Give me your best health hacks
November 27, 2018 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm focusing on my health for the month of December. I'd like to collect tips and tricks to help me stay on track.

Thanksgiving is over, I'm boycotting Christmas, and I'm going on a beach vacation in January, so I want to spend the month of December super focused on my own health: physical, but also mental and emotional. I'm hoping to lose a few pounds, but I want to remain positive and full of self-love. I want to feel empowered, rather than guilty.

Some of the specific things I want to do include cutting out alcohol and sugar, eating lots of vegetables, finding ways to include more activity in my day, gratitude journaling, and so on.

I'm looking for hacks/tips/tricks/motivations/what have you. Things like: "When you're craving a glass of wine, drink XYZ instead." Or "this article on XYZ changed the way I see health." Or "I use this mantra to help me stay on track."

I don't need general diet/exercise advice (got this covered). I'm looking more for suggestions on the mental/mood/attitude/strategy side of things, if that makes sense.

Thanks so much in advance!
posted by ohsnapdragon to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I have found kombucha to be a reasonable substitute for wine and especially for beer. I think fancy juices and sparking water can scratch some of that itch as well.

Prepping helps get veggies into my body (instead of just in the fridge). If you can discipline yourself to spend 45 minutes washing and cutting crudités after grocery shopping, it is so much easier to snack on veggies.

I also think adding some kind of mindfulness practice or meditation can make it easier to do the other things. A 20 minute body scan can be very relaxing and help you get out of your head.
posted by jeoc at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Load up on fiber. Helps you feel full, so can help at losing weight. Plain shredded wheat cereal is an easy way, oatmeal and veggies work just as well but are a bit harder to manage.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2018

This is from ayurveda and I find it is true - if you eat a variety of tastes and use spices in your meals, it reduces sugar cravings. So much of the western diet is sweet or salty, in ayurveda there is also attention paid to bitter, astringent, sour, and pungent, and you should be having a meal with all flavors ideally. If you're craving sugar, up your spices (and fat and protein)! Spices like cinnamon also give a sweet flavor that can compensate for less sugar.

I try to do intermittent fasting (no eating after 7 p.m.) and I find brushing my teeth and having a night glass of magnesium water ready helps me avoid snacking, just signaling to myself that food time is over helps me notice when I'm just bored.

I also use kombucha as a fancy drink alternative.
posted by lafemma at 9:51 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I noticed that cutting out sugar took me a while (originally- i've kept up a low-sugar diet for 15-20 years now and my teeth/general health have been better for it I think. I cheat a little but it's just not a big deal like I might have expected before starting down this journey).

I didn't try to drastically drop out everything all at once- I just reduced the amounts I was adding to coffee til I used none, slowly reduced my consumption of desserts and slowly replaced sugar with stevia and other things in my baking, etc.

One thing I found useful was to come up with a few protein-rich, "main course" sorts of dishes that masquaraded as desserts but lacked the sugar. For instance, for a while in my diet there were a lot of non-sugar-sweetened chocolate tofu cream pie and tofu (or dairy sometimes, for that matter) cheesecake. If made with stevia or other non-sugar sweeteners it was basically just a slightly caffeinated tofu protein snack. Another example was a lot of almond flour "desserts"- cake-ish or muffin-ish or puddingish things that were basically almond meal, eggs, various flavorings or berries, and stevia.

If you're into granola bars and the like there aren't a ton of good substitutes that stick together as a dryish protein bar. Most of the homemade no-sugar versions I've seen involved making nut butter balls with various protein powders/seeds/flavorings and refrigerating them as balls. I just made a small jar of the "dough" and would carry a spoon- not as convenient as slipping a protein bar into your bag or whatever, but it mostly worked to fill that snack niche.

Also for some reason very creative salads and slaws from the raw foodist world fulfilled my craving for lots of fruit desert and/or fruity sweets.
posted by twoplussix at 9:51 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've said this before here but iced tea for soft drinks, if soft drinks are a problem for you, worked well for me. I also keep boxes of cans of seltzer around and take them to work, for the same purpose. I've had varying luck with lots of other diet stuff but I went from something like one fast food place soft drink (so 20 oz or something!) practically every day at lunch to maybe one a month.
posted by Smearcase at 10:01 AM on November 27, 2018

For dinner, I've started following Dr. Joel Fuhrman's dictum, "The salad is the main dish." So most of my dinner is a giant salad with a ton of vegetables in it, roasted mushrooms, and beans. I also make roasted, spiced chickpeas for it, and I make a homemade cashew dressing that I keep on hand. Let me emphasize, this is an extremely large salad. I make it in a serving dish, not a regular bowl. This video will give you an idea.

All of these things are in little containers in the refrigerator (well, the roasted chickpeas are on the counter). When I get home from work, I put my giant salad together. It's very fast - I can eat within minutes of getting home. And if I haven't otherwise eaten a lot of vegetables that day, I get a lot at dinner.

As different things run out over the week, I cut up more vegetables or roast more chickpeas, so the ingredients are always ready to go. It's super fast to make dinner this way. Lately, I've been following it with a microwaved baked potato. I don't eat after 7:00 pm, so I don't eat anything afterwards.

The not eating after 7 pm has been great. It makes me feel like I have a lot more time in the evening, and it seems to have really helped my insomnia.
posted by FencingGal at 10:59 AM on November 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

Swapping all white flour out for wholegrain is easy and it helps. You'll need to eat less to feel equally full, for longer.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2018

I buy a ton of pre-washed (if I can) finger food veggies that don't require cutting: cherry/grape tomatoes, baby bell peppers, baby carrots, snap peas and load up a big container of them every day to take to work. I find that broccoli and cauliflower florets, which are yummy, tend not to last, whereas the uncut vegetables do.
posted by angiep at 11:10 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

The thing that helps me the most is accountability. Right now I have a "health challenge" going with co-workers; we each set our own goals (for example, one of my goals is to get 150 minutes of activity/week) and then earn a point for each day we meet our goal. The key is that it's on a shared Google spreadsheet, and knowing that I have to log it where other people will see it motivates me to keep going. I've done this several times and it's the only thing that has led to permanent changes.
posted by Empidonax at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2018

I make muffins -wholewheat, bran, pumpkin, apricot, walnut- using OJ instead of milk because I don't eat dairy. Starting the day with an easy breakfast that has protein and fiber is a big help.

When you're hungry for junk, drink a glass of water 1st, even a small glass. You might really be thirsty.

I make big pans of roasted veg.and end up eating so many vegetables. brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, sguash, cabbage, onions, asparagus, are my favorites.
posted by theora55 at 11:34 AM on November 27, 2018

I did a 30 day/3 things gratitude thing by pre-filling the dates and three lines on a google sheet. Taking that step to set it up helped me stick to it.

Pick a concrete number of veg servings per day and stick to it no matter what. Logging what you eat even if you don't formally track nutrition info can be really helpful.

I don't know what fitness level you're at but couch to 5k 100% did for me what it promised. I was a couchperson with zero fitness who became a 5k runner and recreational jogger. If this doesn't appeal, there must be other apps for different activities. Turns out just doing what the app says takes away all the guesswork and excuses and was exactly what I needed.
posted by kapers at 12:03 PM on November 27, 2018

Use an app to track what you eat. Myfitnesspal is my app of choice, but there are many. You'll have a record of what you do and the app gives praise, like Yay, you've logged your food for 3 days in a row.

My fitness coach advised if you are trying to lose weight to start off with a diet that is the same every day. So like, whatever you eat on Monday is always your Monday meal, Tuesday is always Tuesdays meal. Then if aren't losing weight you can look at your meals and start making replacements. Like maybe the day you had a baked potato you swap for roasted cauliflower. This can also make meal planning easier.

Fitness coach also advised a strict schedule of meal prepping. Whether it's making Tuesdays food on Monday or a whole week of lunches on the weekend meal prepping is the key to staying on track according to him. I tend to do the 1 day ahead prep because I've never been able to wrap my head around the advance planning and I don't like soggy food.
posted by MadMadam at 12:08 PM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kroger sells a "sweet cinnamon spice herbal tea," to which I am addicted. It's a great sweet-tasting beverage that is sugar free. This is helpful when I want something warm that isn't going to overload me with caffeine and sugar like my old afternoon coffee habit did. I'd incorporate this or similar herbal teas into your diet if you habitually sweeten your coffee or tea, especially if you're trying to lower your caffeine consumption.
posted by zoetrope at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Moving around more during the workday has been major in how I feel overall, and in my energy levels throughout the week. Some low-effort ways that I do this:

- parking far-ish away
- taking the stairs
- standing desk
- when I sit, yoga ball instead of chair
- built-in breaks in my Pomodoro routine, and I check the breaks off my list: "two minutes cardio," "walk around the office," "10 squats," whatever makes sense for the moment.
- going outside during my lunch break
posted by witchen at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Don't drink calories - there's so many flavoursome and lovely sugar-free drinks in the form of teas, herbal teas etc, it' not necessary (also totally check the sugar content on that kombucha suggested above, some of them are as bad as soft drink).

The other thing, if you can, is if it comes out of a packet, don't eat it. Pre-made/packaged food generally has way too much sugar or salt than is healthy.
posted by smoke at 1:29 PM on November 27, 2018

Cutting back on sugar is SO hard -- I've been struggling with it basically all this year (I resisted the urge to go get a cookie after work today, go me!). One of my friends said that whenever she wants to eat something sugary, first she makes herself eat a banana, which usually takes care of the craving for something sweet enough so she can ignore it. Sometimes I do that by eating some dates or an orange.

I used to do a lot of accountability stuff for my habits on sites like -- there was a time that it was enormously helpful to me (you can get email reminders of your habits, like "Do yoga!" at 7pm or whatever, & you can get encouraging comments from other people on your check-ins).
posted by diffuse at 1:36 PM on November 27, 2018

Drinking more water was big for me, and I realized that if I have water around I will just compulsively drink it all dang day. Buy a big refillable water bottle and always have it on hand and you'll just get in the habit of drinking it all the time. The more I did this, the more I started actively wanting to drink water, especially at restaurants instead of soda.

I can eat bell peppers all day long and they are my crunchy snack of choice. When I want a big salty crunchy treat at home, I'll go dice up a bell pepper instead and eat that.
posted by caitcadieux at 3:06 PM on November 27, 2018

Unsweetened chocolate almond milk is surprisingly satisfying when you want chocolate, even though it has no sweetness whatsoever.

Berry "cereal": a big bowl of blueberries, blackberries and cut-up strawberries, with chocolate almond milk poured over, and eaten with a spoon.

When you crave something sweet, eat a pickle instead.

A 24 hour fast can help reset your appetite to be satisfied with simple, healthy food. A cup of tomato soup and some yogurt was never more delicious."

I got a fitness tracker and I find that it really does motivate me to move more during the day. I get up every hour or so and walk a couple of laps around the inside of my office building. Plus mine counts swimming, cycling, eliptical, etc as "steps". I like having all my activity recorded as a lump-sum equivalent of steps. It also syncs with my Weight Watchers app, and adds extra points I can eat.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:59 PM on November 27, 2018

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