Designing a Healthy Lifestyle

ID-100203856Everyone wants to be healthy. Everyone wants to exercise more, eat healthier, be financially secure, and have high quality relationships. But we all know, a healthy lifestyle does not happen by accident. We don’t accidentally become healthier. In fact, most of our outside influences tend to make it more difficult to be healthy. Designing a healthy lifestyle is about putting structures in place that are conducive to living healthily. In addition, design takes place before action. A well designed life will make the the actions much easier to achieve. So, before many of us are really ready to take action, we must start by understanding, planning, and designing the life we want.

It is actually easier to notice when we have designed an unhealthy lifestyle. A fridge full of unhealthy, fatty, sugary, processed foods. A schedule so full we don’t have time to prioritize things like rest and exercise. A budget so over packed the next bump in the road will send us over the edge. A house that makes it hard to run, bike or play outside yet feels great for wasting away watching hours of mindless television. Surrounding yourself with people who live unhealthy lives or participate in contagious bad habits. Your environment influences you more than you think. So, we will address four main tenants of a healthy lifestyle in this article: diet, exercise, financial security, and relationships. -Stephen SE

Food
Designing a healthy diet starts with implementing some simple steps and incorporating the concept of moderation. Make it more convenient to be healthy than unhealthy. Keep fresh, whole foods in your pantry or fridge, and get rid of the highly processed, pre-packaged foods and refined sugars. Read ingredient labels. Focus on making fresh fruits and vegetables the main part of your diet. If you are someone who enjoys carefully laid out rules check out 100 Days. Plan your meals on a weekly basis. This one simple step removes the decision and hassle each night in regards to “what’s for dinner?” and makes you much less likely to end up accidentally feeding your family frozen pizza or carryout. It also will limit your trips to the grocery store because you already have everything needed to prepare your meals.

Minimize eating out as much as possible. Jittery Joe’s isn’t as special if you go there three times a day, but can be fun for a relaxing morning or weekend event. When you do go out, make it a special occasion! Choose a place that serves healthy food; and think about healthy options before you arrive. If this is hard for you, set a budget for eating out at the beginning of the month and once it runs out, no more eating out. Even better, adapt or adjust meals you or your family already enjoys to make them healthier; so you find it exciting to eat at home. Surround yourself with other people that have similar health goals, and if need be, encourage others to eat healthy along with you. All in all, moderation is key. If you give yourself some margin in the amount you eat each day (not “stuffing” yourself or always eating dessert), you will have some leeway when it comes to those occasions when you might overindulge or exceed your calorie goals.

Exercise
Breaking a sweat everyday in some form or fashion is good for you. Decide now to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule. Make it a priority. Try and get at least 30 minutes to an hour most days a week including a combination of cardio and strength training. If that sounds completely insane to you, start with 20 minutes of something low impact like walking. The most important thing is to simply allocate the time so you know you won’t be too busy to work out. A great way to make it easy to get out the door is to have your gear ready. Get your clothes, shoes, watch, ipod, etc. laid out prior to your workout. If you need some encouragement and built-in motivation, get an exercise buddy (aka accountability partner). If your family or friends don’t usually workout, be the one to suggest taking a walk, bike ride, or playing a sport. Consider health and healthy activities next time you move and where you choose to live.

At some point in your life your health, and your children’s health, will be more important than sq footage, school districts, money, cars, and fancy neighbors. -Stephen SE

Decide what your personal exercise goals are and make every effort to design your life to meet those goals. Challenge yourself, don’t give up, and remember that hard work comes before success.

Get Started Now:

  • Clean out your fridge and pantry. Get rid of the nasty food and make a clean spot for some fresh whole foods
  • Make a list of your favorite healthy foods, plan a grocery budget, or plan some healthy, delicious meals
  • Make a list of ways to exercise that you enjoy. Doing the same thing everyday can get boring! Some of the activities we enjoy are: Walking, biking, running, soccer, football, tennis, badminton, racquetball, frisbee, lifting weights, swimming, and chasing the nieces/nephews/kids around
  • Pick a cardio workout that you could feasibly do 3-4 days a week (try walking if you are just starting out) and set aside a specific block of time when you can do it.
  • Get someone to do it with you! Ask a family member or friend if they would like to participate or keep you accountable

In The Near Future:

  • Try growing some of your own food – start with herbs, tomatoes or peppers
  • Work in an industry that is conducive to a healthy lifestyle- this may require some new training
  • Intentionally seek friendships with people who are more health conscious
  • Sign up for a race, join a biking group or even start a neighborhood walking/running club
  • Think about your healthy lifestyle next time you decide to move (especially if you have children)

Finance
If you spend more than you make it will eventually catch up to you. If you spend more than 50% of your income on combined fixed expenses like your house, debt, vehicle payments, and transportation you have designed your lifestyle to bust your budget before you even write it out. One of the best ways we stay financially healthy is to limit our fixed expenses and create a personal budget that works for our family. Pre-decide what you spend your money on and allocate a specific amount of money to each category. Then, stick to it. The key to success: discuss it with your spouse or family members and include their input. We’ve created a digital envelope system through Capital One 360 with subcategories, so everything is accounted for and all family members know how much is in each one. At the beginning of each month, adjust the budget based on your family needs. Tackle debt. Provide margin for financial mistakes. Design your financial lifestyle to be healthy.

Relationships
Healthy relationships may be one of the most underrated but most crucial elements to a healthy lifestyle. Spending too little quality time with people we care about; or, maybe, spending too much time with people who bring us down. One of the biggest challenges to building quality relationships is dealing with the perception of Not Enough Time. In fact, an observation we noticed when traveling overseas was simply time margin in the third world. If your life gets too busy, slow down and spend some time enjoying the process. The people you spend the most time with have a huge impact on the quality and direction of your life. Often, our relationships form out of convenience instead of intentionality. Be intentional. Find people who live a healthy lifestyle and work towards spending your time with them. Create time to enjoy healthy activities with people you care about. Quality relationships are worth it. Designing healthy relationships may also mean spending less time with people who put you in unhealthy situations. Take some time to think about the current status of your relationships and plan out where you would like to be this time next year.

It’s a new year, a fresh start. What do you plan to do next year? Will you make the effort to invest in your health, finances, and relationships now and design a healthy lifestyle for you and your family? To kickstart the new year, our family has set up several lifestyle challenges to grow and improve in many of these areas. If you would like to join, let us know!

4 thoughts on “Designing a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Great post! For me, all of those things are related. When I’m saving, working out, and eating healthy, I cannot be stopped! Likewise, when one of those things gets off track, I fall apart.

  2. Yea really good post with a lot of excellent advice crammed into it. The main one I probably need to work on is relationships… I just hang out with whoever is around in general, too easy going for my own good! I need to be more intentional in this area, but all the other ones I’m doing pretty well on on my own. Also… I’m going to admit I actually like a bit of friction sometimes, and also trying to set an example. If you can help out your friends who are leading the unhealthy life simply by hanging around with them and setting the example (like you mentioned about taking the lead in suggesting excercise sessions with friends) then I think that is a good thing. Helping people change for the better, especially friends, is all good in my book!

    • It does read almost as a capstone post. But I think it will end up being an evergreen with lots of internal linkbacks. I think relationships is the area where we need the most works as well!

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