The other day I was at the gym, and overheard two women observing another gym-member working out nearby. “See? That’s the body I want,” one woman revealed in hushed tones. “She’s so lucky.”
“She’s lucky.” I hear that assessment far too often, and must respectfully disagree. With the exception of a microscopic minority of the population, “luck” really has very little to do with the larger subject matter of health, fitness, and feeling/looking our best. What is often characterized as “lucky” is actually a result – reward even – of deliberate, on-going action. Health is not a simple before and after photo, it’s a long-term collection of great decisions. And the best news is that this reward is in closer reach than most of us realize.
If you’ve ever jumped on an extreme diet with gusto, only to become fully sick of it within the first week, you’re not alone. Most conventional diet plans don’t work simply because they’re too extreme a change in habit, and not sustainable as an on-going lifestyle. But getting healthy doesn’t have to be about an immediate 180-degree shift. In fact, by folding in micro-changes over time, we have the opportunity to embrace and celebrate small wins, and develop new and positive mini-habits that soon become second-nature actions, for life.
It’s for this reason that I always encourage my clients to remember that the little things add up. Absolutely everything counts. No positive change is too small. What starts as a minor effort eventually becomes part of a lifestyle, and multiplied over many successions can lead to surprisingly impressive results. I’ve known people to lose “that last 10 pounds” simply by drinking one glass of wine in the evenings instead of two. Running or walking just one extra mile on the treadmill or outdoors 5 times a week may not feel like much of an extra effort, but will burn off an additional 500 calories or so every week, which adds up fast! And of course, making smart, gradual changes with our dietary choices can have truly dramatic results.
It’s my experience that “swapping” is one of the best methods to amp up any diet, and improve health. Little changes, like choosing fiber- and Omega-rich walnuts instead of cholesterol-elevating cheese on a salad, can have tremendous impact over time … and because this kind of change is so small, it’s easy to stick to as nothing feels “sacrificed” … it’s simply renewed. I especially appreciate the power of superfoods and their profoundly condensed benefits as a great way to nutritionally heighten meals and snacks very efficiently. For example: replacing raisins in a bowl of oatmeal with goji berries (packed with anti-aging antioxidants); using buttery coconut oil (full of skin-healthy and heart-healthy fats) in the place of butter or margarine for cooking; and choosing dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (far more antioxidants and lower in sugar and calories) are all wonderful ways to massage more biological benefits into the day. One of my very favorite “small changes” is to make a daily smoothie, which can be used as a snack, light meal (like breakfast), or even as a dessert. Smoothies can include several servings of produce and top-notch superfoods all in one glass, while tasting utterly dreamy (you can make a smoothie in just about any flavor!). Smoothies keep us feeling full, satisfied, and energized while reducing cravings.
So remember, be proud of every effort you make. It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress, and every effort — no matter how big or small — is all leading you in the right direction of health and wellness! Try my smoothie recipe below for a powerful “small change” that tastes like an ice cream dessert.
Mint Chip Smoothie
Reprinted with permission from Superfood Smoothies © 2013 by Julie Morris.
Tucked beneath a very convincing ice cream-like flavor, a wealth of beneficial spinach awaits you in this smoothie. It’s so good it almost makes a person wonder why spinach isn’t used in all minty treats. I love how the cacao nibs provide a bit of dark-chocolate crunch without being overpowering.
Makes 2 18 -ounce servings
2 cups frozen spinach
2 cups frozen bananas
1⁄4 cup raw cashews
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 tablespoons (packed) fresh mint leaves, minced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups rice milk (original variety)
1⁄2 cup coconut water
sweetener, to taste (optional)
Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Taste, and sweeten as desired.