Healthy Habits

Achieving a healthy weight is the first step towards improving your overall health and wellbeing. Here are five healthy habits that will help you look and feel better inside and out.

Get enough sleep

Aim for about eight hours of shut-eye every night to boost your health and control your weight. A study conducted at Stanford University in California found that subjects who slept less than eight hours a night on average had higher levels of the hormone ghrelin (which stimulates appetite) and lower levels of leptin (which tells us we're full) - as well as higher levels of body fat. Not only does lack of sleep affect your weight on a hormonal level, but it also saps you of the energy you need to exercise and it can affect your mood, memory, cardiovascular health and immunity.

Drink more water

Your body needs water to perform all its basic functions efficiently - and the clear stuff can even help you reach your healthy weight-loss goals. Researchers in Germany found that drinking water increases the number of calories we burn. While it's only a small effect, increasing your water consumption is still a healthy habit - especially when you consider that your brain can mistake thirst signals for hunger signals and cause you to overeat. Aim for 30ml per kilo of body weight plus additional water post exercise. If you weigh 60kg, you will need at least 1.8L. If you weigh 100kg, you will need at least 3L of water each day.

Be active every day

The new Australian Dietary Guidelines released in early 2013 recommend 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day (up from the previous 30 minutes) to ensure cardiovascular health and weight maintenance. In addition to regular cardio and strength-training workouts, try to integrate healthy habits into your daily routine. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift, go for a brisk walk on your lunch break, or get off the bus a few stops early on the way home from work and walk the rest of the way.

Eat a healthy diet

To maintain a healthy weight and body, Australian adults should eat more fruit, vegetables, lean meat, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. They should also cut back on foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, as well as alcohol. For more on healthy eating habits, see Food for Health.

Eat slowly

The old saying that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full is true, so slow down to avoid overeating. A study at the University of Rhode Island found that people who ate slowly and chewed their food more consumed about 10 per cent fewer calories than those who raced through their meals. A great habit to adopt is to put down your fork and knife between bites to help you slow down. Another healthy habit is to stop eating when you start to feel satisfied or a little full rather than when you've polished off your plate.