A 12-Step Series of Small Changes to Improve Health
Throughout May, the Healthy Hairdresser Challenge is asking participants to share “one simple change” you intend to make in order to improve your body, spirit or business. Everyone who takes the May Challenge is eligible to win a gift package of a full set of salon products and treatments from this month’s Healthy Hairdresser sponsor, Malibu C (a $255 salon purchase value), and our first 100 participants will receive the brand’s Malibu Makeover Kit.
The popular website authoritynutrition.com has issued 12 little lifestyle changes for people to adopt at whatever rate—one each week, each month, every three months—that is comfortable for you. “When you’re done with this,” the creators predict, “you should have lost a significant amount of weight and improved your health, both physical and mental, in every way imaginable. By mastering one small habit at a time, you will set yourself up for long-term success.”
We’ve summarized and tweaked, but here’s the essence of the 12 steps:
- Add protein. Adding foods is a great way to begin to change your diet, because it’s so much easier than banning foods! AuthorityNutrition cites research that found that, when protein accounted for 30% of total calories, people ate 449 fewer calories per day and lost nearly a pound a week for 12 weeks. Protein also increases muscle mass, strengthens bones and lowers blood pressure. Good sources include meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, full-fat dairy products, beans and legumes.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Morning can be a good time to start your protein intake, since eggs are such a high source. Lose the side of toast or cereal, instead pairing eggs with a fruit or vegetable to make a great start to your day.
- Replace bad fats and oils with good ones. Avoid foods with “hydrogenated” on the label as well as corn, soybean and cottonseed oils, all which can increase inflammation and potentially raise your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Instead, choose coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil and “grass-fed” butter.
- Stop drinking soda and juice. You know that you shouldn’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages, but fruit juices also pack a sugar punch, while diet soda contains chemicals that don’t do you any good.
- Exercise. Again, this is something you know you should do in order to be healthy. For long-term success, it’s critical to find something that you enjoy doing. Any activity you can commit to long-term three times a week is a better choice than the best exercise program in the world that you abandon after a month.
- Replace sugar and processed carbs with other sources of fiber. This is Step 6, and now it’s getting real! Drastically reduce your sugar consumption. Eat healthy grains like rice, oats and quinoa instead of bread or pasta that’s not even whole grain.
- Simplify dinner. The daily last meal should taste good and cap off your healthy day. Start with meat or fish, add a large helping and variety of vegetables and treat yourself to smaller portions of starches like potatoes and rice. Fatty fish gives you those all-important omega-3s, so plan on fish for a main course a few times a week.
- Get realistic with your carbs. You don’t have to cut carbs from your diet, but you eat a quantity that reflects your activity levels and weight. You can eat more carbs if you’re pretty lean and very physically active than if you’re overweight and sedentary.
- Sleep more, stress less. Studies show that too little sleep and too much stress each can undermine any attempt to lose weight. Do what it takes to get adequate sleep and reduce your stress levels. Meditation, yoga, warm tea—try everything until something clicks.
- Plan lunch and snacks. With breakfast and dinner already in control, lunch and snacks are next. Bring only healthy food to the salon, and delete the number of the fast food place next door from your phone.
- Cut out all processed foods. Eliminate anything that isn’t real food. The closer to being straight out of the ground the better! It doesn’t take any more effort to steam broccoli or bake a potato than it does to mix up a powdered concoction of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Commit to health as a lifestyle. Whether you turn into a total health guru who keeps learning more and more about nutrition and exercise or you simply get into a habit of eating well to the point that you don’t even really think about food much anymore, you’ve committed to a lifetime of improvement.
By Step 12, your healthy habits have taken root, and you’re weeks or months into a new lifestyle that will give you the best chance of extending your career and your life.