Living Well

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

When I moved out of my parents’ house, I set a goal to build a healthy lifestyle from the get-go, rather than waiting for the negative consequences and then trying to correct old habits. Living well means different things to different people, but there are some things we can all do to improve our health. Being a single young adult is such a blessing because you have the ability to invest in yourself (something that will benefit not only you but also your future family and everyone around you).

I should point out some disclaimers. First, I am not exceedingly wealthy. I work fulltime and make considerably less than the average female in my state. I want to prove to you that it is possible to live well on a budget. Second, I am nowhere near where I want to be. I am a recovering perfectionist trying to live by the new moto of progress over perfection, so if you’re looking for a proven diet and exercise plan, you won’t find it here. Lastly, my motivation for improving my habits was to improve my mental health, not to lose weight. My main strategy is to make good choices and avoid extremes. That alone is difficult enough.

I am new to the “natural” eating game, so I won’t pretend that I don’t sometimes go through a whole box of wheat thins in a week. I also eat WAAAAY too much sugar. The point is that I have started paying attention to what I eat rather than grabbing snacks and fast-food willy nilly. Sometimes, I still choose to eat unhealthy things, but now it is a conscious choice rather than an impulse and that is progress. My focus has been not only on cutting out bad things but just as importantly, on adding good things. I still eat cookies, but I also eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I drink coffee, but I also drink more water than I used to. I have changed the way I think about food from just filling me up or satisfying a craving to fueling my body.

You don’t need to be intimidated by eating natural. (By natural I mean fresh, unprocessed food, not necessarily organic.) When you’re comparing a ‘regular’ store bought apple to an organic apple the health benefits of the organic apple over the ‘regular’ are virtually negligible. Both are better than a bowl of cereal. It can be as simple as eating more “real foods” found on the outside perimeter of the grocery store. If it’s in a box or a package there is a good chance it has been processed. Read the labels. Is there added sugar? Can you pronounce the ingredients, and do you actually know what they are? If the answer is no, it probably isn’t the healthiest option.

Don’t feel the need to quit junk food cold turkey. You’re better off taking small steps you can actually stick to rather than trying to revolutionize your diet overnight and giving up after a few weeks. The first step is just to become aware of how you are treating your body, especially since so much of what we do becomes unconscious habit.

Another great way to increase your awareness of what you eat is to get a food tracking app. I like to use MyFitnessPal because it tracks both macro and micronutrients, exercise, water, and caloric intake. It also has a large bank of foods that have already been entered, making it easy for you to log your meals, especially when dining out. I have also heard good things about Noom in that it educates you about the health choices you’re making and helps change the way you think about food by addressing the underlying psychological reasons for those unhealthy choices.

While we are tracking our intake, I should add another caveat. Eating healthy alone will not decrease your weight. My objective through this process was to increase my vitamins and protein while decreasing my sugars and processed junk. This will not cause you to lose weight if you continue to consume the same number of calories, however. Likewise, you can lose weight eating junk food if you consume less calories (But you won’t get to eat as much food and will likely feel terrible.) Weight loss is a balancing act between calories burned and calories consumed. If you eat fewer calories than your body burns you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than your body burns you will gain weight. “Healthy Eating” is about nutrition and lowering your risk of diet induced chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease. Neither approach is better than the other. That said, you should be clear about what your goal is before you start so you can accurately determine whether or not you are making progress.

The truth is, there is no quick fix for bad habits, and unhealthy eating habits are some of the hardest to break. Fortunately, there are a few small changes that can make a big difference.

  1. Get a time marked water bottle to track how much water you are drinking and motivate you to reach your hydration goals. You should be drinking about half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water. For example, a 140 lb. person should be drinking 70 oz. of water per day. This is just for optimal function of the body, not counting dehydration from sweat, exercise or illness. During those conditions you should be drinking even more.

  2. Plan your meals and prepare ahead so you aren’t tempted by the convenience of a drive-through. This will also likely save you money. I like to use meal kits like HelloFresh or HomeChef because they teach me how to cook new things and I end up eating healthy foods more often than I would if I defaulted to my minimal kitchen knowledge. It also makes up for some of the decision fatigue by giving you a weekly menu with several meals to choose from. It’s a great way to try new foods without the risk of buying lots of something you might not like.

If you’d like more freedom of cost, I like to use the app Mealime to plan meals, and then purchase my own ingredients. It is similar to meal kits in that it gives you a list of recipes to choose from. However, it differs in that it automatically creates a shopping list for you with your favorite grocery store so that you can easily purchase the ingredients online for pick up or delivery. Furthermore, it allows you to choose the brands you like and cross off the ingredients you already have. It also organizes your list by section of the store incase you prefer to shop in person. The best part about MealLime is that it has a free version!

The best advice I can give you as you attempt to make better choices, is to take baby steps and give yourself grace when you fall short. Having a couple set back is far more effective that getting frustrated and quitting altogether. Just because you aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean the positive choices you do make don’t make a difference. So prioritize progress over perfection and start taking care of yourself today.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash


Hi, thanks for stopping by! For more content on life, faith, and learning how to be a grown up check out my new podcast coming in January 2022....

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