Invest in Yourself This Valentine’s Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day next week you may be thinking about downing a box of chocolates and eating a few red velvet cupcakes. Stop right now and take a moment to think this through. You have the power to take control and invest in yourself. Too often, I hear my friends talking about how they plan to start living healthier after they’ve binged on a major holiday. Their healthy-living goals really only sets themselves up for failure in the future. A 2009 study from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom found that more than 75 percent of New Year’s resolution followers gave up. So who had the success stories? The people who broke down their goals into small, achievable steps.

Your life isn’t an experiment. It’s an investment in your future. If you fuel yourself with junk and bad habits, you won’t have the reserves for energy and good health. Consider each day an opportunity to invest in good habits so you’ll have stamina and great health to withdraw. You can’t lose. Who wants to sit at home while the rest of the gang goes out to play.

And, it’s not just all about you. Do you want to be the parent or grandparent who sits on the sidelines or the one who creates lasting memories by participating right beside them? Today, you can make a move so the dream of a long, active life becomes a reality. And, I’m here to show you seven ways to push the reset button on your healthy habits-starting now. Even if you’re already on a healthy track, there’s always room for improvement.

1. Sleep It Off.  No, not your Valentine’s Night hangover — your sluggish metabolism. A 2009 study from the University of Chicago found that people who don’t get a full night’s sleep are more likely to gain weight and have more difficulty losing body fat when they are dieting.

Sleep experts say the most effective way to improve your sleep is to stick to a regular bedtime and regular wake-up time-even on the weekends. Ideally, your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. And, move distracting, light-generating electronics like computers, TV sets and cell phones out of your sleeping zone.

2. Drink Smarter.  Ditch the conventional wisdom that your daily fluid intake should only consist of water. Drink juice, green tea or coffee if you want to but be mindful of the calories. A fizzy Vitamin-C powder added to water may satisfy a soda urge. And, branch out. I’m a huge fan of freshly-juiced green drinks made from spinach and kale. But, you are not allowed to knock it until you try it.

3. Lose the hidden pounds?  We can’t underestimate the importance of elimination. To keep your colon healthy, increase your fiber intake to 25 grams a day. I’m also a fan of probiotics for regularity and increased vitality, like Rainbow Light’s ProbioActive 1B. And, downing a fiber drink (yes, those) can actually help your body break down the fat in fat cells.

4. Make It A 5-Veggie Day -Every day!  And, get creative with it. If kale juice seems unappealing, steam it and add a splash of olive oil Kathy Smith Eating Lunchto the batch (or some collard greens), and you’ll quickly change your tune. The darkest, leafy greens help keep your bones strong, so don’t skimp.

5. Shrug Off Sugar.  Every time I cut back on refined sugars my energy level rises and stays there. It’s easy to fall into the trap of grabbing a sugary snack for a quick boost but the crash that follows is never fun. Simple substitutions like choosing a piece of fruit over a glass of juice or sparkling water over soda can do wonders for your mood, energy levels and waistline. A study of more than 50,000 nurses found that women who had just one sugary soda or glass of juice a day weighed more than those who drank less than one a month.

6. Grab Different Grains.  So many people have gluten sensitivities that wreak havoc on their digestive systems. “Wheat” is not a great choice for everyone. Choose purer grain choices like steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice. And, don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Instead of using bread for sandwiches, wrap your lunch up in large lettuce leaves.  You’ll love the crisp, fresh flavor. 

7. Shake It Up.  I rarely travel without a blender because protein shakes are a cornerstone of my daily diet. I like the Hamilton Beach single serving blender that has a convenient travel lid. Then I add a protein powder that’s low in sugar and mix it with frozen berries, soy, low-fat or almond milk, some flaxseed oil and swap it out for at least one meal a day. Another option is to seek out a great local juice bar for your shakes. Either way it’s a delightful breakfast, post-workout snack, or sweet-tooth-satisfier.

Now, go on and create some lasting memories!