There’s something about summer that seems to magically put a glass of wine in your hand the second you get home from work. Maybe it’s all the patios you drive by or all the Instagram posts full of ice cream cones, but there’s fun all around you, and you want in on it, dammit. But if all the sangrias and Dilly Bars leave you feeling tired, groggy, headache-y or just plain down, you might want to use this summer as a chance to build some healthy new habits. As a chicken nugget and Coke Zero lover at heart, I’ve seen firsthand how much better you can feel if you eschew the aforementioned items in favor of food grown in the ground once in awhile. These are my best shortcuts to health for real, actual people, who may or may not spend half their life in Shondaland and the other half staring at their laptop. We can be healthy too!
1. Set One Goal
Looking at so-called “health influencers” on social media can be incredibly intimidating. They often have before and after pictures showing they’ve gone from super-damn-skinny to super-damn-ripped, all from cutting out eighteen different food groups. Before you get lost in that world, take it easy on yourself. Just pick one goal that you want to tackle this summer. Maybe you want to get rid of your debilitating headaches, learn to sleep better or get the best skin you’ve ever had. Picking one variable will help you see whether or not your healthy changes are working. You can even keep a journal on it if you like. Don’t underestimate the power of writing with an actual pen once in awhile!
2. Eat the Rainbow
When it comes to food, summer is one of the best times of the year. Fruit is fresher and more vibrant than ever, and it’s easier to get your produce local. Instead of worrying too much about what you shouldn’t be eating, try to eat as many colors in a day as you can. This guarantees your diet will be full of antioxidants, which also happen to be pretty.
2. Consider Taking Fish Oil
I used to get major headaches every time I had my period, and almost every time I flew on a plane. I thought it was just “me.” Maybe I was genetically cursed to get headaches. Then, one day, I went to CostCo and got a giant thing of fish oil and started taking it every day, and I saw a massive reduction in headaches. The CostCo kind helped me, but opt for organic fish oil sold from the refrigerated section of the co-op if you want to ensure your supplements aren’t rancid. And keep those puppies in your fridge. If you’re vegan, you may be able to get Omega-3’s from non-animal sources, but consult with a nutritionist if this is a major concern for you. (Also, see my caveat at the bottom of this post.)
3. Read Healthy
A great book to start with is The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine. Reeling from a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lapine tries a bunch of wellness trends to figure out what actually works for her. She’s hilarious and relatable, and calls out bullshit where she sees it. She also makes a great point that stressing about your health too much may actually make you feel worse.
4. Drink Water with Your Booze
In lieu of going down the rabbit hole of alcohol’s effects of health, I’m going to say this: When you do drink, have a glass of water for every drink you have. You’ll feel way better.
5. Use Spices
I’ve read a handful of books on health in the past year and one “aha” moment I had was that spices are good for you. Everyone’s talking about turmeric right now, but in general there’s a connection between spices that taste good and real, measurable health benefits. Read up on the benefits of what’s in your spice cabinet and learn to season your food well. One caveat: if you HATE one spice or tend to get sick from it, do not eat it. Our generation has a bunch of weird food sensitivities (thanks, antibiotics!), so there’s a chance that the paprika you loathe irritates your immune system. Trust your palate to guide you to the foods and flavors that your body needs.
6. Work Out for Free
If you don’t work out at all, you may be missing out on the chance to get rid of some stress by moving your bod. Start slow and free. Take a 30-minute walk every day, or grab Nike+ Training Club app. It features free workouts segmented by time and goal, and it’s amazing. Do one every other day and see if you feel better. I bet you will. Just don’t go over the top with your workouts, as failing to rest can worsen inflammation.
7. Get Thee a Good Protein Powder
I went to see a nutritionist last year and she was immediately struck by my trouble with sleep. Her surprising remedy? More protein. As she put it, protein helps make neurotransmitters that let us enjoy deep, restful sleep. Needing more protein doesn’t mean you need to inhale pulled pork at every meal (although sometimes I do). Just grab a protein powder that works for you. Protein powders are a huge market, and it can be confusing to know which one to pick. There are vegan options, whey options, and even collagen peptide proteins. Grab some of the mini packets at the co-op and try them one at a time. Choose the one that makes you feel the best. Watch for symptoms of allergies, sinus pain, headaches or stomach aches. These could signal that something in a protein powder isn’t sitting right with your body. If you’re going to be replacing whole foods with protein powder, make sure it’s one that makes you feel great.
Caveat: I’m not a doctor, so consult with a doctor or nutritionist before making major diet or lifestyle changes.
Becky Lang is a writer, creative director and occasional podcaster living in Minneapolis. She also likes to draw dogs and female protagonists.
BY Becky Lang - June 27, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.