30 Days to a Better Me!
May 12, 2011 1:12 PM   Subscribe

What five things do you recommend a person do to make themselves healthier, slimmer and overall a better person in 30 days?

Similar to this question, I'm looking for some things that without a doubt will improve my quality of life - drinking lots of water, exercising 30 minutes a day, eating more veggies, sleeping more, taking fish oil. I want to do these things (or not do certain things) for 30 days and notice a difference in the way I look, feel and act. I know so much of this may be common sense, but what other things would you suggest?
posted by adverb to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 219 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try this.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:16 PM on May 12, 2011 [17 favorites]

Five things?

1.) Exercise
2.) Focus on work while at work
3.) Eat veggies, whole grains, low fats, high proteins
4.) Drink water; cut out all sodas, artificial sweetners; cut back on alcohol
5.) Get adequate sleep

Beyond 5 things:

- Call your parents, call your friends more often - reconnecting/repairing/encouraging positive relationships in life can do wonders on your mood

- De-crap your house - you'll feel lighter without junk that you don't use/need - consider donating it

- Volunteer if you can - helping others makes you feel great!

- Get fresh air - lots of it.

- Take a multivitamin

- Be well groomed - shower/shave/whathaveyou

- Listen more, talk less - you'll be surprised at what people will tell you and how they will open up to you

- Small random kind acts are powerful - hold doors, smile at strangers, etc.
posted by floweredfish at 1:18 PM on May 12, 2011 [31 favorites]

Stop watching TV for the month.
posted by PickeringPete at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

1. Get enough sleep, preferably at regular times.
2. Eat lots of vegetables and other healthy food.
3. Limit alcohol, cigarettes, sugar.
4. Exercise at least moderately each day, and vigorously 2-3 x/week.
5. Be positive.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start running. 30 minutes a day doesn't do a whole lot, but if you have an hour, give it a try.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cut out sugar sodas. I know someone who gave up soda for Lent and lost 8 lbs.

Read books. Lots of books. Not on a device, computer or anything that requires batteries.

Give or get a hug every day.

Go to bed early.

Watch the portion control.
posted by Leezie at 1:20 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Couch to 5K (it's 2 months, but 2.5K ain't nothing)
posted by gwint at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

1. If you drink/smoke then stop doing that. The improvement in your daily life would be quite dramatic, and you'll start to feel it from the second week onwards.

2. Have a heavier breakfast, lighter lunch, and early dinner (before 8pm).

3. A lot of people drink cola (but it's diet!) rather than water. Stop doing that. Just sip water. Add a bit of lemon if you want some taste in it.

4. Go to bed by 10, wake up by 6. Get about 7-8 hours of sleep.

5. Only use internet for specific things that your "real" life calls for. Don't just surf.
posted by vidur at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, I'm not an expert on this by any means but I recently had a regular physical with my doctor. While I'm not in bad shape or anything close, my blood presure was slightly high, and my cholesterol was slightly high. He said these are things that can be easily changed by diet and exercise. While I've always done my best to stay in shape and eat healthy, I openly admit that I've fallen off that path in the recent last couple of years. So now I'm back to exercising five days a week. I do the martial arts, pushups, sit ups, and I jog for about 30 minutes. Total workout time is about 60 minutes a day. I've been sticking to this for the past 2 weeks and I must say I feel like a new person. Jogging is such great exercise. And I feel better about myself after doing it. I've already seen my blood pleasure start measuring good levels. As for eating...I need to stop eating fast food, beef, pizza, etc. I've been eating that stuff too much. I'm gonna eat more salads, fish, and chicken instead of beef. My doctor also said to start taking fish oil which I have. I'm going back for testing in about a month and half. I'm confident my numbers will be good. My advice in terms of exercising would be...find something you enjoy. Some sort of cardio is probably the best exercsise for getting healthier. Maybe take up tennis, racket ball, speed walking, swimming, or jogging. I actually enjoy jogging. It gives me time to think. Everything here is a matter of discipline. You have to start doing the things that make you a healthier person. Easier said then done, but you can do it!
posted by ljs30 at 1:24 PM on May 12, 2011

you asked for 5 things...my bad!

1. exercise 30-60 minutes a day at least 4 days a week.

2. get plenty of sleep

3. don't eat as many processed foods

4. find a new hobby that you love

5. take a good multi vitamin
posted by ljs30 at 1:27 PM on May 12, 2011

I am just going to add that water with sliced cucumbers in it is also delicious.
posted by everichon at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2011

Tough to advise without knowing where you're starting from, so you only get one thing: bike to work, if it's at all feasible and you're not already.
posted by gurple at 1:33 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

1. Eat more fiber
2. Do stretching exercises
3. Sit up straight
4. Wear clothes that fit well.
5. Drink more water
posted by vitabellosi at 1:51 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Reposting the above with better formatting. My apologies.

I just joined MeFi's HealthMonth team, and so have been thinking about 30-day goals on a meta-level.
  1. For any 30-day period, just choose 1-3 new things.
  2. Choose specific actions that you can control. "Eat better" is not an action. "Eat 1 serving of bright green vegetables" is an action. Similarly, lose 10 lbs is not an action. It's a consequence of daily actions like "jog for 20 minutes" or "eat an apple"
  3. Actions are things that you DO. "No more 'x'" is an absence of action. If I wanted to stop browsing the web before work in the morning, I would create an action to replace it. "Spend 10 minutes cleaning my house in the morning" is an action, and to be successful I'll have to spend 10 fewer minutes in front of my computer. After all, the reason I want to browse the Internet less is to allow time for other things. Instead of "Don't drink any soda" try "drink 2 Liters of water." It's going to be hard to meet your water goal if you opt for soda.
  4. Plan flex days. If you commit to doing an action 5 or 6 days a week, then when you miss a day you don't feel like a failure. Instead, you feel like a person who is going to need to make sure they re-prioritize their week to make their goal. And if you get to the end of the week without missing any days, take a day off!
  5. Tracking is key. I like Health Month because I check in every day, and it keeps a record of my check-ins. You could do the same thing with an excel sheet, or by marking X's on a calendar.

posted by jander03 at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2011 [45 favorites]

So many good ideas here!

One quicky- getting outside for at least 15 min a day (don't forget your sun protection) can dramatically lift your mood. A half hour walk somewhere greenish is pretty much all kinds of awesome.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:29 PM on May 12, 2011

1. Try going without meat a day (or few) a week.

2. Play an instrument, and sing with it! Even if you don't sing often. The ukulele is fun.

3. Eat lots of fiber, especially vegetables.

4. Redecorate or rearrange a room.

5. Re-watch the funniest movie you've ever seen.
posted by cp311 at 2:59 PM on May 12, 2011

Here's a few I haven't seen mentioned yet....

1. Floss every day
2. Write in a journal / jot down brief notes of what you did each day
3. Cook more often (assuming you eat out a lot. I used to, then started cooking almost all my meals, it has really had a positive impact on my life)
4. Save more money every month, even if it's a small amount like ten dollars
5. Get a plant or pet (even just a fish!), if you don't already have one
posted by Squee at 3:19 PM on May 12, 2011

I've been doing this on Health Month too - three things, not five, but the principle is the same and I've done three months now.

The first month I picked:
- write first thing in the morning for 30 minutes
- get 30 minutes exercise every day (specifically for me that meant on the days I don't do weights at the gym, doing a 30 minute cardio-type thing like skating, running, even walking).
- eat sugar only on one "cheat day" a week.

The first two of those worked really well. The third not so much, but I blame the health month interface for that :)

The second month I did:
- exercise for 30 minutes a day
- no added sugar in anything EVER
- draw for 30 minutes a day

I did pretty badly that month, but mostly because all three things were for every day, and I had no cheat days. I got kind of resentful about it, and also life interfered a lot so I lost points for things that were kind of out of my control or at least unreasonably difficult to work around (due to unexpected international travel, my birthday, moving house...)

The third month I did:
- go to the gym five days a week
- no web-surfing in the office
- track your meals every day

This worked better - it was more manageable with the weekends off, and the meal tracking (because I was diagnosed with iron deficiency) wasn't too arduous, but made a big difference.

So my lesson is not to be over-ambitious: take little steps. I also found it was really important to strictly define my goals. If I said "exercise for 30 minutes", does walking to the supermarket count? I would have done it anyway. Does my usual 10 minute bicycle commute count towards that? At the outset, I would have said no, but then I ended up kind of cheating because I hadn't defined my terms.
posted by lollusc at 4:39 PM on May 12, 2011

That 30 day program that restless_nomad linked to at the top is absolutely fantastic. It boils down the 3463 pages of advice I was about to inflict upon you to its most useful essence. Follow it. You'll be astounded at the results. You can focus on exercise for the next 30 day cycle.
posted by Cobalt at 6:35 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Cultivate compassion for others.
2) Experience and express gratitude.
3) Be courageous.
4) Stop fearing failure.
5) Don't buy what can make.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:13 PM on May 12, 2011

Correction: 5) Don't buy what you can make.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:18 PM on May 12, 2011

Low carb
Weight lifting
More and regular sleep
Brush your teeth
Low carb (I know, I know.)
posted by unixrat at 8:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want to get more fit in a month, I highly recommend Jillian's 30 day shred. It is a workout that I really felt the difference after a month of doing it -- suddenly I was running up hills that I used to drag up.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:35 PM on May 12, 2011

1. Whole30 (or a similar ancestral/traditional eating plan like Weston A Price, Primal, or Archevore).
2. An exercise regime that is actually effective in muscle gain and fat loss - that means lifting heavy or doing interval training, not long-duration cardio which is inferior by both measures.
3. Start learning something interesting - either from a book or by actually doing it.
4. Many people are deficient in magnesium and Vitamin D. Consider supplementing those.
5. From #1, for re-emphasis - increase your intake of animal fats. I know they are stigmatized nowadays but they are actually quite beneficial. Anecdotally, my hypertension mostly resolved itself after upping intake. Seth Roberts found it made him mentally quicker. And studies purporting to show harm of saturated fats are often lacking.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:49 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Archevore link should go here instead.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:50 AM on May 13, 2011

And one more addendum on the lifting heavy - it won't make you big and bulky unless you force-feed yourself. Exercise determines body composition, diet determines size. That's a slight oversimplification but it's 80% true.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:52 AM on May 13, 2011

30 minutes of chinups, rows, dips and pushups twice a week.
30 minutes of running twice a week.
30 minutes of situps three times a week.

Get enough sleep. Don't eat terribly. Don't waste time on eating 'perfectly'; there's no such thing.

Then stop looking at computer screens or televisions, and learn a skill - any skill - that you'll have for the rest of your life. Cooking a new dish or two, building a bookcase, basic first aid, talking to strangers comfortably... anything that's both useful now and might be useful to teach someone's grandkids later.
posted by talldean at 7:19 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

If lifting heavy weights made you big and bulky...

Anyone could be a competition bodybuilder
bodybuilders wouldn't use steroids
bodybuilders would only have to train for 30 days.
posted by talldean at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2011

It's hard to give truly accurate advice here without knowing what your diet, lifestyle and exercise habits are right now, but I'll take a conditional shot at it, though my suggestions echo many of those above. Please note that given the lack of more information, I'm going to assume that you live a a fairly typical sedentary American life and eat a fairly typical American diet. I'm also going to make suggestions that should be fairly easy to achieve since they're specific and (I hope) realistic.

1. If you drink (especially beer) stop. Not permanently, because that might get boring (it would for me!), but at least for the thirty days. Let's say you drink 14 pints a week right now (is that a lot? I don't know. Doctors seem to recommend no more than 14 "drinks" per week, so I'll be charitable and assume you're following medical advice). Anyway, yeah, those 14 pints, depending on the kind of beer you're drinking, represent somewhere between roughly 2500 and 3500 calories per week (light beers are much less, but, I mean, come on-- yuck). Stop drinking for a month and you've lost 3 - 4 pounds just from not drinking, and your energy level and quality of sleep will improve significantly.

2. Remove empty refined sugars and other highly processed carbs from your diet. I don't agree with the carb Nazis who think you need to cut almost all carbs out of your diet for ever and ever (because who the hell can eat like that, long-term, and the benefits from that are far from being established science no matter what those folks are saying) but chances are you're eating way too many carbs, and all the wrong kinds. Refined sugar, corn syrup, white flour, white rice-- those foods add nothing to your diet but empty bulk and misery. Cut them out completely. Stop eating so much sweet stuff except for some dark chocolate and maybe some fruit; instead of white rice have brown rice or quinoa (and less of it!); switch from cooking regular pasta to whole wheat (and less of the pasta, more of the sauce!); stop basing meals on empty carb-heavy foods, too-- your plate should be mostly protein and green (or orange) vegetables with a much smaller percentage of grain-based stuff than you're probably accustomed to. Note that the only really effective way to do this is to...

2(a). Cook all of your meals at home. Or, at least, as many as is feasible given your schedule. It's really the only way you can be certain you're not eating a bunch of garbage, and it can be a pleasant process as well. If you work in a service- or information-based job like so many of us do, you may not be accustomed to having the sense of accomplishment that comes with having made something-- something you can point to and say "That thing right there is something that I made-- check it out!" It's a great feeling. And if that thing that you made is also feeding your family? So much the better!

3. Get some [more] exercise. It's hard to make super specific suggestions here without knowing your current exercise habits and fitness level, but seriously, get some [more] damn exercise. Just a half hour a day can make a huge difference not only physically, but also mentally. Are you almost entirely sedentary now? Go for a half-hour walk before or after work (or on your lunch break). Are you relatively active but out of shape? Start a program like Couch-to-5K. Are you reasonably fit already (i.e. you can run 20 minutes without stopping or barfing)? Then try some some High Intensity Interval Training. On the off-days, supplement these with some simple bodyweight and core exercises you can do at home like pushups, chair dips, pullups, crunches, planks, etc. Sure you can start lifting weights as others have suggested, but simple bodyweight exercises require no investment of money and no trips to the gym. You can move on to weightlifting after your 30 days, if you decide that you want to commit a little more time and money to fitness so that you can progress more.

4. (And this is the, uh, "controversial" one). Try meditating. Start small. 5 or 10 minutes a day. Just sit down and shut up (รก la Brad Warner). Breathe. Focus on your breath. It's OK to notice thoughts passing through your head like cars on a nearby street but don't follow them down that street-- just let them pass by and turn back to focus on your breath. I'm not saying become a Buddhist (although I suppose you could if you wanted to, though it's not my jam, personally), just meditate for a few minutes a day. You're looking for stress-reduction through mindfulness, not a spiritual experience.

5.Sleep better. This should naturally follow from my other four suggestions. If you're drinking less, eating better, exercising more, and practicing a few minutes of mindfulness each day, you'll be healthier and feel less stressed, so you should definitely be sleeping better anyway. However, you have to give it a chance. Allow yourself enough time for adequate sleep (7 - 8 hours, even if you think you can "do just fine with 5 - 6 hours"). Practice good sleep hygiene-- set a fixed bedtime and getting-up time and stick to them; don't spend hours watching TV or dicking around on the internet right before bed; bed is only for sleeping and boot-knocking, not for reading or working or internetting or watching movies or whatever; etc. etc.

Again, without knowing the specifics of your current lifestyle it's hard to be too certain that these suggestions are really on-target, but if you do these five (OK, 5-and-a-half, technically) things for 30 days-- really do them-- I would be genuinely surprised if you didn't see a significant improvement in your physical and mental health, fitness and well-being.
posted by dersins at 9:53 AM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've been feeling better for the past few weeks after making a few changes.

- Starting Couch 2 5k. I am not fit, but I enjoy it, because at the end of each run I feel like I'm getting stronger and achieving something.
- Cooking more for myself, with more fruit and veg. Thinking about what I can snack on that makes me feel happy afterward and not a wee bit guilty.
- Ignoring all the bollocks about how carbs are the devil/size X or Y is arbitrarily fat/chocolate is a sin. I'm doing this to feel better, rather than lose weight per se, and if I want to have a bit of bread, it doesn't undo it all.
- Using the things 'for best'. Even if I am going to become a brand new me, I still need to treat the current me well. So I'm spending more time on my make-up, wearing clothes I like, and using toiletries that smell good even if I'm not going anywhere. This principle applies to food, books, or anything else enjoyable you have already but have denied yourself. Things go off, wear out, or get old, so why not enjoy them?
- Taking the medication prescribed to me daily, whether I secretly think I don't need it or not.
- Relaxing by reading more books, or watching shows I enjoy, rather than frittering it away on reading about internet drama/obscure Wikipedia pages/refreshing Twitter.
- Trying to keep my living space tidier. I am not good at this. But I'm constantly trying not to be a packrat and remember that if something's no good to me now, it very well might not be in the future. You can pass it on to that friend who always liked it, donate it, sell it; either way it's more useful out of your life than in it. (And it was still a wrench to part with my Blythe dolls: but they were sitting in the attic never used when they could be enjoyed by someone who wanted one so much they were willing to give me money for them.)
posted by mippy at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

1. be in bed for 8 hours in a dark cool room with your eyes closed every day at the same time

2. shop for and personally prepare all of your meals for 30 days (no processed convenience food, no restaurant meals, no fast food)

3. take 5 minutes to internally focus on something or someone you are thankful for when you wake up and before you go to bed

4. walk every day for at least 20 minutes. Preferably in a park or natural setting.

5. drink only water

That would be my list that hits the things I'd like to work on.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 3:35 PM on May 13, 2011

1. Floss once a day (though it's already been said I think it needs to be reiterated for emphasis)
2. Drink water. A lot of it.
3. Read in the morning, not in the evening before bed
4. Put your clothes away each night
5. Turn off your TV for 30 days
posted by northxnorthwest at 2:27 AM on May 14, 2011

In addition to the many good suggestions in this thread, one of the best things you can do in the next 30 days is realize that being a better you is a life-long goal that can't be achieved before any deadline. Focus on building one or two good habits at a time, adding to them as you go.
posted by pollex at 5:24 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read the 4-hour body by Timothy Ferriss. Earl the Polliwog's comment above is on point as well.

If I were to narrow it down to the most effective bullet points:

1) Eat 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. This sets your internal clock, kickstarts your metabolism and gives you better energy all day.

2) Balance your omega 6/3 ratio closer to 1:1 (macadamia nut oil and butter as your primary fats). This is like oiling your car with the best oil. Everything works better.

3) Cut out as much as possible starchy, processed carbohydrates and sugars (including fruit). They cause energy crashes and promote fat storage. Replace with vegetables, legumes and protein.

30 days is plenty of time for you to feel like an entirely new person, health-wise. I had amazing results the first week of making these changes (2+ months now going strong, feeling superhuman)
posted by Jsn7821 at 9:31 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actively make a point to surround yourself with people you admire, who inspire and support you, and stop wasting time voluntarily being around negative, petty people who drain you. That's my number one "holy shit life looks so much better" hack. And yeah, seconding the obvious tips of committing yourself to a sane sleep schedule--10pm to 6am is deal for me, cutting out caffeine/sugar, not idly watching TV or surfing the internet, and going for a walk whenever possible. And it might just be me but--being vigilant in splashing my face with cool water and patting gently dry first thing when I wake up and last thing before bed makes my skin look insanely better. It's bizarre how something so simple can make such a difference--more than any expensive creams or make-up or fancy cleansers or whatever. But YMMV on that one.
posted by ifjuly at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should just experiment with some of the things that make you feel healthier and create a plan to stick with it. Doing all kinds of ridiculously healthy stuff for 30 days is easy. Sustaining that commitment is difficult. See what works for you.
posted by quadog at 10:57 PM on September 14, 2011

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