6 Health Habits That Changed My Life

Hi, my name is Ali Boone. I'm a Registered Dietitian and Owner of Nourished Abundance, an online nutrition counseling business dedicated to making nutrition easy. While I am a dietitian, I haven't always lived a healthy life. 

Let me tell you a little story about the old me.

The me that used to let daily pressures and expectations of others consume me. The me who always asked for permission and opinions, because I was afraid of making the wrong decision. The me who hardly allowed myself to think freely and constantly worried whether I was “right” or “wrong”. I was anxiety-driven, that is until I decided to stop ignoring the anxiety and started to face it head on. 

I never prioritized sleep and relied completely on caffeine to get me out of bed in the morning. I snacked every 1 to 2 hours, and the second 4pm rolled around, I reached for the coffee again. I need to get through this workout, I always thought to myself, and the only thing that’s going to get me there is this coffee. I relied on stimulants – caffeine and sugar were my drugs of choice. 

You may be laughing at this. Coffee and sugar? How is that an addiction? Well, it was my reliance on coffee and sugar that ran my adrenals into the ground. My energy levels constantly ebbed and flowed. I was tired in the morning and wired at night. I became irritable, anxious and self-conscious. My ability to concentrate or focus on anything continued to decline. 

I exercised almost every single day, sometimes twice a day. Gym before, late evening soccer games at night. I’d go to bed on an empty stomach, wake up feeling exhausted. 

Ironically, I was advising people how to live healthy lives, yet I was hardly following my own advice. 

Sure, my meals were all pretty healthy, but was I actually taking care of myself?

I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough and always put myself down. I wanted change, but I was afraid of it.

I became so caught up in the stories I was telling myself that I forgot to realize my value. I forgot to focus on ME..but I mean really focus on me. It wasn’t that I needed to stop drinking tons of caffeine and sugar – It was that I needed to look at WHY I was eating it.  

So the question became -what if we stopped to consider that 'hunger' for food was actually hunger for more life, love, connection, friendship, and passion? 


That’s when I started asking myself for the first time – What is Ali hungry for? 


I stopped making excuses, looked at what I needed to change and began a new chapter in my life – a chapter of renewal, growth, connection, community, and joy. 


While most people expect they have to make major restrictive changes in order to lose weight, be fulfilled, or feel confident again, I actually couldn’t disagree more. 

Here’s what I did to finally find a healthy balance I so needed (and deserved). I promise, if could do it, so can you. 

 

1.    Prioritized Sleep

I made sleep a priority. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep became a non-negotiable. I turned off the tv, my phone, my computer - any stimulating light by 9 or 10 pm. If I couldn't sleep, I either read or meditated. 

I’m serious when I say prioritizing those 8 hours could change your life.

Lack of sleep is very hard on the body and hurts our cognitive processes in many ways. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving. The health consequences related to lack of sleep include weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.


2.    Stabilized My Blood Sugar

One of the keys to stabilizing energy levels is stabilizing your blood sugar. Limiting refined sugar intake and relying more on proteins, healthy fats and carb-dense vegetables (like sweet potatoes, yucca and winter squashes) helped keep me fuller for longer. I looked to natural forms of fat like organic butter, pasture-raised eggs, coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed beef.

Adding healthy fats to your meal does not cause your blood sugar to fluctuate and actually plays a vital role in stabilizing your blood sugar. 


3.    More Reliance on Water and Less on Caffeine

I never drank coffee past 12 pm and always, always replaced my caffeine intake with at least 1.5-2 times more water. Coffee, juice, tea, alcohol and soda are all diuretics, which means they are depleting your body of water. 

Water plays a considerable role in our overall health and well-being and should never be underestimated.

If you are someone who literally needs caffeine to start your day, you might want to consider taking a month hiatus. Caffeine stimulates your adrenals and the production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which is the same stress response that your body signals when you are in physical danger. With an occasional cup of cup, your adrenals will be able to react quickly. Several cups of coffee throughout the day can lead to overstimulation and a weakening of the adrenals. 

The main purpose of the adrenals is to enable your body to deal with any internal or external stressors, but they also manufacture different hormones (cortisol, estrogen, testosterone) and modulate the function of every tissue organ and gland in your body during times of stress. 

When your blood sugar spikes after consuming foods high in sugar or carbs, the hormone insulin is released to help carry your blood sugar into the cell to be utilized as energy. However, often insulin overcompensates and drops your blood sugar to dramatically low levels. This action facilitates the adrenals to kick in and help raise your blood sugar. 

Ever felt that shaky, hangry feeling after an hour after eating something high in carbs or sugar? That’s your blood sugar dropping. Generally, we reach for something that’s going to provide us with an immediate source of energy, which unfortunately is more carbs and sugar. In turn, this action of high blood sugar levels and dramatically low levels becomes very cyclical and very stressful for the adrenals.  

So if you are someone who relies on caffeine or sugar frequently throughout the day, be aware that both will continue to fatigue your adrenals and leave you less able to combat or manage any stress your body experiences. 


4.    Less Frequent, More Efficient Workouts

You do not need to spend hours in the gym to get the body you desire. An interval workout that’s no more than 20 minutes can be more effective than 60 minutes of doing any form of cardio. I encourage you to look up 20 minute at home interval workouts if you don’t have a gym membership. Or feel free to check out some quick workouts I posted on a past blog here

Studies comparing calorie expenditure and fat loss in young adults show that although shorter workouts burn less calories than during steady state cardio (i.e. elliptical, jogging), interval training produced more fat loss than steady-state exercise did overall. 

If you are continually sacrificing sleep to make it that 6 am workout consider how much your body will love you if you take time to catch up on some sleep. If you are always aching and constantly feeling the onset of injury, PLEASE promise me you will take a break.  


5.    Made Time for Self-Care

Meditation, journaling, dancing, yoga, long walks outside, reading, exercise, sports. What fills you up with joy? What relaxes you? What completely recharges you and brings you back into a higher energy? 

Whatever it may be, try to dedicate at least one hour of interrupted time where you are focusing on nothing but yourself. This is not selfish, it is not greedy or strange. In fact, it is a practice that is entirely underemphasized in our culture.

Self-care can help you manage stress, get you out of your own head and stop comparing yourself to what others are doing. This practice has seriously changed my life. 


6.    Became Part of A Tribe/Community 

When I moved to DC I joined a female leadership called Inner Glow Circle. I have never found more community than I have with these group of women. To have a support system that is there when you need it is incredibly invaluable. 

So who is your tribe? Who do you go to for advice and to lift you up when you’re feeling down? Surround yourself with those people and leave the negative ones behind. You will thank yourself in the long run, I promise. 

 

Change can be gut-wrenchingly painful or we can look at it as an opportunity to grow, to learn, to expand, to make new friends, and develop new skills. But before you overhaul your whole life for a fad diet or juice cleanse, what change do you wish to see? How can ONE SMALL change affect the way you show up as wife, husband, mother, father, coworker, friend, student?  

The bottom line is - It doesn't have to be as painful as we all make it out to be. 


I hope you all found this information helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please post below! 


In Abundant Health, 
Ali