15 Healthy Habits Every Woman Should Have
1. Make Peace With Where You Are
There’s this crazy idea in the world of weight loss that if we hate ourselves enough, torture ourselves enough, and shame and guilt ourselves enough, that somehow we’ll end up happy, thin and confident.
But this is NOT the path to happiness.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned working as a dietitian in the weight loss industry for the last 20 years (and overcoming my own food struggles), it’s that you cannot solve your body and weight problems with the same hateful mindset that got you here. It just doesn’t work.
By accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are right now, you’re not giving up. You’re empowering yourself to feel good now, so that you can take positive actions towards your goals with confidence. Start now by forgiving yourself for the past. You did the best you could with the weight loss resources you had at that time, period. Release the past and begin again. (Read this awesome book HERE to learn more.)
2. Stop Eating For Weight Loss (Start Eating For Health)
Food is a life-giving necessity and eating should be fun and enjoyable.
Diets, however, make you feel like food is the enemy. Food restriction also triggers binge eating, increases anxiety, and slows your metabolism. Diets rob you of the pleasure of eating and keep you locked in a self-imposed food prison.
Plus, if you only consider yourself “worthy” or “good enough” when you eat less, weigh less, or stick to an unattainable set of dieting rules, you set yourself up for a never-ending cycle of self-hate and frustration.
Stop eating for weight loss, and start eating for health. (Ironically, the positive by-product of eating for health is weight loss.)
The biggest and most common weight loss mistake is trying to lose weight by ONLY changing what you eat. Changing what you eat is a crucial part of weight loss and healthy living, but you also need to change how you think.
You need to deal with the voice (the hurtful and annoying voice) inside your head. You know that voice I’m talking about, right? It’s the voice that keeps you locked in patterns of anxiety and fear. And it’s the voice that sends you running to the kitchen… even when you’re not hungry.
But the good news is this: You absolutely have the power to train this voice. We all do. And meditation is one the most powerful tools you can use to help you do exactly that. Even just 10 minutes a day makes a HUGE difference. (Discover how to meditate HERE.)
4. Listen To Your (Very Wise) Body
Feeding yourself according to external cues—the clock, the amount of food on your plate, or a rigid dieting plan—goes against your bodies’ natural instincts and internal wisdom. And if you skip meals or underfeed yourself, you trigger your primal drive to overeat.
Your perfectly designed body instinctively knows exactly what it needs to thrive and naturally reach its ideal weight—you just have to get in tune with it. (Find out more about Intuitive Eating HERE.)
And if you think your body is broken or your metabolism is ruined (common complaints from my clients), know this: You can’t permanently damage your metabolism. Your (incredible!) body will bounce back so much faster than you think. Instead of fighting, underfeeding, and abusing your body, be amazed by it. It’s working hard to keep you alive, and it deserves your appreciation and respect.
5. Celebrate Everyday Successes
Most of us (myself included) tend to focus on what we are doing wrong. We see the negative more than the positive. This is totally normal, but you can train yourself to notice all the GOOD instead.
At the end of each day set aside a few minutes to write down three things that went well for you that day. The three things don’t have to be earthshaking in importance (“Went for a walk in a beautiful park.”), but they can be important (“Received good news from the doctor.”).
What you focus on expands and grows. And when you focus on your daily victories and appreciate what is already good in your life, your day feels like a success – because it IS a success.
6. Take Five Deep Breaths Before You Eat
How often do you wolf down food while driving in your car, running out the door, working at your desk, watching T.V., or doing something else? And how often do you eat while you’re experiencing emotional stress and strain? If you’re like most people in today’s fast-paced world (and if you’re like most women who struggle with weight, food, and emotional eating), it’s probably pretty often.
But here’s the thing: If you eat while your body is in a stressed-out “fight or flight” mode (called the sympathetic state), your digestive system does not have the ability to process its food appropriately, which can lead to (among lots of other things) weight gain.
The quickest way to get your body into a relaxed parasympathetic state that naturally activates your digestive process is through deep breathing. So before you eat anything, sit down and simply take five to ten deep breaths—slowly breath in through your nose, and then push the air out through your mouth. Easy and life-changing.
7. Cultivate Eating Consciousness
Hunger is the need for food. It’s a physical reaction triggered by low-blood sugar and hormones that is designed to keep the body properly fueled.
Appetite is the desire for food. It’s a conditioned response to food triggered by senses (usually after seeing, smelling, or thinking about something yummy), social situations, or emotions.
And it’s super easy to confuse wanting to eat with needing to eat. An easy solution is this: The next time you feel the urge to eat, pause and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” It’s not about deciding if you are in fact allowed to eat, it’s about raising your awareness around WHY you want to.
By answering this one simple question you’ll empower yourself to make a conscious eating choice. And that is a very big deal! Make this an everyday habit, and you’ll not only drastically cut back on mindless and superfluous eating, you’ll also start to unravel your emotional connections to food.
8. Honor Your Emotions
Eating is a seductive distraction that immediately soothes negative feelings. And certain foods (sugar and carbs, I’m looking at you!) trigger a release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. But, as you know, the relief found in food is temporary. In fact, it lasts all of five seconds—then you go back to feeling sad or stressed… and now you also feel guilty, stuffed, and disgusted.
The truth is this: If your food craving doesn’t come from physical hunger, then you can be sure that eating is not going to satisfy it.
The next time you have an intense emotional food craving, first take a few deep breaths and really acknowledge any accompanying feelings of fear, anxiety, or whatever. Once you make yourself aware of your feelings, simply say to yourself, “OK this is how I’m feeling right now, and that’s OK, I have a right to my feelings.” And then just sit with your feelings and actually FEEL them.
Then take a few more deep breathes and say, “I choose to feel peace instead.” Concentrate on your breathing and just repeat this mantra until you feel a little calmer. This begins a powerful new habit of releasing your fears instead of holding on to them. (For more help with emotional eating, go HERE.)
9. Actively Appreciate Your Life
I’m not suggesting we deny or avoid the challenges in our life, not at all. But we also don’t have to incessantly complain and obsess about the bad stuff.
When you focus your attention on what you DO want and on what is already good in your life, you create feelings of hope and possibility. And this moves you forward in positive ways. Because…
Helpful Thoughts = Good Feelings = Helpful Choices
So starting today notice the many blessings you have in your life right now and all that you have to be grateful for. Look for the good, really search for it, and I promise you will find it.
Also start highlighting and appreciating all the things that make you so uniquely and wonderfully you. Recognize that you are SO much more than your body. Self-appreciation is really one of the easiest ways to begin healing your relationship with yourself.
10. Eat (Mostly) Real Foods
Real foods are those that are unprocessed, unrefined, whole and fresh, free of additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners and hormones. They’re as close to their natural state as possible. (For a long list of my favorite Real Food resources, go HERE.)
And when you eat real foods (rather than highly processed ones) you’ll notice that you just feel so much better, as these are the foods that provide your body with what it needs to function at its best.
In fact, one of the BEST ways to love and respect yourself is to provide your body with nutrient-rich foods that make you feel your best…and to drink (lots and lots!) of water. And if you think you’re too busy to eat healthy real foods, try THIS.
11. Stop Criticizing Yourself
As women, we tend to tear ourselves apart and see the worst about ourselves. We notice the negative. But we need to do the opposite. We need to build ourselves up and notice all the good.
In fact, I believe it is our responsibility to do so. No one is going to treat you better than you treat yourself. And it is not up to anyone else to do it—it is up to YOU.
Think about it this way: If criticizing yourself worked, you’d already be thin and happy, right?
Pay attention to your thoughts and eliminate the negative and nasty ones. Start talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend or your daughter – with kindness and compassion. Concentrate on just this one thing each day, and your life will get better and your weight loss journey will get easier, guaranteed. (I have a 30-day challenge HERE that will help you do exactly this.)
12. Find Joyful Ways To Move
Exercise is not just about losing weight, it’s about feeling good in your body and being more connected to everything you do. Movement boosts your mood, relieves stress, and it sharpens your intellect. And movement in your body WILL create movement in your life. No doubt about it.
But here’s the most important part: You have to find something you LOVE to do.
Do you know people who, despite their hectic schedules, never miss a Zumba or yoga class? Do you have a friend who’s always raving about some new activity? They don’t have more willpower than you do; they’ve just found their exercise groove or sweet spot. And you can too.
Test things out until you find something that clicks. You’ll know when you’ve found it cause it won’t even feel like exercise… it will feel like FUN. And speaking of fun…
13. Prioritize Self-Care (And Fun)
Self-care is showing up for yourself with love and kindness on a moment-to-moment basis. And the more you act like you’re worth it (and YOU are so worth it), the more you enhance your self esteem, the more your fears subside, and the more you feel driven to care for yourself.
Plus, the more you fill your life with fun, self-care, and joy, the less you’ll need to fill up on food for emotional fulfillment.
Not to mention, stress has a huge (and I mean HUGE—see habit 6 above) impact on your health and your weight. Among other things stress slows your metabolism, intensifies cravings, and increases abdominal fat storage. And as your daily joy increases, your stress decreases, your body relaxes… and you lose weight.
Stop using your weight or body as an excuse, and start showing up for yourself in small ways every single day. Start doing things that bring you happiness, things that make you FEEL good. And start treating yourself the way you treat the people you love.
14. Drink Green Smoothies
Overhauling your entire diet in one fell swoop can feel seriously overwhelming. But adding just one delicious green smoothie to your diet each day is easy-peasy. And it’s effective.
The ladies over at Simple Green Smoothies (love this site) say this… “Plant-powered green drinks are packed full of leafy greens, fresh fruits and hydrating liquids that keep you nourished and keep your cravings at bay for hours. With Simple Green Smoothies by your side, get ready to boost your energy, lose weight effortlessly and make healthy eating a lifestyle— not a diet.“ Yes, please!
Down one green smoothie a day, and you’ll feel so good, you’ll be inspired to make other good-for-you diet and lifestyle changes.
15. Seek Support And Positive Mentors
The people that we invite into our lives greatly influence our success and happiness.
Over the past ten years I’ve worked with life coaches, business coaches, intuitive coaches, and a wonderful therapist. I’ve taken dozens of online courses, read countless personal development books, and attended a ton of wellness events.
I purposely find mentors, coaches, and like-minded people to support me on my healing journey. And you should too. None of us has do it alone.
For example, if you think you might have food sensitivities or allergies, work with a dietitian who specializes in integrative nutrition (Danielle Omar is an awesome choice, contact her HERE). And if you struggle with emotional eating, compulsive overeating, or body image issues and you want to learn how to lose weight from a place of love instead of fear, please join my Smaller Size Bigger Life group coaching program (you can hop on the waitlist HERE.)
Remember, no one is going to treat you better than you treat yourself. So please take back your power and invest in yourself and your happiness.