Feeling Overwhelmed With Making Changes? Do This ONE Thing First

A large part of having and maintaining a healthy life can involve change.  Change can be drastic and big and even scary.  If you’re farther off course from that healthy lifestyle you desire, the necessary impending changes can be paralyzing to the point where you take no action.

If we only focus on the end goal and become overwhelmed by the big changes we need to make to fully integrate the new lifestyle we want, we may overlook and dismiss the small and easy changes that we can make today. While some people have the incredible ability to make big changes overnight, as though they just flip a switch in their brain, most of us do better with smaller, bite-sized changes, which I lovingly refer to as baby steps.

start crawlingAnd over the course of a year, those small changes will add up to big changes. For example, how overwhelming is it to think about trying to lose 50 pounds.  What about instead focusing on the smaller step of healthy weight loss goal of 1 pound a week.  Or trying to write an entire book (which I’m currently in the fun process of doing) versus focusing on writing one page a day.  Taking smaller bites or actions towards a big goal will get you moving towards your goal.  Movement creates momentum, which can empower you to continue taking baby steps until you actually reach your goal.

The first step to making baby steps is to identify them.  And when I say baby, I mean small. No need to go crazy here.  Take 10 minutes to do a brainstorming session on all the small changes you can make that will move you towards better health.  Feel free to take from my list below and add some of your own ideas:

  • Read your ingredients labels! This is probably my number 1 nutrition tip, to actually know what you’re eating.  Just buy what you would normally buy but read the ingredients labels.  Chances are, next time you go to the grocery store, you might investigate what’s in the other brands before you just throw your old standby in the cart.  If that’s too overwhelming, just start by reading one ingredient label per trip. Or read ingredients labels as you use the item.
  • Buy organic ketchup instead of regular ketchup: Pretty much ALL non-organic ketchup is made with high fructose corn syrup versus organic ketchup is made with just sugar.
  • Buy natural peanut butter instead of brands like Jif: Jif and others have TONS of added sugar. Natural peanut butter is just peanuts.  That’s it.  But, again, broken-record here, you have to read labels to make sure you really know what you’re getting.
  • Switch out sandwich bread or wraps with collard greens: Not only is this a low-carb option, but it’s another way to add more veggies to your meals.
  • Switch iceburg lettuce for spinach: as a darker leafy green, spinach is more nutrient dense than iceburg lettuce.
  • Try some other spices instead of salt: The sky is the limit when it comes to spices. Rosemary, thyme, ginger, basil, mint, cinnamon, sage etc. Add flavor with spices and herbs and get creative.
  • Make your own dressing: Olive oil and vinegar with a little bit of salt and pepper is delicious, easy to make dressing, and significantly healthier than most of what you will buy in the store.
  • Replace one of your drinks with water: In general, I see people drinking way too much coffee, soda, Gatorade, sweet tea, etc and not enough water. Start small and replace one of your daily drinks with water.
  • Add protein powder to your smoothies: Juice smoothies can be filled with antioxidants and nutrients but protein will keep you full longer and help balance blood sugars.
  • Start your day off by meditating for 5 minutes in lieu of checking Facebook, Instagram, etc. How many hours do we waste on social media? Replace a small fraction of that time with a positive habit.
  • Take a break and move: If I have a long office day where I’m sitting at my desk, I will get up and walk around every hour or so. I may do some lounges, pull-ups on the pipe in my closet, or even clean for a few minutes to get the blood pumping.  A 5-10 minute break every hour during a 8 hour work day can easily add up and increase your exercise. But this is about starting small or implement just one “movement break” during your day is a great place to start.
  • Set a 10 minute timer and clean: I do this ALL the time! If my apartment is a mess and I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to do, I set a 10 minute timer and just start cleaning something. Anything. It’s amazing how much you can actually get done in 10 minutes when you focus.

I sometimes take for granted how many baby steps I’ve made to get where I am now, Those who know me know now may not believe that at one point in my life, I was fairly unhealthy and eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).  In high school, I had soda every day and would regularly eat fast food.  As I got older, I became more interested in nutrition, and decided to become a vegetarian but was more of a “carbatarian”, mostly eating veggie burgers and pasta.  Once I began naturopathic medical school and actually learned about nutrition, I was able to make further changes and am at a place where I feel balanced in healthy eating habits.  This “overnight” journey has probably been over the course of 7 years.

Now this lifestyle has been so ingrained that I don’t even have to think about it.  It’s just a part of who I am.  If I knew back then what changes would have to take place to get to where I am today, I know I would have been completely overwhelmed and discouraged.  The key is small, manageable baby steps.

So now that you have your list, what’s the one baby step you can take today? Share below!

Stay Radiant,

Dr. Russell

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