Healthy Living Tips that Helped Me

By Taralynn McNitt January 29, 2015

The world is full of diet tips. It’s full of myths and truths. Maybe my tips are not what scientist have proven to work. Maybe they have. But, these tips have worked for me. I lost weight by ignoring the scientist and going with what was working. Maybe my tips won’t benefit you, but what do you have to lose? These tips help me eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and keep weight off.

Now, before you read too far, I am not a doctor or professional and, these are all based on my experience. So please talk to your doctor about starting a new lifestyle.

Surround Yourself With Motivational People

I couldn’t have lost weight if I continued to hang out with enablers. By enablers, I mean the people that pressured me to eat junk, make fun of my healthy habits or laugh at the thought of going to the gym. I ditched the late night parties and replaced them with a good night’s sleep, and early morning workouts. I didn’t lose my social life; I just put it on hold for a while. I learned how to balance a healthy lifestyle and social lifestyle over time. I gained new friendships during my journey. People who give you positive comments about your body are just as important as a healthy diet. People who question your goals are discouraging. I didn’t avoid the people who discouraged or enabled me totally, I just found myself hanging out with them in different ways. My best friend, Beth, was one of the most motivational people I could have in my life. We would: go out for coffee, run together and watch tons of movies!

Relate working out with exercise.
I’m going to be honest. I HATED working out when I first started this healthy lifestyle. I was also facing a lot of anxieties and pain. Whenever I felt stressed, I’d use exercise as a remedy. I like to fill my Ipod up with a variety of songs, and go outside for a walk. Sometimes, this is so relaxing a couple hours will pass without me realizing it. After a while, this walking turned into running. If you don’t want to wake up early to beat yourself up at the gym, or lift weights then do something you love. I like to do things that are fun for staying active like : Wii fit, golf, walking, Zumba, walking the malls and yoga.

Now that I have formed a love for working out, I find myself going to the gym everyday like a robot. I don’t hesitate, I just do it. I love seeing the familiar faces and watching everyone reach their goals. Our gym is like a family and everyone is always out to help each other.

Sugar Free, Light & Fat Free

Many of you, who have been following my blog for the past couple years, know that I have recently switched over to a cleaner diet. I stopped buying all of the sugar free, fat free, calorie free junk without looking at the ingredients. No more : sugar free jello, sugar free pudding, fat free butter or Splenda. That doesn’t mean I am loading up on full fat, sugar and high calorie foods. It means I am being more cautious with my grocery shopping. I have been surprised to find so many natural sugar free and fat free products that are organic and chemical free. I have been making a lot of my own dressings and sauces from whole foods instead of buying processed ones. This is definitely a challenge, but I know if I keep it up, I’ll have it down. I like my sugar to come from fruits, my fat to come from nuts, avocados and whole grains. It is important to make sure your calories are coming from healthy foods most of the time. Now, it’s ALWAYS okay to splurge now and then, but remember a moderation splurge is way different than a binge splurge.

Carbs should come from fruits & Vegetables
This is something that worked for me. It isn’t necessary but it’s a part of my lifestyle. I like carbs, and I try to keep them low, but I don’t go out of my way to eat carbs that come from: grain based foods, sugary desserts or breads. I like my carbs to come from: fruits and vegetables. This may be hard for some people. I am a plant machine. I eat more servings of vegetables than recommended. Fruit is also like candy for me. Because I eat so much of these foods, my carb total at the end of the day is high. I find vegetables and fruits keep me full longer. Grain based carbs and dessert carbs leave me hungry an hour later. It just doesn’t do it for me. Eating more fruits and vegetables also helps me reach my fiber goals at the end of the day. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still eat grain based carbs and sugary desserts, but I don’t go out of my way to fit them into my lifestyle. Sure, I’ll add some croutons to a salad or crunch on a few pretzels, but I’d rather go for the peanut butter and celery sticks!

Eliminate Butter and Vegetable Oil.

These two popular cooking ingredients couldn’t be more useless. They add unhealthy fats and high calories to your food. They put your heart at risk for diseases and your body at risk for obesity. Instead of using butter and vegetable oil to cook, use broth or an non-stick pan with water. If you are baking, substitute the butter or vegetable oil with natural ingredients like: applesauce, banana, Greek yogurt or avocado.

SEE MORE: DIY Healthy Starbucks Drinks

Reduce your salt intake.

Salt might make your foods taste better, but it’s horrible on your blood pressure and heart. It also makes your body retain water causing you to feel bloated, heavy and just plain gross! Pay attention to sodium levels on your groceries. Stop adding salt to your meals. Use other natural flavors that are powerful like : lemon, garlic, onion or pepper.

Watch out for dried fruits, peanut butter, salted nuts..

Before you say “what…”, Only certain kinds of :dried fruits, peanut butter and salted nuts should be cut out of your diet. I love dried fruits, peanut butter and nuts. I couldn’t possible cut these out! If you are purchasing dried fruits a lot, check the back to make sure they are not preserved or have added sugar. Buying organic dried fruit that has no sugar added is a better choice. An even better choice would be drying your own organic fruit. Although eating fresh fruit is more beneficial because it keeps you full longer and still contains water and other natural nutrients that is killed off during the drying process.

When it comes to peanut butter, make sure to buy an all-natural brand. A lot of stores sell peanut butter with extra sugar and added preservatives. Lately I have been all about PB2.

Nuts are healthy for your diet. Those are the good kind of fats. BUT, watch out for nuts with extra salts and sugar. The kinds of nuts you receive around Christmas time, or at baseball games are the kinds you want to avoid or eat less of. Again, moderation is KEY.

Limit your cheese intake.

In my country, cheese is on everything. It’s on: salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, tacos, eggs, soups, french fries, popcorn, chips etc…I find it to be pointless. It’s high in sodium, cholesterol high in fat and high in calories. Limit your cheese to about two tablespoons a day if you are a cheese addict. If you want a better option for cheese, try feta, cottage cheese or Parmesan. I am slowly transitioning into a vegan cheese brand. I rarely eat cheese anyway, other than cottage.

Time Limit. Eating after certain hours.

This goes for mindless munchers (aka, me). I make sure to eat all my meals before 7 pm or three hours before bed time. There is something about the night time that makes me want to dive into the m&m bag or gulp down a bag of chips. Giving myself a time limit helps me avoid that. If I really want to having something to eat, I’ll pop air popped popcorn and add some dark chocolate chips for my sweet tooth. I don’t like to go to bed on a full stomach, it makes my sleep choppy. Also, too many pointless calories are consumed at night.

Sleeping Schedule

Sleep is VERY important. It boosts metabolism and immune system. It plays a huge role in your energy levels and helps keep your body young. Days when I am tired and lacking sleep, I crave higher calorie foods with more sugar and saturated fats. It’s my body’s way of telling me it needs fast energy to continue. After nights of great sleep, I have days of healthy eating and energized workouts. Sleep is key, when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. It’s a way of letting your body restore and giving it a break. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in either. You should sleep all day, but waking up at dawn will still leave you tired if you don’t go to bed early. If you have a hard time falling asleep, try: yoga, turning off all electronics and listening to calming music.

Mindless snacking

If you find yourself mindless snacking a lot, you may want to check to make sure you are drinking enough water. It’s easy to mistake the feeling of thirst with hunger. If you are snacking because you are bored, replace snacks with water or herbal tea. Your body doesn’t need extra calories when it’s bored. Be careful what you mindlessly snack on. Don’t go for the chocolate, chips or leftover pizza rolls in fridge. Grab a bowl of grapes, frozen peas, air popped popcorn or apples with peanut butter. Those snacks will make you feel energetic and full. You can also prevent mindless snacking by going out and being active.

Snacking is important but don’t do it mindlessly.

Fast Food
This is something you need to educate yourself on if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I hear the excuse all the time “my friends and family always want to eat fast food, so I can’t be healthy”. Well, that’s a myth. There are tons of healthy options offered at restaurants. I hate and cringe when I say this, but even Mcdonalds has healthy options. Just because your family and friends order fries and Big Macs, doesn’t mean you can’t order a fruit and walnut bowl with a grilled chicken salad. Sure it may kill you to watch them eat that in front of you, but it would kill them to watch what that food does to their insides. Which is better?

Almost ALL restaurants offer a nutrition guide on their websites. If you know where you will be eating, do a little research to scope out healthy options. Eventually, you will automatically know what is good and what isn’t. Making healthy choices is easy, but is a learning process.

Some Fast Food Tips : Choose a fruit side or side salad instead of fries, always go for grilled chicken over hamburger, drink water instead of soda to flush out sodium, refrain from using extra salt, Choose salads instead of combo meals, order your dressing on the side, choose fresh fruit over desserts.

Unnecessary Condiments.
Adding unnecessary condiments can cause a weight gain. It will creep up as you continue to use: ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, sugar, ranch etc. Try using low fat, low calorie condiments like: mustard, Italian dressing, honey, hummus, low sodium soy or Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. A lot of condiments contain a large amount of sugar, and who stops at 1 serving?

The Freezer Section
There are a lot of healthy options in the freezer section. There are also a lot of unhealthy options in the freezer section. Again, it’s about making the right decision.

I have a grocery list posted on my blog that has some of my grocery finds from the freezer section.

Pay attention to the nutrition facts in the freezer section. Choose low sodium, low saturated fat, low sugar and unprocessed foods. Avoid pizzas, frozen pastries, breads and microwaved meals. My favorite things to buy in the frozen section are: vegetable steamer bags, frozen vegetables, no sugar added fruit, organic frozen yogurt, Boca burgers, morning star, Arctic Zero and frozen shrimp.

Always Eat Breakfast
I stress breakfast on everyone. I stress it on myself days when I am not hungry, or too lazy to get out of bed. I cringe when I hear people say they skip it. After sleeping 8-10 hours your body is ready to wake up and start the day. In order for it to get energy to do so, it needs fuel. You can’t let it go into starvation mode. If you go half your day without food, your body will think slower and move slower. It’s been proven that people think faster after eating breakfast, especially kids.

Skipping breakfast can cause migraines and your metabolism to slow. Your body needs that morning fuel to boost metabolism, get your blood flowing and kick-start that morning brain. Depriving yourself in the morning can cause the body to crave junk food later in the evening, and to mindlessly snack on junk. Eating donuts in the morning is still healthier than eating nothing at all. I don’t recommend heading to donuts every morning. Choose breakfast that are well rounded. Try: eggs, oatmeal, whole grain toast, fresh berries, peanut butter, grapefruit, Greek yogurt, turkey bacon or protein smoothies.

If finding the time to eat breakfast is complicated, then take the time to prepare in advance. Make your breakfast the night before and set it aside. If you forget to eat breakfast a lot, keep a stash of breakfast bars at your work or in your car. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day. If you cut out your morning calories, most likely you’ll eat them later in unhealthy calories. When you wake up, make it a priority to eat something.

Sweet Tooth Torture
Sweets are my weakness. If I could eat dessert for the rest of my life, I would. Not a day goes by without my sweet tooth coming out to say “hello”. If I listened to him every day, I’d be back to day one of high school. I like to cure my sweet tooth with little remedies. I make homemade desserts instead of buying boxed ones, frozen bananas and yogurt instead of ice cream, light hot cocoa instead of diving into the chocolates, air popped popcorn with a couple dark chocolate chips instead of buttery popcorn with M&Ms. There are all kinds of ways to sneak past that sweet tooth.
I don’t recommend ignoring your sweet tooth. If you deprive your body from the things you love, then you’ll set yourself up for a binge. Treat yourself with desserts in moderation. Make healthier choices before you dive into the sweets. Go for dark chocolate instead of milk. Measure your ice cream instead of eating from the carton. It’s little things that will make a big different on your health. Go out for dessert with your friends, and split a sundae, don’t eat the whole thing.

Tracking Calories/Fat/Fiber/Protein/Carbs
When I first started my healthy lifestyle, I was very clueless. I didn’t know what was healthy and what was unhealthy. The only way to learn, was by keeping track of the foods I ate and paying attention to their macros. I used for about a year to educate myself on which foods had more: protein, fiber, sugar, carbs, calories and fat. Eventually it was natural to go for the healthy foods without having to track. This made it easier to keep my daily meals balanced. You don’t have to track calories for the rest of your life, but it is smart every once in a while to learn a couple new things.

Smaller Goals.
You have to be realistic when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. You can’t expect to lose the same amount of weight as your friends or ten pounds in one week. If you set a goal like that in your mind, and fail to reach it, most likely you’ll be discouraged and give up. I used to do that all the time. Finally I realized, smaller goals were ideal and easier to stay motivated with. My fist month, I lost a lot of weight because I had more weight to lose. It eventually got slower and slower. My goal was to lose 1-2 lbs each week. Every time I saw that lost, I was happy because I succeeded. Make goals for yourself that are realistic, healthy and obtainable. That is the key to moving forward.

Inspirational Documentaries.
Whenever I feel like jumping off the healthy wagon and giving up, I like to watch inspirational documentaries. Here are my favorites. You can find these on Netflix or Hulu.

Food Inc.
Fork Over Knives
Hungry for a Change
Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
Fork Over Knives The Extended Interview
America the Beautiful
Killer at Large (why obesity is America’s greatest threat)
A Walk to Beautiful
FAT What No One Is Telling You
King Corn, Our Daily Bread
Supersize Me
Future of Food
Food Matters
Fed Up
Food Fight
Don’t have time to fix a fast snack?

Try cutting up fruit and leaving it in the fridge for a fast grab. Keep it at the front of the fridge so it first catches your eye before something unhealthy does. Squeeze fresh lemons in the bag to help keep the fruit fresh and prevent browning!

Let’s talk about school
School is stressful. Throwing a healthy lifestyle on top is even more stressful at first. Staying up all night studying, working hard at practice or dealing figuring out cafeteria food choices can get intimidating. I let school get the best of me in high school. I’m glad I made healthy changes when I got to college. It will seem hard at first, but it will be second nature in no time.

Organizing is a huge factor in a healthy lifestyle. If you spend your morning’s running around looking for your math book, it will take away the time you could have spent preparing a healthy breakfast. Organizing helps time management problems. Always keep your kitchen organized. An organized kitchen makes grocery shopping easier. It’s clearer what you have in the house and what you need more of.
If you live with other people, organize your own shelves in the refrigerator or cabinets with your food. Don’t let your healthy food get hidden behind your friends chocolate cake or pack of beer. Keep your fresh food in containers to stay fresh longer. Freeze your fruits and vegetables if you plan on going out of town to keep them from going to waste. Keep your workout clothes clean, organized and fresh to make getting ready for the gym easier. Going to the gym can already be stressful, why make getting ready for the gym stressful too?
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Preparation makes healthy lifestyles easier. If you are a busy person with no time to sit down and enjoy a meal, or prepare breakfast, it’s crucial to do it in advance. Make time on Sunday’s or your days off to prepare your meals and snacks for the week. Chop up fruits, vegetables and put them in containers for easy access in the refrigerator. Make dinner in the crock pot for the week. If you don’t have meals or snacks prepared, you’ll most likely order a pizza or stop at a fast food restaurant as a fast option. If you don’t have breakfast before school or work, you’ll most likely dive into the drive-thru or the box of donuts on your desk. Pack your lunches the night before.

Extra School Tips.

Your mornings should always start with breakfast. If you plan on working out in the morning, have a small fuel snack. Eat breakfast right after your workout. If you are in a rush, pack your breakfast with you on the way to the gym. Options: grapefruit slices, peanut butter and banana whole grand sandwich, to-go breakfast sandwiches, homemade muffins with fruit etc.
Always have two snacks with you during the school days. Eat one mid-morning and one before you get home. If you have a snack on your way home, you are less likely to indulge in everything unhealthy in the house. I used to come home after long days, and just eat a whole bag of chips. (Healthy, I know)

Exercise Before Your Homework
Exercise has been proven to improve your brain activity and reduce stress. Stress always comes with a heavy workload. Stress leads to comfort eating and a lack of sleep. So before you work on a stressful project or assignment, take a couple laps around the block, or engage in a yoga session.

Music Makes a Difference.
When you study hard, sometimes eating food gives your brain something to focus on. Instead of going downstairs to grab a bag of chips or candy, play classical music to distract you. Music will help you zone out and go into a study coma. Classical music is relaxing and can help your brain focused on your work. If you are hungry and need a snack while you study, choose something healthy: grapes, berries, carrots, air popped popcorn or homemade trail mix.

Don’t Eat It Because Your Friends Are
I wish I would have realized this in high school. Everyone’s body is different. Just because your friends are fit while eating tons of junk, doesn’t mean they are healthy, or your body can do the same. Some people have faster metabolisms. Don’t feel discouraged by it, or feel pressured to eat what they are eating. Remember to NOURISH your body with healthy food. Believe it or not, even though they are eating a lot of food, they are still depriving their body of nutrients.

Feed your body what it deserves, not what you think it wants. Your body may react different to unhealthy foods, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut them. I encourage you to eat them, but in moderation. If you eat healthy all day, treat yourself to a dessert after dinner. If you don’t want dessert, have a hamburger with a side salad for dinner. If you deprive yourself from the foods you crave, it will lead to unhealthy binging. You deserve to eat how you want sometimes, just be smart about it.

Stay Involved In School Activities
If you want to hang on couch eating potato chips while watching horrible reality television, then don’t do school activities. But why would you want to do that? School activities should be taken advantage of. It helps you stay active, social and it looks good on a college application. Choose a couple activities you are interested in and stick to it.
Find Healthy Friends
Finding healthy friends who live the same lifestyle as you makes it easier. Friends keep you motivated. Try to find friends who want to take on the healthy lifestyle with you. Work out together, swap tips and cook healthy meals for each other.

Start a Health Club
Starting a health club can help keep you motivated while inspiring others to change their lives. A healthy club can introduce you to new friends, ideas and keep you on track with your goals. Make it a 30 minute meeting two times a week after school. Discuss healthy topics, share healthy recipes, struggles and plan workouts with each other. Getting a teacher or staff member involved can help your group grow.

The Memorize Walk
The memorize walk is one of the best techniques I have ever come up with. Record your notes onto an audio track and upload it to your iPod. Take long walks while listening to your notes on your iPod. Your brain will memorize the facts so much faster with exercise. It’s hard to find time to exercise with so much homework, so this one solves the problem. I used to do this to memorize my theater lines. Try to walk or bike to school if you are close and find open spots to get active.

Participate in the Grocery Shopping
Grocery shopping seems like such a chore to some people, but it benefits your health. I love it. If you complain about having nothing healthy in the house, go to the store with your parents and give them tips on what to eat. This is a great way to spend time with your family during the busy year. It may seem small to you, but it’s special to them. Offer replacements for the normal foods they buy that aren’t so healthy. Educate them and yourself by reading labels and finding healthier options.

Don’t Skip Gym Class
Gym is easy to get exempt from, but don’t do it. Changing and getting sweaty sounds awful, but take advantage of the free workouts and extra exercise. You can learn many new fitness techniques to take home and use. Use gym class as a way to relax and take your mind off the stress of school for a while.
Lunch Preparation
Circle the days you will eat hot lunch. Cross out the day’s you will pack. Keep the schedule on the fridge and don’t forget. Keep reminders in your phone to pack your lunch the night before. Packing your lunch the night before gives you more time to get all cute in the morning.

Most college cafeterias are like buffets. Navigate before you start to eat. Locate the fresh options. Choose: baked, roasted or grilled food. Always look for low sodium, low sugar and low fat options. Try to stay away from the pizza, macaroni & pasta bar. If you want a slice of pizza, that is fine! Just have one slice with a side vegetable, don’t go overboard and pile three slices on your plate. If your cafeteria has desserts, choose a day to eat your dessert. Maybe have dessert on Fridays or Mondays. Choose healthy toppings. Stay away from the ranch, butter, cheese or mayonnaise. Choose condiments like: salsa, mustard, pepper or Italian dressing.

School & Sleep

If you are too tired to focus, your body will turn to food and not the healthy kind. It will crave unhealthy fats and sugar. I know it’s hard to turn off the electronics, but cut yourself off ten hours before you wake up. If you lack sleep, you will most likely skip out on exercise too. Try to get 8-9 hours of sleep on school nights.

Vending Machines

We all forget to pack snacks sometimes and have to deal with unbearable hunger pains. The vending machine may be your last resort, so learn how to use it. There are a couple “healthier” choices in the vending machine. It’s obvious not to go for the candy bars, sugar candies or pop tarts. Instead of something high in unhealthy calories choose: nuts, trail mix, un-frosted animal crackers, dried fruit, whole grain pretzels, granola bars, or sunflower seeds. Choosing better options give you more: fiber, iron, calcium, protein and healthy fats.

It’s a big deal in college to wake up early on game days and tailgate. With tailgating, unhealthy food and drink choices follow. Be smart about it. It is okay to eat all the game food, but don’t mix it with cases of beer or loads of fatty food. If you want a burger off the grill, have it! Pair it with fresh fruit or grilled veggies. It’s also fun to bring healthy dishes to tailgates. Bring breakfast muffins decorated with team spirit; bring fruit or vegetable kabobs in your school colors. Bring your own meat for the grill. Season a couple pieces of chicken or salmon and bring it to the tailgate.

Dorm Room Life
Staying healthy in college can be difficult. Your refrigerator may be too small. You might not have an oven or you have roommates who live off junk food. It may be easier to stop at fast food restaurants or eat in the cafeteria. Eating that way isn’t cheaper or healthier. I save more money cooking my own meals and eating healthy produce. I went through my recipes and grocery items to find the dorm-friendly ones. All you’ll need is a: toaster, microwave, refrigerator and blender.

Office Snacks
The office is a huge target for unhealthy eating and snacking. Your employees or coworkers may order takeout or pizza. Your coworkers might keep your favorite candy in a bowl on their desk or your boss may bring in their kid’s leftover birthday cake. How do you say no to that? Easy, have your own snacks available at your desk. Set an example in the office. Keep a bowl of fruit on your desk instead of a bowl of candy. Bring healthy homemade muffins to your morning meetings instead of the box of donuts. Pack a salad with grilled salmon for lunch instead of going hungry or stopping at McDonalds. People will catch on fast and stop bothering you with unhealthy snacks. Keep a mini fridge with yogurt and veggies. Pack rice cakes, pretzels and bottles of water. If your office is throwing a party and you know there will be pizza, bring in a tossed salad for a side.

*This post was originally published on Taralynn’s website, Simply Taralynn. For more from Taralynn visit

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