As a holistically minded physician, I often find myself having conversations about changes with my patients. Changes about their weight, their stress levels, their eating habits, their exercise – whatever it is, usually their ultimate change is about their holistic health. We all want to feel better, and we all want to feel better NOW. Unfortunately, holistic health is not something for which I can prescribe a pill to heal you overnight. It is, however you define health for yourself, a goal which is best reached in small, manageable steps that build towards big changes over time.
I’m going to repeat that, because this is they key: Small. Manageable. Changes.
We often want to dive head first into it all, changing our diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits all at once. But a laundry list of changes to implement all at once, however well intentioned, often become overwhelming and a recipe for stress and failure rather than holistic health. For myself and my patients, I’ve found that slow and steady is the best approach for long term success. Regardless of if you are starting at the very beginning or already well on your way towards holistic health, start with one small step. Pick one small thing to change and stick with it until it’s a comfortable, manageable part of your life. This may take a week, it may take a month, or even longer. But once you’ve integrated the first change into your life so that it no longer feels like a change but just how you live, then you can make the next small step with out being overwhelmed. As I mentioned earlier, everyone’s definition of healthy may be different. For my own family, we started simply by focusing on limiting how much sugar we ate at breakfast. Once we felt we had a new, healthy habit of scrambled eggs for breakfast we started looking at the sourcing of our eggs. One step at a time has built us to a very different version of holistic health than we ever dreamed of starting out, but together these small steps have made it easy. And even now that we locally source as much our diet as possible and cook most of our meals at home, we still keep an eye out for what next step might be best for our family.If you need an idea or two to get you started, here are some of the most common small steps I discuss with my patients:
Drink more water and less sodaRegardless of whether you drink regular or diet soda, it’s an unnecessary source of sugar and chemicals in your daily life. If you aren’t ready to go cold-turkey, try limiting soda to when you eat out rather than having it always available in your fridge at home. If plain water is unappealing, you can infuse it with flavor by simply squeezing a bit of lemon into it (which is a great for your digestive tract), or in drop a few small pieces of your favorite fruit or cucumbers into a pitcher you keep ready and waiting in the fridge.
Start reading labelsEven if you aren’t ready to do anything about it yet, getting used to reading the labels on what you purchase at the grocery store can be a huge help in planning your next step – and quite the education on what you’re actually eating. Once you have established the habit of reading the label before you purchase something, you can pick one thing to try to avoid.Stretch dailyStretching is critical for keeping your body moving in the ways you need it to be. 3-5 minutes of simple stretches can make a world of difference all day long. If you aren’t sure what your body needs, a holistic healthcare provider such as an Osteopath (such as myself) or Chiropractor can help identify your body’s unique problem areas along with gentle stretches to help them.
Begin a meditation practiceStress is one of the most toxic things in our lives, and can be a huge barrier to holistic health without us even realizing it. Meditation may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually as simple as focusing on your breathing for even as little as five minutes a day.
Stop eating fast foodScramble up a few eggs in the morning instead of going through the drive-thru on your way to work. Pack a lunch. Have dinner cooking in a crock pot, or cook ahead on the weekends so you just have to reheat dinner when you get home. Even this doesn’t have to be all at once, but set a goal for yourself – one meal or even just one day a week to begin with where you change your habits and eat food from home.
Make exercise a habitRegardless of what type of exercise you prefer, commit to doing it once a week, then build from there.
Start by visiting your local farmer’s market – produce is one of the easiest and cost-effective items to source. And once you get to know your favorite farmers, you can ask them where to source the rest of your meal!