As of 2017, the health and wellness industry is estimated to be worth about 167 billion U.S. dollars, and a four million dollar increase can be expected by the end of the year. 21st century America loves to overcomplicate health and mooch off of insecurity created by years of toxic, unrealistic expectations seen in media. I truly believe that in our deepest of hearts, most people know what they need to do to be the healthiest version of themselves, but don't because the allure of the newest diet or detox overpowers the small voice of reason.
As a very active person myself, I have been around the block and back with many of these health fads, and am here to educate you on what small, everyday decisions you should make if you want to be healthy. Not skinny, not ripped, but truly healthy in body and soul.
1. Make your water bottle your new best friend
There is a huge debate going on in the health community right now about how much water one should drink in a day. Should you drink only when you're thirsty? Should you drink before you get thirsty? 10 cups? A gallon? The numbers and statistics are all over the board right now, but the truth is that the numbers will fluctuate based on the person's height/weight, dietary needs, and lifestyle!
For instance, the recommended amount of daily water intake for adult men is 13 cups, but for women, only 9 cups. Obviously, these numbers will be higher for people with active lifestyles or certain illnesses. But generally, most people can drink enough water to meet their personal needs by drinking when thirsty. Any way you measure it, proper hydration is vital to good health.
2. Balance your food, and enjoy it too
When you think of healthy eating, what comes to mind? Diet plans? Restricting and counting calories? All green everything? Well, put those ideas aside and educate yourself on what a balanced diet really means! Keeping tabs on your macros (carbs, proteins, and fats) and micros (vitamins and minerals) is really all that healthy eating boils down to. Most people know the 2,000 daily calorie intake recommendation and can stick to it, but where they fall short is what those calories consist of.
Some people get the most energy from a 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fats diet, while others prefer a more even spread. Either way, you must supplement your macros with vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies. Find healthy, balanced foods you like and stock up, but don't forget to include those "treat foods" you like from time to time! A healthy diet does not mean a completely restricted one!
3. Exercise the way you want to
Crossfit, PureBarre, extreme yoga and P90X are all really popular exercise regimens. While they look cool and can often build insane amounts of muscle and strength if done correctly, not everyone enjoys or has time for a vigorous workout that requires wholehearted devotion. But, I have great news, you can exercise however you'd like! Take a stroll in the park, dance around your room, rollerblade, go for a swim, play some soccer, clean your house!
Exercise comes in many forms and levels, and there is something out there for everyone! As long as you are getting in some form of activity every day, you'll be good to go and your heart, body, and mind will thank you for all the endorphins!
4. Check in with your emotional and spiritual self
Health is not just about your physical body! The parts of us that cannot be seen are the hardest to maintain. We can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that we forget to address the part of us that manages emotions and spirit. No matter how busy you get or how stable you feel your emotions are, it is imperative that you take time out of your day to pray, meditate, and reflect on the most personal parts of you! For people struggling with mental illness, this is often the single most important health tip to follow.
5. Get enough sleep, but not too much
Hardly anyone gets enough sleep these days, but especially college students like myself. We stay up late doing homework and studying for tests and get up early for classes and other extracurriculars. Trying to find enough hours to sleep is almost impossible, and yet, it must be done. You might as well be drunk if you haven't had enough sleep. Your perception is impaired, your thought processes become foggy, and everything is just harder to do.
When you know you need the extra shut-eye, you may just have to put a project down for the night in order to function the next day. If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and sleep like a bear in hibernation, it is important to keep track of how many hours you are sleeping and check in to see if this is a healthy amount for you. There are many illnesses that can cause drowsiness, so it is important to check in with your doctor about your sleep habits.
6. Get your gut some good bacteria
A probiotic is something that is often seen as a health fad product but is actually very important for your gut (especially if you are taking antibiotics). Probiotics help boost your immune system, keeping you protected from many different common illnesses! They are also known for aiding in weight loss. These helpful bacteria can come in pill form or in a powder mix, so they're super convenient and easy to take!
7. Unplug before bed
Power off your phone, close your laptop, and turn off the TV! The artificial light from these devices can mess with your circadian rhythms and disrupt your sleep patterns! Try an electronics-free activity before bed like reading, journaling, or just listening to music.
8. Have fun in the sun
Exposure to sunlight is so important for everyone, and yet so many of us spend our days in dark, cold buildings! You get Vitamin D from spending time in the sun, so go soak it up! Vitamin D is said to lower cancer risk as well as improve bone health and overall mood! If you can't find the time to catch a few rays, a Vitamin D supplement might be right for you.
9. Drink responsibly
If alcohol is a part of your lifestyle, it can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation. But, when drinking becomes daily and excessive, you increase your risk of liver and heart disease, brain/nervous system damage, stroke, and numerous cancers. Red wines are the best option for your body since they are relatively low-calorie and have been proven to promote heart health.
10. Use your spice rack
Not only will herbs and spices bring out the flavors in your food, but many of them also have great health benefits! Cinnamon lowers blood sugar, peppermint relieves pain in the digestive tract and nausea, and turmeric is an anti-inflammatory! A simple Google search will give you dozens of new natural remedies to try with things you have in your cabinets!
Health and wellness does not have to be scary, complicated or extreme! Simple changes in your lifestyle can give you the biggest results! It is so important to remember that health is not defined by rippling muscles, how much you can bench or how far you run. Health is individual to each person and is a comprehensive measure of how smoothly and efficiently the body, head, and heart function together. Keep these things in mind, and you'll be well on your way to the healthiest, happiest, most productive you that you can be!