Faster than a speeding bullet, there's a new approach to healthy living can make you fit as a fiddle. And it's as easy as 1-2-3!
It's called "stealth health" and it's a philosophy that's gaining ground among experts, food manufacturers—and people who want to live a healthier life. Even if you haven't heard of it (I hadn't either), you're probably already using these principles into your life. The concept, as explained in this WebMD article is nothing new to most of us at SparkPeople. It's about taking small actions every day to improve your health, nutrition and fitness levels in BIG ways. We've been advocating a small-steps approach for years, whether in the form of 10-minute workouts or fast break goals. We believe that doing something is always better than doing nothing. And yes, that 10 minutes on the treadmill or that single serving of vegetables DOES make a difference.
When you start small, you feel accomplished. That initial success inspires you to make additional positive changes in your life. So you continue, getting healthier, fitter, and leaner over time—all by starting with a few small changes. Ask some of your SparkFriends, and I'll bet they'll say that this approach has worked for them.
As I read the article and tips about stealth health, I started to think about the ways I sneak a little bit of health into my days. I'm a big believer that small steps—in fitness, nutrition and motivation—really do make a difference, no matter where you are in your lifestyle journey. I use them all the time myself! So I came up with a short list of small things I do to affect my health in a positive way.
10 ways I sneak fitness, nutrition and motivation into my days—and you can, too!
Choose fruit to quell a sweet tooth. I have a big sweet tooth. When it calls, I try to eat a serving of fruit first. Fresh berries and yogurt, an apple with peanut butter or a simple fruit smoothie all pack nutrition and sweetness into a low-calorie package. Most of the time, these fruity treats do the trick, but if not, I'll choose a sweet snack knowing that I have boosted my fruit quota for the day before giving in.
Practice good posture in front of the computer. I try to be aware of my posture at work. I've set up my desk so that my computer screen is higher (to discourage slumping and slouching). I try to keep my back straight and my abs engaged (belly button pulled toward the spine). Good posture, believe it or not, takes a lot of work. Most of us don't have the strength and endurance to maintain proper posture (while standing or sitting) for very long, so it's something that I've been working on developing. If you have trouble sitting with good posture, start small. Set a few reminders on your computer (or a post-it note on your planner) to remind you to think about it and readjust throughout the day. Your posture will improve, your core will be stronger and I bet you'll experience less pain in your neck, shoulders and lower back, too.
Add fruit to pancakes, waffles, ice cream and other desserts. If I'm going to go with a sugary breakfast treat like pancakes, I'll add fruit to them like nobody's business. I pour one serving of blueberries (per person) into the batter. I top the finished product with another 2-3 servings of fresh fruit: bananas, blackberries, strawberries, chopped apples, pears—anything you like. I know that pancakes doused in syrup aren't exactly a healthy breakfast, but by adding some low-cal, filling, antioxidant-powered fruit to the meal, I know I'm getting some good nutrition along with my sugar fix. Same goes with ice cream. I'll try to add one serving of fruit to a serving of ice cream. It "stretches" your dessert further and boosts the nutrition of the final product. Next time you have a hankering for a dessert, look for a fruit-based one. It might not exactly be health food, but it's better than a sugary treat sans the fruit.
Sit on a stability ball. You can make this one small change at home or at work. I sit on a ball chair all day, which helps me sit with better posture and encourages me to keep my abs engaged for better balance and core strength. You can sit on a ball while you watch TV, use the computer at home, or sit at work. If you're going to be sitting, you might as well make it work for you!
Commit to 10 minutes of fitness. I don't care if you've never exercised or if you're a triathlete. Committing to 10 minutes of fitness can help you stick with a solid fitness program—and be successful on the days you really don't want to exercise. This is one of my best tricks to staying fit. This has worked for me for years and it will work for you, too! You can do a lot in 10 minutes (if you don't believe me, try one of my short workout videos). Every minute counts. Even five minutes can help pave the way to a fitter you.
Look at SparkPages and popular blogs. I spend a little bit of time each day perusing SparkPages and reading the popular blog posts on SparkPeople.com. I am amazed at the positivity and success of others, and some of them have great tips and ideas, too! If you ever think that you can't do it, look at some of these success stories to put your problems into perspective. Seeing so many people who have lost 50, 100, even 150 pounds or more makes me feel like my problems are miniscule in comparison and that I can go to the gym or bypass the Boston cream pie in the fridge if they were able to accomplish such great things. This quick motivational trick will help you stay focused. You may even help you meet some new SparkFriends!
Practice portion control. Measuring and consuming smaller portions of your foods is one of the easiest ways to make changes to your diet without feeling deprived. You can enjoy dessert, pasta, and other comfort foods as part of your healthy diet as long as you watch your portions. When it comes to treats, read labels and serve yourself a single portion. At your favorite restaurant, cut down on the calories and fat simply by eating half of the meal and saving the rest for later. If you ate half the size of meals you're accustomed to, you'd be eating half the calories, fat and sodium—a small change that will really add up.
Add more veggies to frozen meals. Of course, cooking meals from scratch is an important thing if you want to eat healthier. But we don't always have the time or energy to do that. I rely on frozen lunches (like Amy's brand) a couple times per week, but I never find them to be very filling or high enough in vegetables for my taste. My standby is frozen broccoli. I'll add at least 2 servings of it to every frozen meal. It boosts the veggie content and it's EASY. If you don't like the taste, try another vegetable you do like—or mix it into your meal to make it go down easier.
Walk through the office. I sit in front of the computer for more than eight hours each day, as I'm sure many of you do, too. Email is a nice timesaver, but I try to get up at least once or twice each hour—whether I'm walking to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing, heading to the café to get another cup of water, or choosing to use the restroom on the other side of the office. It's a chance to stretch my legs and add a few more steps to my otherwise sedentary day. One day I wore a pedometer to discover that one trip to the far-away restroom takes 100 steps. I choose that one over the one in my office, which is only 10 steps from my desk to add a little more activity to my days.
Exercise in front of the TV. Most nights, there's nothing I'd rather do than watch TV. Often, I'll do some simple core exercises, such as Pilates, while I'm watching my favorite shows—or at least during the commercials. Even if I just do three sets of 10 repetitions, it's better than sitting still!
Interestingly, not everyone is a fan of this approach. Associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, Marc Siegal, MD, told WebMD that the idea of stealth health is, "a small, gimmicky idea to target people with very unhealthy lifestyles," and that these small actions are like "using a Band-aid to stop a hemorrhage." In other words, stealth health isn't a long-term answer for the very people who need to make the most drastic changes to save their health. I can understand how some health conditions are dire and require immediate, sometimes drastic, changes, but I'm not sure I agree. I think that many people are overwhelmed by what it takes to get healthy, lose weight, or start exercising. Overhauling your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine (or lack thereof) overnight is mind-boggling! This approach sets many people up for failure, causing them to give up before they even try. But starting with small tasks is manageable. Certainly, eating a piece of fresh fruit each day—even if that's the only healthy thing you do—matters, don't you think?
Do you think stealth health really works? What are some of the ways you sneak small bits of health, fitness or good nutrition into your days?