Healthy Women Image

Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH

Pew Foundation Scholar in Nutrition and Metabolism
Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine
University of Maryland
Baltimore, MD

Full Bio
woman cutting up fruit

10 Tips for Healthier Living

Stop worrying about your weight and start focusing on your health. Start with these simple fitness and nutrition ideas.

Don't worry. I'm not just going to sit here and tell you that if you just ate right and exercised more you'd lose weight and live happily ever after.

Life just ain't that easy. What I am going to tell you is to stop worrying about your weight. That's right. Forget the scale, buy the clothes that feel comfortable, learn to love the body you have. As long as you start focusing on your health.

Confused? Don't be. It's all part of what you've been hearing and reading about all over the place. You don't have to be thin to be healthy—and you don't have to be overweight to be sick. So here are my top 10 recommendations for things you can do today to live your way to better health:

  1. Limit yourself to two processed or pre-made foods a day. So, for instance, if you have a danish instead of oatmeal and a Hot Pocket instead of a sliced turkey sandwich, you're done with processed foods for the day. Processed foods are swimming in salt, sugars and unhealthy fats and are deficient in all-important fiber.
  2. Have a piece of fruit or a vegetable with every meal. Having toast with melted cheese for breakfast? Slice up some strawberries. Fixed a sandwich for lunch? Dip some raw broccoli in low-fat ranch dressing to go alongside.
  3. Walk wherever you can. If you're going less than six floors, take the stairs—up and down. Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk into the building; park and walk into the restaurant instead of zooming through the drivethrough; get up and go talk to your coworker down the hall instead of sending an e-mail. At the end of the day, those steps add up.
  4. Don't buy food you know you shouldn't eat. I've never understood people who say they can't resist the chips and ice cream in their house—but keep buying it! And if you're buying it for the kids, stop. They don't need it any more than you do.
  5. Limit eating out to once a month. Your waist and pocketbook will thank you.
  6. Schedule at least three hours a week for yourself. This is time you're not driving the kids around, not cleaning the house, not at work, not doing anything to please anyone except yourself. This time is yours to do with as you like. Women need stressbusters like this to help reduce the dangerously high levels of stress hormones we walk around with all day, hormones that lead to numerous diseases, as well as pack on the fat around our middles.
  7. Wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day. The evidence on these little batteryoperated machines is amazing. One major study found that couch potatoes who met a daily goal of 10,000 steps improved their fitness level, blood pressure and body fat just as much as a group that followed a traditional gymbased aerobic program. Overall, studies find that getting 8,000 to 10,000 steps (about five miles) helps you lose weight, while adding 2,000 steps to your current level, or about one mile a day, helps maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight.
  8. Keep a food diary. Not so much to track what you eat, but to track why you eat. Too many people eat as a way to smother emotions or relieve boredom. If you find you're doing this, you need to talk to someone about finding a healthier way to cope.
  9. Stop drinking soda and fruit juice. They are huge sources of extra calories not to mention unhealthy sugars that don't pack much nutritional benefit. Instead, stick to low-fat or skim dairy, water or unsweetened iced tea.
  10. Find a physical activity you enjoy. It could be gardening, kayaking, golf (but walk the course), tennis, hiking, biking or rock climbing. You'll meet new people, become more physically active and reduce stress—all at the same time.
You might be interested in