Being healthy is a habit. At first, you choose to exercise and eat well every day because you know it will make you healthier. Eventually, moving your body daily and choosing good-for-you foods become habits that keep you healthy. It feels strange not to do them! But making changes at first can seem overwhelming. “Where do I start?” may be the question I am most commonly asked. In my practice, I often tell women, “Small hinges swing big doors.” Try making little changes here and there. “Getting healthy” can’t happen overnight. There is no magic pill, no shortcut. Make good choices and small changes; your little healthy habits will add up into a happy and healthy life. Here are the top 12 habits of people who manage their health naturally and THRIVE! 1. They do not consume sweetened (with natural sugar or artificial) beverages. Sugar (even artificial sugar) causes changes to your insulin levels with negative cycling side effects. The more sugar you consume, the more sugar you will crave and the more harm it does to your body. In addition, sugary drinks (especially sodas) dehydrate you. They are diuretics that actually elevate your blood pressure and increase urination. You are not peeing because you are hydrated; you are peeing to get rid of the contaminants! Let’s not even get started on the toxic load the chemicals in these drinks put on your body. Try sparkling water or green tea and add a wedge of citrus for a refreshing change of pace. 2. They move every day. Movement is a habit that everyone must have in order to thrive. There are tons of effective exercise options. You just need to find a few activities that are right for your body and that you look forward to doing. Go for a walk. Take a swim. Take a class at the local gym or online at gaiamtv.com. Try HIIT, strength training or yoga! Movement releases endorphins that make you feel good right away and has countless positive long-term effects on everything from cardiovascular and skeletal health to reducing depression. 3. They love themselves and their bodies now. Embrace who you are today, not who you will be after you get a better job, the kids move out, you lose another 10 pounds or you fit into your jeans from junior high. You must love and respect yourself and your body today and treat yourself with that love and respect. That respect will lead you to make important changes to benefit your health. 4. They do not see themselves as victims. People who thrive are not helpless victims of their diagnoses or circumstances. They have the will and the power to overcome their situation and embrace their health and happiness. They choose to act and overcome. 5. They educate so they can advocate. You must be your own advocate. You may find that many doctors look for the quick (chemical) fix. Educate yourself about any conditions you have, including the causes, tests and treatments, and be prepared to demand considered care from your health care providers. I wrote an entire guide for women with PCOS for just this reason. I give it away for free because this step is that important. 6. They have a low dairy, whole food diet without gluten and processed soy. For many people, foods containing gluten, soy and most dairy triggers inflammation, which irritates most every system in the body and may exacerbate symptoms of conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), as well as other endocrine or thyroid disorders. Eliminating gluten and limiting dairy may seem like big steps — and they are. Start small. Have a smoothie for breakfast instead of cereal with milk or a bagel. You won’t regret it. 7. They get adequate sleep. Sleep is critical for body (and especially brain) function. Rest helps your body reenergize and detoxify. It’s hard to maintain other good health habits if you are dragging through your day, too tired to exercise and taking in sugar and caffeine to keep you awake. Noone benefits from a drowsy, foggy brain. Hit the sack at night for at least eight hours, and for your best sleep, turn off electronics one hour before bedtime. 8. They manage their stress. We all lead busy and stressful lives. The way we approach our stress can make all the difference. Healthy people have learned coping mechanisms (i.e. meditation, yoga, deep breathing) to take on less stress, as well as to effectively manage and have a positive perspective on the stress they do have. Stress triggers the production of cortisol in our bodies which wreaks havoc on our hormonal system and gives you belly fat! Who needs that?! 9. They take supplements. The most balanced and healthy diet still has gaps day to day. Healthy people understand this and fill in those gaps with high quality supplements such as a multivitamin, fish oil and vitamin D. Depending upon their symptoms, they may choose to also supplement with herbs such as berberine. Remember, not all supplements are created equal. Be certain that the supplements you choose are third party certified. 10. They plan and cook meals. Planning is the key to a healthy diet. You are much less likely to enjoy a healthy dinner if you rush home from work and eat whatever is in the refrigerator. Careful planning can save you from a bowl of pasta on the couch or calorie-, fat- and sodium-packed takeout. Plan healthy meals and cook enough for leftovers for those nights when you will have no time to prepare an entire meal. 11. They practice extreme self-care. The need for self-care cannot be over-emphasized. Taking care of your mind, body and spirit is not selfish. You are more able to give your friends, family and coworkers your whole self when you have taken the time to refresh. Self-care means eating well and exercising, but just as importantly, it means taking a few minutes to yourself every day to re-center and relax. You may choose to exercise, meditate, take an Epsom salt bath or write in a journal. Whatever you choose, give yourself over to the experience wholly and see the difference it makes in your life. 12. They practice progress not perfection. Noone is perfect; we all know that. Still, we often strive for perfection in our work, relationships and our bodies. This neverending pursuit causes unnecessary and unreasonable stress. Healthy women know that absolute perfection is impossible. There is pleasure in doing your best and loving who you are right now. Life is a journey, after all. Want more? 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