A Guide to Assessing Your Lifestyle

Your lifestyle means a lot. Every little habit you have, every routine, every decision, and every mistake. Each and every one of these things makes up your lifestyle. When we talk about “healthy lifestyles” and “unhealthy” lifestyles, that’s what we mean: Something that comprises every aspect of the way you go about your days, weeks, months, and years.

When we take a step back, it gets pretty easy to see how little things can add up. If you eat a snack size bag of Lay’s potato chips, you’ll ingest 160 calories. If you do that every day with lunch, you’ll be eating 1,120 calories per month. There’s more to fat than just calories, but calorie counting can give us at least a rough estimate of what a healthier choice at lunch might do for you. At the generally accepted 3,500 calories per pound, your Lay’s are making a difference of more than 16 pounds per year.

That’s why it’s so important to take a look at the things that you do — or don’t do — for your health every day. Let’s take a look at how you can be healthier:

How you eat

Most people in Canada and the United States could stand to eat a whole lot better. The proof is in the pudding: More than 24 percent of Canadians and more than 34 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

As we saw in our Lay’s example, our spare tire may not be the result of wild overindulgence. It can just be the small mistakes we make day after day after day adding up over the course of time. To change things in a meaningful way, we need to do more than just count calories and cut down on our foods. Calories make a useful shorthand, but the realities of weight loss and weight gain are much more complicated.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to ensure a better diet. Simply replace some of your processed foods with whole foods like vegetables and lean meats. You don’t have to know every nutrient in your food if you simply eat foods like vegetables, which have a low calorie density and will fill you up without fattening you up.

Moving around

What kind of lifestyle do you lead? For far too many of us, the answer is “sedentary” — one of several terms that experts use to classify lifestyles by levels of exercise. The reality is that we should each be getting at least a half hour of exercise at least five days a week. That’s 150 minutes per week, which shouldn’t be that hard. Maybe you could improve your exercise habits by walking a portion of your work commute, or by cultivating a hobby that gets you moving like dancing or hiking.

As with diet, it’s crucial to create a lifestyle that encourages exercise. Rather than trying to commit to an overly aggressive short-term exercise plan, focus on building habits and cultivating active hobbies. Over time, your healthy choices will form a healthier lifestyle.

Working and playing too hard

If you eat right and exercise, you won’t necessarily be healthy automatically. The things that you do during your work day or during nights on the town can destroy even the most carefully crafted healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining work-life balance is essential. Stress is literally a killer, and burnout is a very real risk for those who work too much and take too few vacations. Also, be mindful of your free time: Staying up late partying may feel fun after a long work day, but few things matter as much to your health as your sleep does.

It’s also extremely important to be honest with yourself about how drugs and alcohol fit into your lifestyle. Many Canadians and Americans are drinking too much, and the two countries are also both in the grip of an opioid abuse crisis. If you’re driven by your passion for an intoxicating drug to the point that you are letting it affect your daily life, then you are suffering from addiction and should seek help immediately, explain the experts who run several major Toronto drug rehabs.