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Ask Health Coach Maria: How Do You Start a Healthy Lifestyle?

July 11, 2014

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Have a wellness question for Health Coach Maria? Ask her here

My sister is 65 now, and all along, she never took care of self but never was sick. Now she has high blood pressure and is obese! She really needs to start healthy lifestyle and soon. How would you advise she starts? 

-Concerned younger sister

Starting a healthy lifestyle may seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into manageable steps, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. So, instead of doing a complete overhaul overnight, there are three simple changes your sister can start with that will have a huge impact.

First, is to add in more dark leafy greens.  Dark leafy greens include things like kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion, arugula, and spinach. They are some of the most nutrient-dense foods and calorie-poor foods on the planet.

In addition to having tons of health benefits on their own, dark leafy greens can actually help to promote a healthier lifestyle in general! Check out my recent column on the #1 healthy habit to learn about how dark leafy greens can transform your health.

The second simple but profound change is to drink more water. The average woman wants to aim for at least 2.2 liters a day, and a man should aim for 3 liters (if you work out or are in a warm climate, you may need more). Water aids in digestion and helps sweep waste and toxins out of the body. It also fills you up, and many people find that drinking more water quenches what they thought were food or hunger cravings. 

The best way to make sure you are getting enough is to purchase a 1 or 2 liter water bottle, and know how many times you should be refilling it each day to get your adequate H20 intake. Keep it on your desk or by your side, so that you never “forget” to drink it. Before long, you’ll be taking sips without even realizing it! 

And lastly, anyone who is trying to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle should be sure to surround herself with people who have healthy habits themselves.   As her sister, you can help her get motivated and excited about a healthier lifestyle by leading a healthy lifestyle yourself. Offer to go over and cook with her, go for a walk to the market together, or give her the water bottle as a gift. 

And a little friendly competition doesn’t hurt, either! Make losing weight or getting healthy a game, and agree that the person who adopts the most healthy habits or drops the most weight each month gets a prize, like a massage. 

Some other ideas to make getting healthy more fun include signing up for a local cooking class, taking dance lessons, or just getting a group of friends together to go for a 30-45 minute walk around your neighborhood 2-3 times a week. These small changes and activities will add up, and make taking care of yourself more enjoyable. The bottom line, is that having a partner or group of people to both hold you accountable and cheer you on makes a world of difference in accomplishing your wellness goals. 

Between eating more greens, drinking more water, and cultivating a healthy social circle, your sister will really be able to kickstart her healthier lifestyle. After working on making these changes for a couple of weeks, she can then try adding in other simple healthy habits, like eating more fruit or more veggies in general. By adding in one or two small habits at a time, the switch to an overall healthy lifestyle will be gradual and painless. This is exactly how I guide my clients towards making changes. After 4-6 months, they usually have a starkly different lifestyle, but yet, never felt like they were doing a 180.

Have you drastically changed your eating habits? If so, leave a comment below with the one or two baby steps that helped you the most. 

Maria Marlowe is a Certified Health Coach and regular Wellness Today Contributor. Get your health question answered in her next column by sending her an email at