Five Healthy Living Tips for Achieving Balance

When it comes to getting healthy, self-care is the first step, according to Aruni Nan Futuronsky, who coteaches The Kripalu Approach to Diet: An Integrative Weight-Loss Program with Annie B. Kay, Kripalu’s Lead Nutritionist.

“I like to think of the ‘four pillars of self-care’—nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and sleep—as the doorway to transformation,” she says. Start with your weakest link, then try to reestablish balance.

1. Nourish yourself. What are you really hungry for? What nourishes you fully? Probably not cookies at night, says Aruni. When the cravings come, ask what else you can give yourself, she suggests—maybe a phone call to friend, a bath, or a “delicious” book you can get lost in.

It might sound counterintuitive, but focusing on health and balance, rather than weight management, is the key to change. Shifting the beliefs and patterns that keep us “hungry” can transform our behavior.

2. Exercise. Not sure how to create a regular exercise routine? Aruni recommends finding something you love to do—walking, swimming, yoga, hiking, zumba, or whatever keeps you moving. When in your day can you give yourself this gift?

3. Reduce stress. Instead of turning to food, can you substitute another way to unwind? What helps you relax? Cuddling with your dog, cat, or significant other? A long bath, walk, or movie?

4. Get enough sleep. While you may not associate being tired with poor eating habits, research shows that chronically getting less than six hours of sleep can disrupt your genes’ ability to fight stress and inflammation, which can affect your metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to crave a quick energy fix from sugary sweets or high-carb snacks.

Annie has one more recommendation to add to the four pillars:

5. Slow down. Giving thanks before your first bite can help you relax and be present in the moment, so you can stay tuned in to what and how much you eat. Look at the colors on your plate, smell your food , and savor the variety of flavors in each bite. You’ll have a more satisfying experience and feel more nourished by the end of the meal. Paying attention to how many times you chew each bite aids the digestive process while calming your thoughts.

Remember, a sense of curiosity and self-observation without judgment, what Swami Kripalu called “the highest form of spiritual practice,” is your most valuable tool on the journey toward greater health and well-being.

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