How I Stay Healthy: 7 non-negotiable habits

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People often ask me what I do to stay lean and healthy.

The answer that many people are digging for is a nice, neatly packaged formula. I don't have a formula. I don't follow any special diet and I'm not particularly strict with how I eat or exercise. Instead, I focus on daily habits, or what I like to call my "non-negotiables." I do my best to prioritize these habits over having a perfect regimen. Believe me, I tried the perfection thing for many years and it never works!

  1. Quality. I don't exclude any foods from my diet (gluten, dairy, meat, etc.), but rather strive for quality in the foods that I do eat. To me that means choosing as many natural, unprocessed, and organic foods as possible. I eat a ton of veggies, complex carbs, organic animal proteins, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats. 
  2. I eat to balance blood sugar: Balancing blood sugar levels is very key for me. It keeps my metabolism running effectively, my moods stable, and prevents sugar cravings. For me, that requires eating three meals a day that contain a portion or two of each macro (carbs, fat, and protein.) 
  3. I indulge: I drink beer. I eat ice cream and pizza and all things gluten-y. I don't consume those foods on a regular basis, but when it comes time to have a night out with friends I can enjoy it without guilt. Sometimes. It's still a work in progress, but I genuinely believe that if I take care of my body 90% of the time, it will have my back the other 10%. 
  4. Exercise: This one is a given, but it's huge. Not only do I love to move, but I also need it to keep me strong, healthy, and sane! I do both strength training and cardio almost every week. 
  5. Stress Management: This one is probably the most challenging for me. I know all too well how high cortisol (stress hormone) disrupts digestion, stunts muscle building, and causes weight gain. So, even though meditation is my least favorite activity (ever), I aim to do it regularly, even if it's just 5 minutes. 
  6. Sleep: Sleep is a huge priority for me. Getting adequate sleep is necessary for hormone balance, workout recovery, and healthy weight management. If I don't get adequate sleep I am sluggish, cranky, and have more carb cravings the next day. I'm more likely to make poor decisions when I don't sleep well, so I don't make too many compromises when it comes to sleep!
  7. Accountability: This one is the most important. I'm pretty self-motivated, but I can't keep myself on all the time. I have a handful of gym buddies that make sure I don't disappear for too long. I have a therapist (ya, like a shrink) who I check in with every once in a while to stay emotionally healthy and balanced. I also have a wonderful man who reminds me to do all of the above- because he suffers if I don't! 

What are your healthy practices? If you don't have at least three, I challenge you to start building that list. Put a couple foundational habits in place that you can fall back on, and then build your team of accountability buddies to hold you to it!