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5 Tips for making your health a priority

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Put your health first

Even though we all know we should be making healthy decisions and doing everything we can to put our health first, a lot of the time real life seems to get in the way of even the best intentions. But despite the daily time crunch, family obligations and never-ending pile of new projects that seem to always find their way to your desk, your own well-being should always be your top priority. We’ve put together a guide to help you better balance your health with all your other responsibilities, to-dos and loads of laundry.

Woman reading book outside

1Make more me time

This is probably the most difficult item on our list, but it's also the most important. Being constantly on the go, feeling like you can barely breathe, let alone sit down to a healthy meal or squeeze in a workout, isn't good for you. We're not suggesting you go AWOL or disappear for days on end, but do make sure to keep your schedule manageable. That means saying no even if you feel guilty and making sure work doesn't come creeping home with you. The more stressed-out you feel, the less likely you are to make healthy decisions, so making more time for you is imperative for overall health. Do whatever it takes to ensure you aren't feeling totally swamped all the time.

  • Get your husband to help out more around the house.
  • Build in more time where your hubby takes the kids so you can read, go for a solo walk or take a hot bath.
  • If work is the biggest culprit, see if there's a way to lighten your load or at least make sure weekends are still for you – not your boss.
  • If something isn't a priority and you're only doing it because you feel you "ought" to, knock it off your to-do list entirely.

2Eat well on the go

If you simply don't have time to sit down to a healthy meal three times a day (and not many of us do) then make sure whatever you eat while on the go has health benefits – and lots of them. One of the simplest ways to put health first is to give up coffee and sugar-laden muffins for breakfast, fast food for lunch and eating off the kids' plates for dinner (trust us when we tell you that should not count as "dinner"). Instead, stock up on simple, fast and healthy options you can stow in your purse for when you need them. Raw nuts, cut-up veggies, whole fruit, homemade granola bars, pitas stuffed with hummus, chopped greens and diced vegetables, leftover pasta salad (whole wheat, ideally) or anything else that didn't come out of a box or a deep fryer is going to help keep you going -- in a good way.

3Set a goal

Whether you're feeling unmotivated to put your health first, too busy to even think about it or just need a boost where your own well-being is concerned, setting a goal can be a great way to kick-start your new health-centric lifestyle. Think about what you'd like to accomplish – being able to run after your kids without feeling out of breath, competing in a race, feeling better about your body – and write down exactly how you plan to accomplish that goal. Knowing you've written it down (put it where you see it every day) should help push you to take the steps you need to get there.

If one larger goal seems too daunting, you can always choose two or three smaller goals to start with, such as drinking your 8 glasses of water a day, eating your full serving of fruit and vegetables , walking an extra 10 minutes every day or going meatless every Monday.

4Walk everywhere

Walking is the easiest and cheapest form of fitness, so why not do more of it? If you can walk to work, do it. If you take transit to your office, get off a few stops early to squeeze in some more time pounding the pavement. If everyone at work usually orders lunch in, step up and offer to pick it up on foot (just order earlier than usual so you have extra time to go get it). There are countless ways to move more every day just by increasing the amount of steps you take.

To really get motivated, get yourself a pedometer to wear so you can keep track of how much you're walking. You'll likely start upping your steps just because you're aware of numbers.

5Make fitness fun

Treadmill? Boring. Step class? No, thanks. Not everyone loves the gym and there's nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn't be an excuse to avoid exercise. Focus on fitness by doing things that don't feel like a slog. Try a new sport, get some friends together and form a running or walking group (you can chat while you burn calories), learn a new physical activity like martial arts or dance, or get out on your bike for a ride around the city. Fitness doesn't have to be a chore – if it is, you likely won't make time for it. But if it's fun, squeezing in regular activity will feel like a no-brainer.

More healthy living tips

Top 10 power foods for women
Healthy eating tips and tricks
Don't let excuses get in the way of your workout

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