“I don’t have time for breakfast—I’ll just grab a donut from the break room at work.”
“I don’t have time to work out—I’ll get started again next week.”
“I don’t have time to sleep eight hours—I’ll catch up on the weekend.”
If any of these excuses sound familiar, you’re not alone. Lack of time is one of the most commonly cited reasons for not adhering to a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to nutrition, physical activity and self-care, many succumb to an “all or nothing” mentality and feel like they've failed if they slip up even once. In reality, though, there are plenty of small, bite-sized ways to improve your mental and physical wellness.
- Recognize the difference between hunger and boredom. When you start thinking about snacking but you’re not physically hungry, fitness and nutrition coach Jill Brown suggests distracting yourself with work, a chore or a short walk to help prevent overeating or making poor choices.”
- Switch your dairy to plain varieties. Choosing plain yogurt and milk takes no extra time out of your day and will help you cut your added sugar intake, notes registered dietitian Summer Yule. For added flavor, sprinkle in some fresh fruit.
- Eat your vegetables. Aim for your five a day and your body will feel fueled and energized. Registered dietitian Judy Barbe likes this quick and easy veggie recipe: Chop a few vegetables, an onion and a potato, and thinly slice a lemon. Toss with a little olive oil and transfer the mixture to a hot sheet pan. Save some of the roasted vegetables to mix into a scrambled egg for the next morning’s breakfast or enjoy them on top of spinach for a delicious salad.
- Keep your water bottle filled and close at hand. It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re on the go, says Barbe. Sipping on water throughout the day will keep you hydrated while simultaneously helping boost your metabolism.
- Slash your morning sugar. Registered dietitian Chelsey Amer suggests cutting down or eliminating sugar or sugar replacements from your morning cup of coffee. “If you eliminate one teaspoon of sugar from your cup of coffee every day for a year, you'll avoid 1,460 grams of sugar," she points out. "That's nearly 6,000 calories from sugar!”
- Try going meat-free one day a week. “By replacing meat with plants, you'll reduce your saturated fat intake and boost your fiber, vitamins and minerals intake effortlessly,” says Amer.
- Set out a fruit bowl. “You’re more likely to eat what you see,” Barbe points out. Keep a fresh selection of seasonal products close at hand for healthy snacks.
- Sneak in squats and lunges throughout the day. At the office, take a break each hour to stand up and do a few squats, suggests running coach Kyle Kranz. At home, lunge your way to the kitchen or bathroom. Every little bit of muscle activation gets you closer to your goal!
- Practice “habit stacking.” As Kranz explains, this neat trick involves combining two separate things into one activity, such as doing a set number of reps (anywhere between 15 and 50) of pushups and squats before taking the dog out for a walk in the morning. “With my running clients, I try to have them stack some strength work with their normal running routine,” he says.
- Focus on 15. Catherine Basu, founder of Fit Armadillo, reminds her clients that getting in 10 to 15 minutes of exercise is well worth the effort. “Even this small amount of time can have huge positive impacts on your overall health and happiness,” she explains. “Fifteen is always better than nothing. Plus, if you focus on 15 minutes now, you might keep going!”
- Use a mini band while brushing your teeth. Not only are mini bands portable, but, when used properly, they provide a serious burn! Try this exercise from fitness trainer Lisa Reed: Place a mini band around your ankles with your feet shoulder-width apart and tension on the band. Hinge your hips back and slightly bend your knees to get into a squat position. With feet facing straight and parallel with one another, take baby steps to the side, keeping tension on the band the entire time, and then move in the other direction. Perform while brushing your teeth twice a day. Begin with 30 seconds, working up to two minutes continuously without stopping.
- Get outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Whatever the weather, getting some fresh air is hugely beneficial, says Yule. “I find that spending a little time outside each day helps to reduce stress and gives me a moment to clear my mind.”
- Breathe. Most of the time, we’re so busy and so stressed that it makes our breathing very shallow, notes registered dietitian and corporate wellness specialist Mandy Enright. “This means we’re not getting enough fresh oxygen flowing through the body, making our brains foggy and energy levels low,” she says. Whenever you have downtime, try to take a few intentional deep breaths. Sit upright, breathe in through the nose and bring the breath all the way down to the belly. When exhaling, aim to push all the air out of the belly and back out the nose. “Three deep, slow breaths can make a major difference in your day,” Enright shares.
- Use voice memos. Positive psychology coach and speaker Kendra Davies uses voice memos to capture her thoughts and feelings throughout a busy day. “There is power in journaling, but I have found that to prioritize these healthy daily habits, I have to modify them to fit my life in a way that I will actually do them,” she says.
- Meditate in the car. We often think we have to have the perfect circumstances to meditate, but life doesn’t always cooperate, notes Davies. When she has extra time between clients, she uses a meditation app and squeezes in a quick session. “Set your phone to do not disturb, close your eyes and give yourself a few minutes of peace,” she suggests.
- Remind yourself that you’ll never be “done.” Liza Baker, a health coach with Simply: Health Coaching, reminds her clients that the list will never be done and the inbox will rarely get to zero, and that's okay. “Take the time to nourish yourself in some small way, and you'll be able to take on the list and the inbox with more energy and a much better attitude,” she says.
- Give thanks. Most evenings, Yule and her family members take a moment before dinner to share something that happened that day for which they feel thankful. “Taking a moment to find the positive can help to brighten your overall outlook, especially when you are not having a great day,” she shares. “There's so much more to health than just nutrition!”