is adamant that this is what people with six-packs always do. “If you just let your week and each day get started and unfold randomly, it will get ahead of you before you know it—and you will be too tired to workout,” he told Eat This, Not That! If you’ve already signed up and paid, you’re more likely to get your butt to spin class. Signing up for a cardio class ahead of time or scheduling sessions with your trainer for the week ahead is a good way to force yourself to stick to your fitness routine. We all have lazy days, but scheduling in your workouts helps ensure you won’t skip them.
Don’t Overdo the Exercising
On the flip side, fitness folks know that rest is just as important as activity. It’s possible to overdo it at the gym and exhaust yourself to the point where you’re no longer productive. Taking days off to rest your body and to allow your body to recover is equally as important as working it out in the first place. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a day off in between your workouts.
Get Some Beauty Rest
We’re all guilty of staying up too late watching Seinfeld reruns or binge-watching Netflix. But if you want to commit to a healthier lifestyle, sleep has got to be one of your top priorities. If you’re serious about getting healthier and losing a little weight, skip the late night television and get some sleep already. It will make those morning workouts a lot more bearable, too.
Skip the Holiday Specials
Fit people are just as human as anyone else; they still crave their lattes (and maybe need them to get through the morning), but they choose wisely when ordering from Starbucks. They still order that macchiato, but they skip the flavors and chemical-ridden syrups that go along with them. Sorry pumpkin spice, but we’ll pass.
Recognize and Tame Emotional Eating
One minute you’re craving something sweet, and the next you’ve got your fist in a jumbo bag of M&M’s. But are you really hungry? There are other ways to indulge our senses and ward off cravings besides just giving in to them. Boredom and stress can sometimes trigger unhealthy cravings, but it’s worth exploring other ways to deal with those feelings—and that’s exactly what healthy folks do. It may sound silly at first, but lighting candles, journaling, getting a massage, or even sitting outside can help calm stress and emotional eating.
Never Choose Cream-Based Dishes
Healthier food choices like soups can be a great way to fill up and get more veggies into your diet, but cream-based varieties don’t quite fit the bill. When in doubt, fit-minded folks opt for clearer broths and sauces, and they skip the creamy stuff that they know is probably loaded with belly-bloating ingredients like heavy cream.
Prepare for Parties
Holidays and birthdays simply can’t be avoided—and why would you want to skip out on them anyway? Those who are seamlessly able to work in celebrations (and the food and drinks that accompany them) are the ones who plan ahead for them. Fitting in an extra workout or skipping your dessert during the week can allow more room for party-indulgences to fit into your diet without ruining it. The best part of planning ahead is you won’t have the inevitable guilt following you around later.
Order it on the Rocks
There’s a reason mixed drinks and beer taste so darn good—they’re loaded with calories and sugar. “I allow one cheat day on the weekend, and I drink on the rocks,” says Julce. “No juice, either; there are too many artificial flavors.” This means skipping the soda with your cocktails, too. Recent studies show that people who drink soda on a regular basis can develop a gut that’s similar to a beer belly. They’re calling it soda belly and it’s another reason to avoid soda the same way you’d avoid drinking gasoline.
Be Active Outside the Gym
Making it to the gym a few times during the week is a task in and of itself. However, those who put a premium on living a healthy lifestyle don’t stop there. Healthy folks weave activity into their everyday by taking walks during lunch, playing tennis on the weekends, or playing tag with your kids.
Lift Some Weights
If you ask anyone for advice on losing weight, it’s likely that cardio will come up in the conversation. While getting your heart rate up and burning calories is important, lifting weights and building muscle will actually result in a higher metabolism.
Snacking itself is not the enemy; it’s the way in which you snack that either tips the scales in your favor or has you feeling discouraged. Snacking not only keeps your metabolism fired up, but it helps keep your hunger and energy levels steady throughout the day. The key here is in the preparation so that you can snack smart. “I have snacks prepared Monday through Friday,” reveals Julce.
Eat Dessert… Sometimes
We’re all human, but there’s a difference between treating yourself all the time—is it really a “treat” if you never say no?—and indulging in dessert once in awhile. “You must recognize that you will sometimes deviate, and that is okay—just make sure that this isn’t happening daily!” says Langowski in 21 Things People With Six-Packs Do Every Week.
Ignore the Scale
Weighing yourself can give you a decent indication of where you are and where you should be regarding weight. But it’s not necessarily the best indicator of health and fitness. Your body mass index, how your clothes fit, what your energy levels are like daily, and your annual check-ups with your doctor all give you a better sense of where you stand in terms of health and overall fitness.
Be Mindful of Your Steps
As in, have you walked 10,000 steps today? That’s the minimum recommended amount so that you aren’t considered a sedentary person. You don’t even have to strap on a pedometer or other tracker; if you have an iPhone and have the new iOS system, your phone automatically counts your steps for you (so long as you have it on your person). Look for the white icon with the heart that’s labeled “Health.” Plus, walking for weight loss is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get started down the healthy habits path, pun intended! Plain and simple: Don’t sit if you want to be fit.
Cheat, But Don’t Derail
They might fall off the wagon for one meal or one day, or maybe even one week (hello, vacation) but fit people never let it turn into a long-term thing. Allowing yourself to eat what you want every now and then is certainly important for your sanity, but most of all, it’s more realistic. By balancing your diet this way, you’re more likely to stick with your healthy habits in the long term.
Eat Carbs Every Day
Carbohydrates give your body the energy it needs to function properly and make it through the day. Just as not all calories are created equal, not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal and sweet potatoes take longer for your body to break down and as a result provide a steady supply of energy and work to ward off hunger pangs. Why not try out some overnight oats that everyone is buzzing about?
Don’t Judge Others
One of the hardest parts about sticking to a diet is doing so while remaining social. Going to the bar or out to dinner with friends can make it difficult to say no to food and drinks that have the ability to derail your diet in a matter of sips or bites. However, those who do exercise their will power at social gatherings also choose to let those around them make their own dietary choices. Making your peers comfortable is just as important as finding balance and peace for yourself.
Order Dressing on the Side
It’s one of the oldest tricks of the trade: Order your salad dressing or sauce on the side! Salads can be great ways to flood your body with fresh, healthy produce, but drowning them in dressing (or letting the restaurant do the honor) almost always pushes the calorie count sky high.
Pick and Choose
Navigating a restaurant menu can be one of the hardest things to do when you’re watching your weight. Although you probably didn’t get all dressed up to order the grilled chicken and steamed veggies, there are ways to pick and choose while still minimizing the damage. For one, fit people skip the bread basket and make sure to have a tall glass of water nearby. Furthermore, if your steak comes with fries, sub it out for greens.
Eat Healthy Fat
Research continues to support the benefits of consuming healthy fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Fit people simply don’t fear the fat—they just keep portions at bay. The American Heart Association emphasizes just how important it is to reduce trans fats and increase polyunsaturated fats in the diet to protect against heart disease. Healthy fats also contribute to greater feelings of satiety and can work to prevent unhealthy cravings as a result.
Cook at Home As Much As Possible
Homemade chicken and broccoli may not seem as exciting as the chicken and broccoli you ordered from that Chinese place down the street, but it’s wildly healthier. Cooking at home not only gives you the power to control calories and portions, but it even helps keep some weight in your wallet. Check out these 32 Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating for some cooking tips!
Keep Fit Company
Have you ever noticed that when your friends order pizza, and you’re totally indifferent, you still end up eating pizza? Hanging out with like-minded people (read: fit-minded) can help you stick to your goals. If your buddy wants to hit up that spin class instead of brunch this weekend, you might want to keep him close by. It’s much easier to stay consistent when you’ve got a partner or two by your side!
Don’t Overeat So You Feel Stuffed
They eat until they’re nourished, satisfied, and not hungry. They do not eat until they feel they’ve gotten the most for their money or until they feel comforted or until they feel “filled up.” Your stomach expands—an obese person’s stomach can be the size of a football whereas a healthy person’s stomach is the size of a fist—and always eating until you’re full is a surefire way to avoid ever getting a flat stomach. Avoid these 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat!
Listen to Your Body
At the end of the day, being in tune with your body’s own version of “normal” is the best thing you can do. It’s important to recognize when your body needs rest and even when your body needs more movement. Healthy people are in sync with their bodies and listen to signals that alert them to when they’re hungry, dehydrated, inflamed, or even getting sick. By paying closer attention to your energy and how your body feels overall, you can better provide it with what it needs.