It’s easy to believe that, because you’re young, you can disregard taking care of your health with few consequences. Unfortunately, this is a folly of youth. Common issues like acne, moodiness, and obesity can all be attributed to poor eating and exercise habits. Once they become habits, it’s hard to pull yourself back together, and it’s harder to change those patterns and the effects of those patterns as you age than you would believe. So what can you do in your teens and 20s to ensure a healthy start to your 30s, 40s, and beyond? Here’s 8 habits of healthy women young and old:
Focus on Good Eating Habits
Sure, it’s okay to grab a burger and fries with friends occasionally. In general, though, you want to aim for healthier choices. There’s the old saying that you are what you eat. So think about the terms used to describe the offerings of a traditional fast food joint, and ask yourself if that’s really what you want to be. It’s easy to get off track and stay there. Instead, create a diet that includes a wealth of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low- to no-fat dairy. Choosemyplate.gov can provide information on nutrition, fitness, and more that is modeled to your specific age, weight, and fitness level.
To ensure that your meal is properly digested, try to avoid eating while distracted by the phone, computer, TV, etc., and make an effort to sit down and enjoy the meal. By truly tasting the food and chewing fully, you will help your body to take in the nutrients it needs without feeling deprived. Eating on the go should be avoided whenever possible, as it can cause you to feel less full and thereby less satisfied.
Be More Active
In a country where fitness has become a campaign, and many fitness videos are available online, it’s easy to find a level, length, and type of workout that suits you if a gym membership is not an option. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week will make a huge difference in how you feel. If you struggle to find the motivation to exercise by yourself, enlist friends to join you. Schedule group walks with your girlfriends, tap a buddy to get up early and meet you at the gym, or simply find someone who will hold you accountable. Once you get started, exercising becomes a habit.
Change up Your Workout Routine
If you have a gym membership through your school or community, try different classes each week. At home, swap out cardio and toning routines with gentle stretching and high-energy dance. And don’t get stuck targeting only one area because you’re unhappy with it. You will benefit far more from workouts that include exercises for each area of the body.
Get Regular Check-ups
Be comfortable talking with your physician about any health concerns you have. Refraining from discussing an issue you’re dealing with because you’re embarrassed about it will not help you. In fact, prolonging lack of treatment may very well hurt you in the end. Do not put off or avoid that all-important yearly visit to the gynecologist, either. While not fun, they are very necessary. Many issues that are specific to the female body are easier to treat when caught earlier. Keep up with regular breast exams, and don’t believe anyone who says you’re too young as a teenager. Talk with your healthcare providers, and educate yourself about any tests you specifically need each year.
Learn Your Family History
A number of health issues are hereditary, but many of them can also be prevented or lessened with healthy habits like proper diet and exercise. Keep bi-annual dental appointments, and have regular eye exams as well. While it may seem like a lot of time and expense to schedule and attend various appointments each year, it is far less than dealing with diseases like diabetes, heart problems, depression, obesity, stroke, and osteoporosis, which can be caused by poor lifestyle choices.
Free Your Mind
When approaching your health, it is vital to remember that your mental state is just as important as every other aspect of your wellbeing. Invest in a journal for the purpose of writing everything you’ve felt or dealt with every single day. (If you still live at home, find a hiding place away from the eyes of siblings!) This process of getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper will allow you to work through problems with a clearer head. You can acknowledge negative thoughts, then put them aside. Choose to concentrate on that which is positive. Maybe someone was mean to you, but you felt great wearing a new outfit. Don’t let one rude person ruin that for you. It is not worth it.
Mental Health Matters
If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed, feeling angry frequently, crying all the time, and/or generally lacking motivation, get help. This cannot be stressed enough — Get. Help. Now. In your teens and 20s, your body and life are seeing a number of physical and emotional transitions. It is not necessary to leave your mind to care for itself. Find an appropriate mental healthcare provider, and go to every appointment. You do not want to downplay the importance of your mental needs.
Establish Great Habits
Finally, remember that your teens and 20s aren’t “throwaway” years for your health; they are the years in which you practice and establish the great habits that will help keep you well in the decades to come.