Five to Thrive: 5 Steps to Living Your Healthiest Life

As featured in The Insider 

Life is busy. With hectic schedules and the constant pressure to do everything, it’s easy to feel there is not enough time in the day, so we prioritize and make sacrifices. Sadly, it’s often healthy behaviours such as sleep, preparing food, and exercise that get pushed to the sidelines. Abandoning these activities may save time, but it may be at the expense of our health and overall well-being.

Here are five easy tips from nutrition consultant, Terri Finbow, on how to make you your number one priority:

1. Fuel your body

Your body is like a car; it needs to be properly fueled to run at optimal efficiency. To adequately nourish your body and avoid running on empty, you need to remember three key points:

Eat a variety of lean protein (from animal or plant sources), fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and healthy unsaturated fats throughout the day.

BALANCE. Too much or too little of a food are both bad for your diet. Check your portion sizes and the balance of food groups on your plate at each meal. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for ½ plate veggies, ¼ plate lean protein, and ¼ plate complex carbohydrate.

MODERATION. There is room for treats every day, as long as the majority of your food choices are nourishing. The key is to be mindful of portion sizes, slow down, and enjoy every bite. You need to nourish your body with healthy foods, but just as importantly, you need to nourish your soul by allowing yourself to have foods you love to eat with ZERO guilt and stress! Food is meant to be enjoyed.

2. Stay hydrated

We lose water from our bodies every day. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to regulate temperature and blood pressure, absorb nutrients and move waste through the body, and lubricate and cushion your joints and organs.

Water is a healthy, calorie-free way of staying hydrated. The amount of fluids we need depends on age, gender and level of physical activity. Dietitians of Canada recommends a daily fluid intake of about 3 L (12 cups) for men and 2.2 L (9 cups) for women. Requirements increase in hot weather and when we are physically active.

3. Keep moving

It isn’t necessary to spend two hours running on a treadmill at the gym to reap the benefits of physical activity. Exercise can be fun and enjoyable. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the fresh air, engage in activities that make you happy and connect with friends or family in a fun, social setting.

It’s recommended that adults aged 18-64 accumulate at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. You don’t have to do it all at once. Choose a variety of activities spread throughout the week in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

4. Prioritize sleep

Not only is a good night’s rest helpful for stress management, it’s also imperative for overall health. When we sleep poorly, we are putting ourselves at risk for a range of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, all-cause mortality, depression, irritability, and reduced wellbeing.

Inspired to improve your slumber? Try sticking to a sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake time every day to regulate your body’s internal clock. Practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual and winding down can also encourage a good night’s rest, so unplug from your electronic devices and spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity.

5. Decompress the stress

 The daily demands of our busy lifestyles can leave us feeling stressed and burnt out. Some stress can be helpful as it can motivate us to take action on a problem that is causing us the stress. However, it becomes unhelpful when the feeling is overwhelming.

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. Prolonged exposure has been shown to weaken the immune system, strain the heart, affect mental health, and cause weight gain and digestive issues.

Stress is unavoidable, it’s part of being human. So how do we cope?

Simplify your life – learn to say no and look for ways to make your to-do list more manageable.

Check your thoughts – slow down and observe your thoughts. What is happening outside of you? What is happening within you? Evaluate your thoughts realistically and honestly.

Take care of your body – boost your mood with exercise, treat yourself with nourishing foods, and prioritize sleep.

Pursue relaxation techniques – practice deep breathing, meditation or yoga, get a massage or unwind in a hot bath.

Take time for activities you enjoy – snuggle up with a book, listen to music, go for a walk or catch up with an old friend.