Everyone wants everything yesterday. Health, nutrition and weight loss are no exceptions. But everywhere you look, you see the same story – people stick to a healthy routine or weight loss plan for a few weeks, then the old habits creep back in. Part of the reason is they try to do too much at once, and their willpower just gets overloaded.
The better way is a slower way. Every week, just make one simple change to your daily routine.
By the time the next week rolls around, you’ve had a week to ingrain that habit. Then you add in another one.
After a year, you’ll have integrated 52 healthy practices, and the cumulative effects on your weight and your health will be massive.
Here are 52 weekly changes to get you healthy in a year.
Get healthy in a year
Take the stairs
Use the stairs instead of escalators or elevators (unless you are going to be late for something important), even if it’s 12 floors up. Accept that this is your life now (don’t worry, you’ll get used to it).
2. Swap white carbs for brown
Swap out white carbs for brown. So, 100% wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, etc. These are complex carbs which keep you feeling full for longer. They also have more fiber. You’ll get used to the taste and eventually prefer it.
3. Park a distance away and walk
Park at the back of the lot, or down the road from wherever you’re going, and walk the rest of the way.
4. Cut out sugar in hot drinks
Stop taking sugar in your coffee or tea. This habit is breakable. Once you’ve stuck to this for a couple of months, sweetened coffee just won’t taste right.
5. Count your steps
Use your phone’s pedometer or a device like a Fitbit to measure your steps. Try to get to 6,000 steps every day. Walk on the spot at home if you need to. If you can’t get a pedometer, just walk for approximately 60 minutes each day.
6. Eat protein every meal
Eat some protein with every meal. Protein helps slow the digestion of everything else you eat, which will help regulate your appetite throughout the day.
7. Switch to diet drinks
If you drink sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices, lattes, orange mocha-frappuccinos, or any other beverage that has calories, switch to diet equivalents. That can drastically reduce your sugar and calorie intake.
8. Increase your steps per day
Up your steps to 8,000 per day (or 80 minutes of walking). Again, walk on the spot at home if necessary.
9. Swap soda for water
If you drink diet soda, swap it for water. The artificial sweeteners, colorings and other additives in these drinks are harmful to you.
10. Drink red wine not white
If you drink wine, swap white wine for red wine, as it contains higher levels of antioxidants.
11. Increase your steps per day again
Up your steps to 10,000 per day ( or 100 minutes of walking).
12. Ditch boxed cereals
Stop eating breakfast cereals that come in a box. Switch to bags of oatmeal or muesli instead (not granola). Also, weigh it out first based on a set level of calories you will be eating for breakfast. Don’t just eyeball it – you’ll over-pour every time.
13. Eat fruit or vegetables every meal
Eat some fruit or vegetables with every meal. Try to eat five 80 gram portions of different vegetables or fruits every day.
14. Do 30 minutes exercise one day a week
Exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity one day per week. If you already do this, increase the time or the intensity. That doesn’t have to be at a gym, as long as it gets your heart rate up and gets you sweating. It could be martial arts, dancing, hiking, climbing, trampolining, swimming, sports – anything active.
15. Stop frying food
Stop frying food. Steam, boil, poach or grill instead.
16. Switch to low-fat meat
Switch to low-fat meats wherever possible. Look for 5% fat beef or pork, or ideally, chicken or turkey.
17. Ditch processed meat
Swap processed meat for unprocessed alternatives. Chicken wings are better than chicken nuggets; steak is better than sausages.
18. Eat frozen berries & yogurt instead of ice cream
Eat frozen berries mixed with yogurt instead of ice cream. It ticks all the right boxes taste-wise and is healthy, too.
19. Exercise for 30 minutes, 2 days a week
Exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity on two days each week. If you already do this, increase the time on one day and the intensity on the other.
20. Cut out candy and chocolate
Cut out candy, chocolate, and other desserts except for one time, one day per week. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit, and if you really must eat chocolate, make it 80% or higher dark chocolate.
21. Cut your alcohol intake
Reduce your weekly alcohol consumption by 25%.
22. Wash vegetables before storing
Wash all vegetables before you store them. Sometimes that little bit of extra effort to wash vegetables before cooking them can put you off the whole task.
23. Increase fruit and vegetables intake
Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruits to eight 80 gram portions per day.
24. Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 days a week
Exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity on three days each week. If you already do this, increase either the time or the intensity each session.
25. Eat at the table
Eat at the table instead of the TV off. Eating in front of the TV makes you pay less attention to the food. Therefore you don’t get as much satisfaction from it and may crave more food. Studies show it also triggers overeating.
26. Intermittently fast
Try intermittent fasting. Eat all your day’s food within a 12-hour window, say from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
27. Avoid vending machines
Don’t buy anything from a vending machine.
28. Make evening meals healthier
Ensure your evening meal includes a source of protein and at least two servings of vegetables. You can rotate the specific ingredients and spices.
29. Start resistance training
Do resistance or weight training for 30 minutes one day each week.
30. Don’t shop when hungry
Never shop when you’re hungry. You’ll end up buying more food and less healthy food.
31. Switch carb sources for vegetables
If your goal is weight loss, try switching carb sources for vegetable alternatives. For example, butternut squash wedges, zucchini pasta, cauliflower rice, or sweet potato fries.
32. Switch avocado for mayonnaise
Replace mayonnaise with avocado. You’ll increase your intake of nutrients, good fats, and fiber.
33. Start keeping a food log
Keep a food log. Write down everything you eat, including the calorie, fat, carb and protein levels. Just keeping track in this way has been shown to improve people’s diets.
34. Take lunch to work
Take your lunch to work instead of buying from local eateries or the canteen. This way you can better control what you eat and avoid impulse purchases that you’ll later regret.
35. Up your fiber intake
Take extra fiber such as psyllium seed husks or flax seeds. These can make meals or protein shakes filling.
36. Take probiotics
Take a probiotic every day to promote “good” gut bacteria.
37. Avoid “low fat” products
Avoid “low fat” varieties of products, as these are typically just filled with sugar instead.
38. Switch your yogurt
Switch yogurt for Greek yogurt. It’s higher in protein and lowers in sugar.
39. Chew properly
Eat more slowly. Chew every mouthful until the food is liquid. Put your knife and fork down sometimes. Savour the taste of the food and eat it mindfully. Or try eating with chopsticks.
40. Introduce a fasting day
Try having one fasting day each week. On this day, consume no more than 500 calories.
41. Get smaller plates
Get smaller plates and eat your meals from them. Studies show this can reduce the amount of food that you eat.
42. Stick to set eating times
Have set eating times. Set times you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. Get out of the habit of snacking, and only eat what you plan to eat when you plan to eat it. Don’t eat things on a whim, or because your emotions tell you to. Stick to the plan.
43. Always eat breakfast
Don’t skip breakfast. Studies show that dieters who skip breakfast tend to exercise less and don’t stick to their diets as well as people who do.
44. Change the way you cook white rice
If you eat white rice, boil it in one teaspoon of coconut oil, refrigerate for 20 minutes, and then reheat before serving. This process changes the molecular structure of the rice, making some of it indigestible, which can reduce calories by 50%.
45. Plan meals and use a shopping list
Use a shopping list. Plan out all the meals you will eat for a given period and write down all the ingredients you need. Then buy these components and no others from the supermarket. Do not shop on the fly, and ignore special offers unless they are for items on your list.
46. Switch to low-calorie seasonings
Switch to low-calorie seasonings. You can add soy sauce, lemon, lime, mustard, vinegar and balsamic vinegar to just about anything to add flavor with no extra calories.
47. Add spice to your cooking
Use chili, garlic, ginger or turmeric in your cooking to increase the number of nutrients in your meals as well as adding flavor.
48. Eat whole eggs
Eat at least four whole eggs each week. One study found this reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 37%, because of nutrients in eggs that beneficially affect glucose metabolism and reduce inflammation.
49. Check food labels
Read the labels of every food item you pick up from now on. Check the calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat levels. Become an expert in this, so that you’re able to estimate the caloric and macronutrient content of any meal you eat.
50. Cut the number of days you drink alcohol
If you drink alcohol, reduce the number of days in which you drink by one.
51. Improve your sleep
Do some research into sleep hygiene, and make sure you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels, which has numerous health consequences and can increase appetite and cause the body to hold onto fat.
52. Reduce your caffeine intake
Reduce your caffeine intake to two cups of coffee or three cups of tea daily, and do not consume any caffeine after 2 p.m.
You don’t have to work through these in this order; you should try to do so though. The purpose of this list is to help you get the basics of your diet in place while you slowly and gradually increase your activity level. You usually get a few weeks to acclimatize to an increased activity level before it ramps up again. But you can skip ahead if you want.
Start today! Bookmark this page, and come back every week to find out the next healthy habit you’ll be adopting.